posted on March 26, 2018
About a month ago, Casey, Lindsey and I attended a clinic in Columbus on Reflexive Performance Reset (or RPR): a system meant to help increase performance and decrease unnecessary injuries during sports and training using a variety of “wake-up drills” for your nervous system. Sounds great right? To be honest, after a little research, I was hesitant: when you watch video of the drills being performed, it seems like nothing short of voodoo. You’ll see people rubbing the back of their head, digging thumbs into their stomach, and karate chopping their inner thighs (so if you see Casey scratching his rib cage in the corner a little more aggressively than usual, that’s a wake up drill).
The system was designed, in part, by JL Holdsworth. JL is a long time member of EliteFTS and has been one of Casey’s friends and mentors over the last five years. JL was a world powerlifting champion and is currently running two gyms in Columbus OH (The Spot Athletics). So if anyone knows about performance AND stress, it’s him. Taken from the RPR website: You are under constant stress, which is interpreted as survival mode by your body. When in survival mode your body utilizes harmful compensation patterns which can lead to injury. RPR® resets the body out of survival mode and into performance mode.
The guys behind RPR have been at this long enough to understand the initial skepticism, so we started the training with a simple anti-rotational test which they designed as buy-in for new RPR users. Everyone in the seminar was paired up with someone of a similar strength/build and we were instructed to try to knock our partner off balance by rotating one shoulder towards us while pushing the other away. This might sound easy, but even with the little resistance that my partner applied, I wasn’t able to keep the starting position (and I like to think I’m pretty strong). My first thought was that my core wasn’t strong enough: the first thing I am doing when I get home is planks every day. But what happened next confused me as my partner rubbed the muscles along my spine (erectors to be scientific) and then pounded on them with the end of his palm, like an aggressive, angry massage (percussion in RPR terms). This was my first experience with a wake-up drill. After this drill, we retested and I was able to resist my partner even after he applied more resistance. Needless to say, I was sold.
Through the rest of the seminar we learned more of these wake-up drills, moving from a group of drills meant for your core and out to more specific muscle groups and body parts. First we would learn the basics of the drill, then we would take a pre-drill measurement of performance, then we would execute the drill and finally, do a retest of our performance. Each and every time, my performance increased. Now the test that really hooked me was based on hip flexion. I have always had poor hip flexion, which I assumed was due to my glutes not activating. During our RPR training, I learned a more accurate way to think about my problem: my glutes were firing, but the timing in which my glutes fired was out of whack. This poor timing of my glutes firing actually lead to a serious non-contact injury. My hip flexion went from about 2 inches off the ground to about 4-5 inches off the ground. To be honest, my glute almost cramped since my body was not used to having to fire that much! Even though these still feel a little like voodoo, I can’t deny that the drills work.
While I don’t know every detail of the science behind RPR, I’ll lay out some of what I do know. RPR is designed to switch the timing in which muscles activate during certain exercises. This is the case when you are in hip extension, which is our most basic and most important movement pattern. You need to extend your hips every time you take a step or stand up from a chair. If you’re doing hip extension incorrectly, you’re creating poor motor patterns that will follow you into the gym. And if you do things incorrectly for long enough, you’ll end up with some severe dysfunction in the later stages of life. The gist of it is that the glutes should be the first muscle group to fire when we extend our hips, but unfortunately for many people, including me, that’s not the case. When the glutes don’t fire first, either our hamstrings or our contralateral quadratus lumborum (QL) deep in our abs, need to take over. Our body will always find a way to compensate for poor muscle firing, but eventually that can cause injury and subpar performance. The wake up drills we learned are intense enough that they cause a forceful reset (hence the name) of our nervous system, allowing us to retrain the body to fire the right muscles in the correct order.
Some of you may have noticed a new addition to our #powerful warm-ups: belly breathing or superman breaths. This is the most fundamental wake up drill used in RPR, and conveniently one of the easiest for us to implement. Most of us are “chest breathers,” meaning that we use the muscles around their upper chest to help inhale. This is not the most efficient way to breathe, and is often caused by chronic stress throughout our lives. When it comes down to it, your body can’t tell the difference between running from a lion and having a fight with your significant other – the stress reaction is the same. The belly breathing wake up drill helps reset our diaphragm to perform more deep breaths, which calm us down, help us focus on the task at hand, bring more oxygen into our bodies, and ultimately perform better. Of course we’re already having you do them!
We will be implementing even more of these drills in our warm-ups soon. We’re excited to get the rest of our staff together for a big RPR training this upcoming weekend! If you’re interested in how these drills can better improve your performance and overall daily activities in your life, come check out our #powerful class. We’ll get you breathing right and lifting heavy.