Becoming a Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist (FRCms)
Recently I was finally able to attend a Functional Range Conditioning seminar held at False Grip Gymnastics in Brookvale, Sydney.
Functional Range Systems (FRS) was developed by Dr. Andreo Spina, based out of Canada and a graduate from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College as a Doctor of Chiropractic.
I found out about FRS a couple of years ago through one of Dewey Nielson’s YouTube videos where he was doing some quadrupedal movements in his gym. I followed the rabbit hole and found out he’s a black belt in BJJ and a FRCms coach.
The seminar was presented by Master Instructor Hunter Cook, Assistant Instructor Dr. Ben Bluestein and the False Grip staff.
Hunter Cook of Hunter Fitness started off as a strength and conditioning coach/personal trainer. But when he found FRS he made a change to being a mobility specialist working with various athletes, dancers and Cirque do Soleil performers. He himself is quite a bendy person but he has incredible control though all ranges of his bendiness.
His ability to get the point across to help us understand what we were doing as well as cues for some of the movements were really great. When someone communicates as well as he does it makes a huge difference to a student’s learning. Prior to this, I never really heard him speak on the subject, most FRC videos usually have the other coaches like Dr Spina, Dr Shivers and Dewey Nelson.
Dr. Ben Bluestein, also a Doctor of Chiropractic, is Canadian born and based in Hong Kong. He comes from a background in dance and martial arts (currently a purple belt at Atos HK) - one of the many reasons we got along. He is also super knowledgeable when it comes to the human body and how FRC can be used to treat his chiro clients.
Over the course of the weekend we covered a lot of ground, including:
Physiology of stretching
In this post I’m going to focus on two main subjects:
Controlled Articular Rotations (CARs) and
Progressive Angular Isometric Loading (PAILs) and Regressive Angular Isometric Loading (RAILs).
Controlled Articular Rotations
When you perform these movements it looks simply like you are moving your joints around in circles. When it’s done with intention it can be a useful assessment of how the joints in your body are functioning on that day at that time (could differ again another day). It can also be used to improve joint range of motion, maintenance and to delay or even prevent the onset of osteoarthrosis.
To do CARs, you trap air in lower abdominal area creating irradiation, while stabilizing the rest of the body (all other joints). What you want to achieve is the independent movement of a joint while you rotate it (slowly) taking it to its end range (pain-free). Your goal is to try to make the rotation bigger with each rep or to “expand the circle” as they say.
There are different levels to this, for example their morning routine Level 1 is to be done every day at 30-40% tension.
Level 2 and 3 are very different, treated almost like a 1RM in lifting. It takes a lot more capacity with higher irradiation and more Central Nervous System (CNS) use.
PAILs and RAILs
PAILs combines stretching with isometric loading at progressive (pushing) angles to expand range of motion (ROM), while at the same time trying to get stronger at that end range.
RAILs combines stretching with isometric loading at regressive (pulling) angles to strengthen tissue at the closed angles.
One way of doing this is to stand in front of a bench or box, place your foot on it like you’re about to to a basic hamstring stretch, lean into it, progressively creating more tension by pushing your foot onto the surface until you reach max safest effort. You should notice a lot of hamstring activation.
Then slowly pull the foot away from the surface and create tension on the closed angle side of the leg (quadriceps and hip flexor), hold and then proceed back to a passive stretch. So much cramping goodness!
Why are joint circles effective?
Let’s look at from a gym perspective. What we do when we work out is damage the muscle tissue and the amazing thing about the human body is that with enough food and sleep you recover by laying down new and better tissue.
Ligaments and tendons are different types of connective tissue. If they get damaged they recover too but instead of it taking 2-4 days to feel 100% again it could take weeks or months, requiring physio and other interventions. This is due to the fact that there is less vascularity or blood flow going through the tendons and ligaments. With the right input it can be brought back to normal function or even better, but you’ve got to listen to your physio and do your exercises to prevent future injury! .
Bone and cartilage is different again. Some joint space has very little to no vascularity or blood flow, which means it doesn't have its own source of nutrition.
So the only thing we can do to nurture that joint space is move.
So when we move our joint though its greatest range of motion, that kind of pressure change that you get from the tissues moving near each other can improve the function and health of the joint.
If you’re looking for a strength and mobility program, Kinstretch could be for you. It is group training both on and offline.
This is a great example of the Strength and Conditioning coaches from American Top Team with Phil Daru utilising FRC principles to help BJJ athletes with specific hip mobility (and strength) targeting their guard work. He’s all over social media so I suggest giving him a follow, he’s doing great work in and outside the combat sports world.
The FRC seminars are awesome, I highly recommend them for anyone into human movement, personal training, or general health and wellbeing.