NOTE: This and all content in Faith & Fitness Magazine is for information only. You should consult with your own health care provider, personal trainer or other professional for all your health and fitness.
Christen fell down some steps and her shoulder blade was “not right”. After our first session, her pain dropped from an “8” to a “2”. The next session fixed it completely and she was hooked. She learned more about our programs and has been a regular bootcamper ever since.
Jack is an 8-year-old baseball player. His mom was hopeful that our training session could get him faster. After one session, he beat out a grounder and his coach asked her what happened to make him run so much better.
Ben wanted to touch his toes. We had trained together for years and his strength and conditioning was “off the charts” for a 48-year-old business executive, but he had always been incredibly tight. I asked him if he was up for trying something different, and 3 weeks later he could touch his toes without a warm-up.
Could there really be ONE system that helps all ages and fitness levels get faster, stronger, more flexible, out of pain, and achieve whatever they want with their bodies?
Yes! It is your nervous system and the training program that focuses on it is called Z-Health Performance Solutions. I started studying this program created by Dr. Eric Cobb in 2006 and it has changed my entire training philosophy. This article only skims the surface of this new approach as we cover two key concepts.
KEY CONCEPT #1: Life-long flexibility and pain-free movement is a nervous system issue, not a muscle issue.
Stop stretching. This often produces a gasp when I share this in public, but there is sound science to support this idea. Your nervous system is the governing system of your body. This means that it controls all the other systems in the body (circulatory, muscular, respiratory, etc.). One of the easiest ways to “tap into” this all-powerful system is by moving your joints. Most of your peripheral nervous system is located around your joints. What else is attached to joints? You got it…muscles, ligaments, and tendons. If a joint goes through pain-free, full range of motion, the nerves are “awakened” and ready to fire. Therefore, the muscle that is also attached to that joint will respond with better range of motion, and often better contractibility (strength).
Let’s put this to the test. Test your toe touch. Stand with feet hip width apart, knees very slightly bent, and reach for your toes. Now draw some ankle circles. You have probably done this before as a way to stretch, but let’s try it again with some rules:
ANKLE CIRCLES – NERVOUS SYSTEM STIMULATION
1. Stand and hold onto something with one foot off the ground. Stand tall with good posture, keep breathing, and stay relaxed.
2. As you “draw” the ankle circle with the foot off the ground, notice the range of motion. You want to make sure the circle is complete. Your foot should pull toward your shin, go to the inside, point toward the ground, and go to the outside before returning up.
3. Relax your toes…focus on your ankle and heel leading the motion for 3 to 5 reps.
4. Repeat with the other foot.
5. Retest your toe touch.
Some of you are saying “Aaha- Jason, you’re wrong. It didn’t work…no change in my toe touch!” Others of you are thinking, “I just performed some kind of magic” and you can’t believe how much you improved. You are both right. After all, it is YOUR nervous system and it is a complex and wonderful thing.
If your toe touch improved, you might have a history of sprained ankles or just have “tight” ankles and by moving them we produced a positive feeling for your nervous system, which produced increased range of motion. In this situation, it was for your hamstrings and low back, but we could have tested other areas of the body and also seen positive results. Think about traditional hamstring stretches:
What if all this time, what you really needed to do were a few ankle circles?
For the person who tried our toe touch test and nothing happened, it could be that you were breaking one of the rules, so I would try it again paying close attention to your breathing and ability to relax while creating the movement. But it could be that you have really mobile ankles, so your nervous system is not that affected by this drill. No problem, there are plenty of other joints in your body and this leads us to Key Concept #2.
KEY CONCEPT #2: All the body, all the time! Any joint can affect any other joint or part of the body at any time.
Let’s do another range of motion test. You will need a sheet of paper and a pen or pencil.
OPPOSITE JOINT SYSTEM RANGE OF MOTION TEST
1. Use your left hand and make a letter “L” with your thumb and index finger. You can keep the other fingers extended if you want. Without using your other hand to assist, really stretch out the hand and make the distance between your thumb and finger as big as possible.
2. Lay your hand on the sheet of paper and trace the “L”. Now, this is where the experiment gets a little wacky, but I promise you will want to see this cool example of how God knew what he was doing when he made us.
3. Slip off your right shoe and start rubbing your right big toe. Take 20 seconds to rub all areas of the toe – around the base, the nail, in between it and the second toe, and the bottom of it. It doesn’t matter which hand you use. I know, I know…this is kind of out there, but play along.
4. Now, focus back on your left hand and stretch the finger and thumb like you did before. Line up the index finger on the line you traced on the sheet and draw another “L”.
Cool, huh? The hand is able to stretch more and the angle from the thumb to the index finger became more obtuse. In other words, you just increased the range of motion of your left thumb, by rubbing your right big toe! Massage can benefit your overall health, wellness and flexibility training. Maybe this is a perfect time to share some of my favorite scripture with you:
“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts, and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.”
As an admirer of the human nervous system, this scripture goes beyond theology and I take it as more of a fact that this is just how God made us. The movement experiment above confirms something really cool – our body is connected from head to toe and it really is one unit.
So, how did our cool example work above? The body is laid out in an opposite joint system. When you take a step forward with your right foot, look at what the rest of your body does: the right arm goes back, the left arm goes forward, and the torso slightly winds (turns) toward the right. Walking is just one example of this opposite joint system. Look at how we are made. We have 10 fingers and then on the other end of us we have 10 toes. Next, you have hands and feet with several small joints. Ankles and wrists are opposite, then knees and elbows, next hips and shoulders. Now it gets a little tricky. Pelvis and neck go together neurologically; and lumbar (low back) and thoracic (mid back) are opposite joints. In the Bible it says:
“But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.”
When you rubbed your right big toe, it “woke up” the mechanoreceptors (nerves responsible for movement) for that toe and it’s corresponding opposite joint, the left thumb. Yet another example of how God’s love is so amazing for us. I really believe He has given us what we need to live pain-free and move well as long as we take care of it.
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, is the Training Department editor for Faith & Fitness Magazine. He is the president of Rhymer Fitness and a Z-Health Level IV Trainer. Drawing on science, faith, creativity and his personal fitness background, Jason meets the physical, spiritual and social needs of our reader. He leads Christian Fitness Bootcamps at two church locations.CONTACT JASON
with training questions or ideas for our Training Department. For more training ideas read Jason’s Blog