0:01:23 – Ollie was involved in dance and was once a professional rugby player
0:06:56 – The theory and science behind functional range conditioning
0:14:40 – We instinctively train in positions in which the brain feels safe
0:16:17 – Functional range conditioning is becoming more widely accepted
0:20:00 – A different way to measure strength: sometimes ego gets in the way of progress
0:24:14 – Why does FRC sometimes look like Pilates or yoga?
0:27:41 – Ollie’s training approach will very much depend on an individual’s situation
0:32:03 – What has breathwork got to do with it?
0:35:14 – Three categories of people seeking mobility training
0:41:27 – How you can make functional range conditioning a part of your daily routine
0:48:33 – Taking care of the spine with cat-cow and cat-camel exercises
0:51:55 – What to do when you’re not getting results
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Welcome to the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast where you can learn how to improve your diet, lose fat and get fitter in a sustainable and fun way, without spending hours in the gym. Here is your host, Darren Kirby.
Darren: This is Episode 29 of the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast. In today’s show, we’re going to be talking about biomechanics and functional range movement, an area which I think is very overlooked in the world of fitness. Joining me on the podcast today is Ollie Frost. Ollie is an ex professional rugby player and has been a sports coach for over 10 years. Ollie is truly passionate about functional range conditioning. Good afternoon, Ollie. How are you?
Ollie: Good afternoon, I’m very well thank you. Thank you for inviting me onto the show. It’s always good to come on to speak about something you’re very passionate about. So yeah, really appreciate the invitation.
Darren: Great. I’m glad you accepted, to be honest. Like we’ve just been talking about before we started recording, I’m a huge fan of your work. I’m a huge fan of the topic and, yeah, looking forward to getting involved and finding out a lot more about it today. But for the people listening that have probably not come across you before, could you give us some introduction about yourself, your background and how you became to where you are today in doing functional range conditioning?
Ollie: Basically, I started off, the journey kind of began for me through movement when I was younger. I grew up playing rugby and then I also did a lot of contemporary dance and breakdancing, so I’ve got a bit of a dance background. Then I got to when I was 16, and I had to make a decision whether I was going to go into doing full time dancing or whether I was going to pursue a rugby career. I took the rugby route and then I played professional rugby from 18 to 25, mainly for Worcester Warriors, which was great. But I did a lot of things before that time, I lifted a lot of weights, kind of lost a lot of my natural flexibility and mobility through just generic S&C type movement patterns.
Which then kind of led me onto a different path when I stopped rugby about five years ago, when I started one to one coaching. I kind of wanted to see whether it was possible to get back to how I used to move in a previous life, so to speak. So I got into mobility and went on to amazing courses and through sort of personal practice and just through lots of coaching, and having some mentors around me, I kind of developed a really streamlined approach to mobility and helping people improve their joint health and their longevity.
FRC is one of the big contributing factors to mobility which I use on a daily basis, as well as I use a lot of other types of methods, which I’ll go into a little bit later on as well in the podcast. But the foundation of joint health does start at the FRC protocol and the principles which are based around that.
Darren: Yeah. Like I said, I think it’s a fascinating topic and I think one which is hugely overlooked by the fitness industry in general. One of the kind of parallels I draw from that is when you see a lot of older people that are in their retirement ages going to the gym because that’s what they think they need to do in order to maintain their health or to improve their health. And you see them on the machines and all the rest of it–I actually saw them in the gym this morning–and you think massive kudos to you going in there to do it in the first place, because it’s a very kind of young person’s environment, if you like. But actually, they probably would get much more results and it would be much more beneficial if they were to do practices like you do in order to help their functional range and mobility.
Because as we as we get older, it becomes more limited, doesn’t it? We start off when we’re babies being hugely flexible, then as we grow into our sedentary states, if you like, we start to move in certain ways, and that’s it. Kind of stays like that. So I think this is a hugely interesting topic and it’d be good to get your thoughts on what you think about this, what you practice and how that can be applied in general.
Ollie: Definitely. I think what’s big, what you touched on there was I think as we naturally get older, our movement patterns drastically change from–to think about when we were children, the movement we did there on a daily basis is pretty amazing. Squatting, crawling, hanging off things and really truly having that sort of child’s play and mindset. And as we evolve and we go down this streamlined path of society, a job, family, and we go down the route of travel to work, we get back from work and we lie down and we sit in front of the TV and these patterns become ingrained. And then we combine that with very, very much like a very linear straightforward approach when it comes to training.
So if you’ve got, like an average person might have an hour a day maybe, maximum, to train a couple of times a week, and if you spend that time just doing the same movement patterns over and over again, we become very robotic and your body becomes very accustomed to this. Your posture, really alone is the position which you spend most of the time in, so if you constantly are only working a flex position or you’re sat down a lot, then unfortunately, you’re going to have to deal with some of the consequences from that.
So the approach I’ve got to movement is about exploring and trying to create different types of movement patterns which the body’s capable of but has become over time, due to environmental factors or your job or your lifestyle, has almost crippled the way which you used to move as a baby, which was beautiful in terms of movement. You were doing all sorts of stuff and then as the years go on you get sort of streamlined into not a good way of moving, really. That’s just my opinion, but I think there’s lots of ways to address that.
Darren: Yeah, exactly. I agree. In terms of the theory and the science behind the functional range conditioning that you do, what’s the basic premise or the theory behind it?
Ollie: The FRC structure which is derived by science and it’s from a guy called Dr. Andreo Spina who’s based in America. He’s a former chiropractor, massive into jujitsu and he’s looking at the body in a systematic approach in terms of a joint by joint approach. So looking at the capsule in terms of starting at the capsule. Let’s take the hip, for example. Does the hip work like a hip? And that’s one of his sayings. Does the joint work as a joint?
What we mean by that is: does the joint have full rotational capacity? Does it have articular resilience? Which means does that joint have the capacity to move in all directions freely? Taking the hip as an example, the ball and socket joint, if the ball within the capsule doesn’t glide properly internally or externally, then the body is very, very clever at tracing a mechanism to create tightness. What we perceive as muscle tightness could be a neurological tightness or a perceived tightness. So it is a symptom not a cause.
So we feel tight but if we looked a little bit deeper, you might actually see that the hip capsule, for example, doesn’t have that clear rotation internally or externally, which as a knock on effect, unfortunately, it means that our nervous system doesn’t feel very safe. When our brain doesn’t feel safe, it creates this neurological tightness and that could be from the hip flexor or the glute or the stuff clinging all around it. What the FRC stuff does is it starts at the capsule first, whether it’s the shoulder or the joint, it gets the shoulder to work really, really well and it’s all active control.
So it’s using the movements through using intra-abdominal pressure, and that’s meant to create tension throughout the whole body. The more tension you create throughout the whole body, it’s like imagine you’re doing a set of deadlifts and you only used a bar your whole life. You’re never going to achieve your PB deadlift because you’ve never added any load. With mobility training, you never actually really see an external load. The load you create is intra, so that’s your brain, whether that’s pressure from your abdomen while you’re performing the activity. And that is your own way of putting weight on the deadlift bar if that makes sense.
Which means that over time, you will recruit most units or it will create an adaptation which will create more mobility. In the same way, if you’re doing a five by five set, you’re going to be recruiting most units into that area which is going to create more a load and progressive load over time which creates a stronger glute or hamstring. This is looking at the same principle of loading but at the joint and also convincing your nervous system that it’s safe to be in that position.
Darren: Okay. That makes sense. So in very simple terms, then, from what you said there in terms of using your body to create the movement in your neurological system, the way that I see that is it’s essentially using your body against yourself in terms of weight and resistance. Is that a fair assumption?
Ollie: The main premise really is that you’re going to be creating more control throughout your whole entire body. So whether that’s with a weight or without a weight, the majority of mobility work really in my opinion, should be done body weight first. I only really add load if it’s necessary and that would be to increase the intensity or just to add some more progressive load to that particular exercise. You can make mobility really hard without adding any weight because it’s control of your body and more importantly, it’s control of your nervous system.
Your nervous system is then broken down, into your biology nervous system, which is your peripheral nervous system, and that’s how you move from a skeletal point of view. Then you’ve got your autonomic nervous system, which is your parasympathetic and your sympathetic nervous system. Your parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for your rest and digest system and your sympathetic part of your nervous system is part of your fight or flight. Obviously throughout day to day life, we kind of go through quite a lot of fight or flight so we’d be quite stressed quite a lot. So the point of using mobility in general is to tap into a little bit more of the other side of your nervous system. And the more you can tap into that, whether that’s through movement, stretching, or general types of ways around mobility, then you will convince your brain that it’s in a safer place to perform the activity. If that makes sense? If not, I’ll repeat that.
Darren: It does make sense and actually what you said there about the nervous systems and the neurological side of it is something that I hadn’t even considered before but now you said it, it makes perfect sense. Particularly around the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and relax and the fight or flight side of things. That makes perfect sense because it’s there essentially, the fight or flight, in some ways to protect us, isn’t it? And I guess if the body is going into a position or it’s trying to carry out a movement which your neurological system assumes that it could be in danger, then that could cause it to tense up or it could cause a joint to not be as flexible.
Ollie: That’s it. And going into the FRC of it is what I cover on some of the content, is that we rarely train in positions which we get injured in. When the load exceeds the demand, that obviously creates a trauma or we push something too far or we’ve been caught off guard and our nervous system responds in a way to protect us. The point of mobility training, as well as improving the health of the joint, is injury mitigation. It’s almost used as a rehabilitation tool. It’s looking at ways to utilise your body in 1000 different ways.
And if you can convince your body in training that you can move in all these cool different ways, then, just for example, you’re walking down the street and you get pushed and you roll your ankle. If you’ve trained your ankles to be in that position safely before that accident, then the likelihood is that you wouldn’t experience a harsh grate, or you wouldn’t experience a harsh sprain of your ankle, because your body has a history of training in that position.
What we don’t do enough of is that we only train in positions in which we feel safe, so I’m just going to take a standard programme of like if it’s a push-pull session, you will only be working really in one plane. There might not be much rotational movement or lateral movement. So what happens is we build up a sort of a library of memory within this region. Then for example, if you go and play rugby like I did, you might get tackled in a really awkward position. Because you haven’t trained in that way to prepare yourself, then your body’s only reaction is to cause a lot of inflammation around the area which could have not been saved as we cannot help being injured, but we can also help the level of injury when it occurs.
Darren: I guess the one thing that comes to mind as you’re talking about that particularly with rolling the ankle. Typically people that are slightly older in their later years, particularly elderly people, my assumption is that that’s why when they have a simple thing like that, where they roll their ankle, because they have never been in that position or they are so frightened about it, that’s why sometimes I guess the injury can far outweigh actually what happened.
Ollie: Hundred percent.
Darren: Yeah, that’s really interesting. So in terms of the functional range conditioning, to me, it really seems like it’s becoming much more mainstream, much more widely accepted. There’s a lot more people like yourself doing it now. So why do you think that this kind of evolution has happened? What do you think’s been the trigger?
Ollie: I think in general the fitness industry does a bit of a loop, isn’t it? I hope this sticks around because this is for me the foundation of learning how to absorb… If you don’t have the capacity to move your body safely in space, then to load your body is like–I’m not going to discriminate against bad PTs but you see it. You go to your local gym and you’ll see someone doing something and you think, “Oh, God, I don’t think they should be doing that or they shouldn’t be loading in that way.”
And that’s not anything to do with the training. I think the education side of it isn’t good enough to prepare trainers and coaches to go into then dealing with real life situations, whether that’s an education or it’s an ego thing or it’s a bit of both. But I would never load someone unless I was completely convinced that they could perform very basic tasks with no pain. If they were restricted in an area, you can still load other areas, but you’d have to be very, very careful around the area which wasn’t exactly moving in the way you’d like to. Because you might not cause an injury at that point, but you’re going to be causing some sort of imbalance or asymmetrical sort of movement dysfunction over time, which then could lead to a potential injury.
So it’s very important even to have a basic screen in place. The stuff is quite lower levels, so it’s not like sexy stuff. It’s not like doing some crazy lifts or doing something really, really cool but what it will do is it will enable you to do that more sequential task or it will allow you to do something, you know, go and play sports or go for a walk a bit easier. It will make your day to day life so much easier from having more articular resilience and more space for the joints to move. And also for your nervous system to be more capable as well.
Darren: I think in some ways, particularly around males, it’s almost like an ego kind of testosterone level in a sense that you want to get fit, so you need to go hard, you need to go heavy and all the rest of it. But actually, when you really start to understand this stuff, the benefits are actually going light and being very comfortable or confident in doing these particular movements. The example I give you is around squatting. You tend to see loads of people that want to squat, but they want to squat heavy because that’s what squatting is. But when you look at them and you look at the range of their squat, they’re actually probably doing less than half of the squat because their range of movement and the load won’t allow them to actually complete the full movement.
So I think there’s this, like you say, around education. That’s how it’s always been and there’s not been enough change in the industry for people to say, “Oh, actually, I don’t need to do that.” An example I’ll give is I stopped having weight on a squat and now I just use the bar, and I’ll squat down but I’ll pause for three seconds at the bottom. And then to try and come out of that squat, if you don’t have your form right or you haven’t gone down properly, it’s very, very hard. So you actually don’t need the weight necessarily to perform it.
Ollie: I completely agree. Sometimes taking a few steps back to move forward is a commendable thing but as a guy and if you’re in an environment which is stimulating… I’ve been in it when I was growing up and no one spoke about this. But then only when I’ve realised when I’ve got older that I can’t achieve these things because of not a lack of application but simply a lack of mobility, that’s what then is holding you back.
If you would have matched your mobility with the same level of your strength, then you would hopefully never come across these issues. But as you say, it hasn’t in the past been the popular subject but it’s a culture which needs to change. Strength in general, I think, has a great misconception around it because you can be strong but also not strong. So like you might go to a gym and see someone bench pressing twice their body weight and squatting loads and looking under a huge amount of stress and being like, “Wow, that guy’s really strong.” But then if you ask the same person to sit on his bottom and put his legs up to the side and lift up his leg five inches and hold it, and then test his hip flexor, active control, and he cramps up straight away and then he can’t do that, does that make him not strong or weak?
I think the whole conception around strength is wrong, because people who can’t lift those weights and can perform other tasks are stronger in a different way. For me, if you can’t control your own body weight, you’re not strong. So you might be able to exert the pressure in a quite short amount of time in quite a short range, but can you actually perform a task which if you think back to us being primal, were we designed to work in such a short space with such a high amount of load?
If we used to be monkeys in great shape and be more primal and caveman, I didn’t think we were required to lift such a heavy amount in such a short space of time. We had to do day to day tasks, hunt, gather, all the rest of it, where you would have been required to do a whole range of tasks throughout the day. That is my biased opinion. I’ve obviously come from professional rugby which was driven around S&C being how strong, basing the strongest person in the room because of what they can lift in the weight room. But I think that’s completely the wrong idea because if you can perform 50 bodyweight push ups and do X amount of pull ups, I think that’s a better test of bodyweight strength.
And then for me, lifting accessory rates, I don’t think it’s a be all and end all, but unfortunately with the culture, especially with young lads, it’s all about how much can you lift and that unfortunately doesn’t last very long because I end up seeing half of them come and see me later on in life, who have had troubles and disc issues because they simply pushed themselves too hard without balancing it with any mobility programme.
Darren: Yeah. And I think it just comes back to the comment that you made before around education. With the stuff that you put out on social media and just on the internet in general now, hopefully, that is going to start to evolve and change and people will start to realise that it’s not all about going heavy; it’s about actually being able to do the movement correctly under your own weight in the first place. Yeah, I think it is very important.
In terms of some of the movements that I see you doing in your classes, and some of the stuff you put up on Instagram, a lot of it looks like yoga and Pilates. Is there any link or is yoga and Pilates actually a subsection of the functional range conditioning?
Ollie: In my opinion, very, very simply, everything you see is purely movement. So that’s your ability to move joints in space and that’s your ability to move limbs in space. FRC is something which has been packaged up like a lot of other stuff in the world, like Pilates and someone or something has developed a system which is a very, very good system and it makes it easier for us to identify what’s black and what’s white.
But in in my opinion, there’s crosses between every single thing you do. So when I take someone for a one to one session, depending on what the goal is and what I think is appropriate, I personally will use a whole host of stuff. I will use elements of FRC because I know that’s going to be the foundation, and then I might shoot off into different areas and that might be based around dance practice, more gymnastic-based strength work. That might shoot up into more S&C work, that might go off into more Pilates, TVA sort of control if they’ve had back issues or if they’re postnatal or stuff like that. There’s shooting off arrows.
For me, to separate in terms of what’s passive what’s active, FRC is drilled around active control. That’s when you’re creating the tension within yourself and that’s you driving neural loads into your nervous system to create adaptation over time. Then you’ve got the other side of it which would be yoga which is passive. And that looks at more sort open movements. That’s your way of extending a range of motion, but not necessarily with control the whole time. So FRC is very much black and white in terms of this is active, this is you creating active control. And then, to me, I put everything else kind of in another area where it might be something but I’m not even sure what the name of it is: it’s a mixture of everything because your body doesn’t really know what one or two it is. It’s what you’re doing at the time and the stimulus that you’re trying to create, I guess is the answer to that.
I personally use a mixture of lots of different elements. I would never class myself as an FRC practitioner purely because I have so much respect for other movement practices. Whether that’s capoeira, whether that’s a bit of yoga or that’s a bit of Pilates or whatever. That’s my own personal style and personal opinion on things as well. That’s where I’m at, what I’m pushing at this stage of my career.
Darren: I think that’s a great approach to have because I think if you focus on one particular element, you end up becoming very tunnel visioned as to what else you can do to enhance what you’re already doing. Like your approach, by just taking it as a whole on a movement scenario, that then opens you up to everything that’s available and you can adapt. I guess it’s very much dependent on who you are coaching as well.
Ollie: Hundred percent. Like I say, I’ve got guys who have had a history of back pain or they’ve done lots of weight training. For them, to do loads of FRC, which is really, really active and it’s creating more tension… but then what have they been doing in the weight room for the last 10 years? They’ve been creating tension. So to them they might need more soft release stuff, they might need more passive techniques. Which is always going to be based around the FRC way of creating more space, but it will lean towards a bit more of an open approach.
But then if I’ve got say a female who’s just done yoga her whole life but she’s really, really flexible, always made borderline hypermobility in some areas, then I’m not going to do more passive work; she’s just going to get end range control and the ability to really knuckle down into those ranges and make sure you own those ranges. Because for that individual, their susceptibility of injury is obviously a lot higher than the guy who’s been in the weight room the whole time and end range points.
That said, I’ve actually only really learned in the last year or two. It was good that I learned the concept and the methods behind the active control at the beginning but for my personal body and my nervous system, it probably needed a little bit more a passive release because I’m so tight. Because I was lifting weights five times a week for however many years and never stretching. So for me, I probably needed to do a little bit more of the stretching then than the other type. But it’s all balanced, it’s all dependent on who’s the individual I’m coaching.
Just to quickly add in to another sort of area and that’s breathwork and that’s diaphragmatic breathing and that’s also another area which comes in with balance, which I think is a thing which isn’t used enough in fitness in general. These are two big topics which I’m kind of exploring at the moment and trying to use within people’s sessions. I think being able to breathe properly is absolutely paramount and that’s something which we are never taught how to do properly. The first thing you do when you’re born is breathe but no one shows you how to breathe properly.
For me, it’s encompassing everything. Can you move your joints? Can you breathe properly? Can you balance? Can you load? It might seem like a lot of stuff, but when you break it down, these are all human functions of which we should be able to do effortlessly. But throughout our training, our lifestyle, culture, the media, peer pressure, Instagram, you end up following something or a trend which might not be your goal. It’s someone else’s goal and then we end up a bit stuck.
Darren: I agree. I think the interesting point you brought up there is about the basic stuff, particularly breathwork. We had Richie Bostock on the show a few months ago talking about breathwork and the funny thing is when you talk to somebody about doing breathwork, they look at you like you’re nuts. They’re like, I can breathe and you actually can’t.
And it’s exactly like you say. We’re born and we just start breathing. How many people actually take the conscious actions to say, I’m going to breathe. And I’ve started doing it, I now do it every morning. I go outside and I do maybe five minutes of just breathwork and it is so profound in the impact it has. It’s just about being conscious about what you’re doing. You mentioned Instagram there–and obviously it has its good points and its bad points–and you follow a path just because of somebody else who’s popular, it’s not what you necessarily want to do or what you want to achieve.
I think a lot of it is about being conscious and about understanding that the stuff that we do daily unconsciously, if we became more conscious about it, it can actually have quite an impact on your general health and your general mobility and stuff like that.
Ollie: A hundred percent. Yeah, I think they’re sort of buzz words at the moment, but awareness and staying present. It’s hard, but when you look at your phone, I don’t think people realise this, but it creates stress right away. As soon as you flick on Instagram, your body goes into almost like a defence mechanism. It puts its hands up. You might not even realise it but you might start going into a sort of breathing pattern where you’re breathing at the top of your lungs. And you’re seeing a few bits and you might be breathing a little bit faster. You might see stuff you don’t like or you do like, it just sort of charges you up.
It’s been an incredible tool for me personally because I don’t think we’d have ever connected without it. But it has its… To me, you need to go on it and be strict with yourself and be like, right, I’m going to make maybe a little bit of time today to look at Instagram, maybe pick up a bit of inspiration, connecting with two people who I like and then just log out and then don’t look at it until the next day. And don’t be pressured to keep going on it.
It’s part of my business but to be honest with you, I wish I didn’t have that because it is a pain in the ass and I hope what I do in the next couple of years will hopefully build up enough of other connectors or connections with people that I could maybe leave it completely. I don’t know if that would be something I could do but I would like not to have it and for people just to come to me organically. But unfortunately you get a lot of interaction through Instagram, whether good or bad.
Again, just going back to the breather thing and that sort of tapping into your parasympathetic way of breathing and using your diaphragm to control your whole entire well being. It’s not been given the time of day enough, but I’m pretty sure I can feel things will get more profound when people realise that, like you said, just doing your morning breath work sets you up for the day. You’re making better decisions, you’re moving out of that anxiety sort of stage a little bit or you’re a bit more connected to what you’re about to do. So yeah, I think it’s amazing and it’s just through the power of breath; there’s nothing you have to take or do. You’ve just got to breathe a little bit differently.
Darren: I echo everything you said there, particularly around social media. Quite rightly, as you said, you and I probably wouldn’t have connected if it hadn’t been for that. So it definitely does have its upsides. In terms of a common condition or an injury that the people come to see you for, what kind of things are people coming to see you for? What’s prompting them to come and see you in the first place?
Ollie: I think I seem to have a few pools of clients. One pool would be guys who are very much performance-driven in terms of results-based so whether they are competing in triathlons or Ironman events. For them, it’s a lot of injury prevention and then it’s obviously a lot of work and a lot of the same plane. To them, it’s about improving the capacity of the joint more than anything. It’s about being able to finish off that last leg or that last run but have a better efficiency. The more efficiency you have with movement, the less energy you will expend. The less energy you expend, hopefully that will then have a positive effect towards their result.
The next pool of people I would say people who have quite a lot of stress in their lives. Maybe even from leaving school, they haven’t done a lot of activity and they’re in this position where they just don’t really know their own body that well. I guess, through the stuff I do with those guys, it’s a little bit more back to basics in terms of being more aware of movement and doing simple things on a daily basis which can really impact your health and your longevity without overloading them with the science and specifics behind stuff. Being more like, this is how you can make some subtle changes which could then prevent your neck pain or your back pain or your hip pain.
And then I’ve got people who’ve come back from serious injuries. People who have had some disc injuries where they’ve been cleared from physio treatment, but they’re looking for the bridge between going back to full training and continuing their rehab. I guess that’s where I come in. I would say I’m in a bit of a grey area between sort of full fitness and maybe people who are just wanting to address niggles or they want to work on areas which have been underlying for a long time but which aren’t quite injuries, per se. They’re on the road to recovery, but they are still wanting to address asymmetries or imbalances within the body.
Darren: I think from my side, I can definitely see the benefits from a prevention perspective and from a performance perspective. Because what I’ve gradually started to learn is that if you have been in a kind of sedentary lifestyle, when you start to do either running specifically and then you do some HIIT training and stuff like that, you get a lot of stiffness in the body because the body is not used to being used in that way, there are muscle groups that haven’t been used for a long, long time. Very quickly, you can then become from a sedentary state into a really stiff state and then you compensate in another way. So I think, just improving your general movement will help you in whatever fitness you decide to take up. And I think more importantly is that prevention side of it, which I think is very key. As you get into your 40s, if you get injured, that injury takes that much longer to recover from.
Ollie: Yeah. What’s frustrating is that many people, you kind of wait to get injured before you then try to fix it and it’s a mindset again. That’s why I don’t really like to box anything up mentally in people’s heads because, for me, it’s all movement, it’s all going to benefit whatever task we do in the day, whether that’s playing with the kids or whether that’s walking up the stairs to work or whether that’s doing the weights. It’s all in some way going to have a benefit.
If you’ve got greater control of your nervous system, you’re breathing properly, you’re a little bit more relaxed, you’ve got better clarity, there’s more space for your body to move, you’re a bit more connected with what you’re doing. You’re sort of asking questions a bit more as well. If you’re in the gym and doing bits and pieces or on your programme as I was, what’s your goal here and what am I trying to achieve something? Is this right for me? Always ask yourself that and especially if you’ve got a trainer or you do it online or a one to one session. I always say to someone, obviously it’s cool, but what’s the benefit of it?
I think more ask why and then you’ll get more information back and then that will help you connect better with your own body as well. The more you can be more aware of your own body, then the greater results in terms of you’ll hopefully live with less discomfort throughout the rest your life, if you’ve got that mindset to move.
Darren: Asking the questions of why–why you’re doing it. But also, I think this is an area… I don’t want to be negative towards any trainers, but that’s something that they don’t necessarily ask. They don’t necessarily ask, what is it you want to achieve? Why are you training with me? As opposed to, “Right, you want to train: we’re going to do this.” It’s about awareness and making sure that you are doing what you want to do and what’s right for you. So yeah, I think that’s very important. In terms of people listening, how we could add functional range conditioning into our exercise and fitness… If you’re doing running, swimming, cycling like I am and then a little bit of HIIT training as well, what basics would you say you can implement into that? Apart from coming to see you, obviously.
Ollie: I think it’s easier if I don’t probably specifically say about FRC, because it’s too hard to explain like this if someone’s listening. But I would say that if you’re doing any warm up activity or any stretch position, ask yourself what is the point of the stretch or what is the point of the movement? For example, I’ve just got a few exercises here which I would recommend you do every single day. There’s got to be cat-cow or the cat-camel exercise so that’s done to improve deflection and extension through the spine.
We want to achieve full control for every single joint in the spine for every single vertebra. When we do the usual cat-cow, it’s done like not fast, but it’s done in race of speed where your brain isn’t really engaging with a movement that well. Next time you do a cat-cow before you warm up to do some back work or any activity, focus on moving every single part of the spine in segmentation and having ownership through each facet of that spinal column is going to increase your whole body mobility. If you’ve had any issues with back pain or have discomfort in your hips or your upper or mid thoracic, a basic segmented cat- camel will over time be one of the greatest uses that I could ever recommend.
That would be one and to really focus I’ve got a post on my Instagram, I did it back in the summer but just to look at the way the spine moves and film yourself and you’ll quickly see whether you don’t have as much mobility maybe in your lumbar spine or your thoracic. Because what happens is it will look like a flat spot in the spine so the spine won’t wave independently. It will look like there’s coupled joints sort of stuck together and your spine isn’t obviously a straight object. It’s something which can flexibly stand, rotate, laterally flex, it’s got all these amazing movements and we should be able to affect every single joint independently but that’s something which we don’t focus on enough. So that’s one.
The second one I would recommend people do is hanging and that’s just basic passive hanging. Probably the easiest exercise you could ever do in the world. Jump on a bar, your hands are turned over and then hang with your feet together and relax your armpits and try and build up to doing four minutes every single day. That’s not in one go: you might do fifteen seconds, jump off. Do a few minutes whenever you can. Hanging is the best exercise to decompress your spine and it is the best exercise to allow the shoulder socket to sit naturally in the arch of the shoulder. And when the humerus fits into the shoulder socket, it’s going to sit perfectly, which will allow the rotator cuff and the tendons around the area to relax completely. When that happens, I can almost guarantee if you’ve had a bad shoulder and you just did some hanging every day for six weeks, your shoulder pain would drastically reduce. It might be painful at the start, but it would get better every time. If you did that with some rotator cuff work, make centre rotations and light work, it would drastically improve the health of the shoulder. So, hanging, cat-cows.
The third one is the same kind of principle as hanging; it’s a bodyweight squat. Take your shoes off, squat down as low as you can. If you feel like a massive pinch in your hips to begin with, take some breaks. If you can’t squat because your heel’s coming off the ground that’s obviously going to indicate that your ankles aren’t quite ready for that position. Stick some plates in there and over time, try and get in the habit of taking that object away. Again, you’re trying to accumulate a good couple of minutes every single day. The squat helps improve your hips, your knees, your ankles, and decompress your lower back.
Then I will look at doing some controlled articulation. That’s from FRC so this is going to be harder to discuss but if you just go on to my page, I’ve done some bits on carts and things like that but the idea is taking basic movement patterns with control and that’s the control and the tension comes from that intra-abdominal pressure which you create yourself.
The last one I would do is what we touched on earlier would be breathing. Implement more diaphragmatic breathing which is going to be using the diaphragm as a way to put yourself into that parasympathetic part of your nervous system, and to be more in control of your daily activities. The more you can be living in that area, when you come to move, and if you can breathe as you do in your breathwork when you’re concentrating and then you transfer it to movement tasks, you just feel a significant change because you will be in control of what you’re doing and your body will feel safe. The more your brain feels safe, the more capacity and the more area of improvement you will get every time from having that effect as well. That’s something I would definitely look to improving.
The average person I think breathes 12 to 14 reps every minute. If you’re doing breathwork, you want to be sort of taking four to six breaths and that’s like a therapeutic type number of reps to tap into. It’s using not the upper part of the chest; it’s using the diaphragm, and that’s not the abdomen either. It’s trying to basically use more the muscles around the back as you exhale and then this is going to basically improve the function of the diaphragm. I think that’s five.
Darren: Awesome. Brilliant. From what you said there, they sound like very basic things that you can do, but obviously, until you understand why you’re doing them, it doesn’t make it tangible, I guess. It is having that understanding as to what the benefits are. And from what you said there, which is actually one that I’ve not heard before, it’s almost like care of your spine, isn’t it? Taking care of your spine, making sure that it’s stretched out, making sure that it moves in all these amazing ways that it can. And it’s almost like yeah, taking care of your spine. Obviously, you said there as well the breathwork, which I think we’ve already discussed.
Ollie: Yeah, I mean, simple things. So you’ve got your spinal health cat-camel, you’ve got shoulders and spine for hanging, you’ve got your hips from the squat, you start to look a little bit into carts although that’s not actually essential to begin with, and that’s breathwork. These are all things that listening to this podcast, you could start straightaway. You could do 10 cat-camels slow as you can, film yourself, look at where you’re not moving the spine very well in terms of does the spine look like it’s stuck together? And that might be for guys we obviously got a lot of tighter thoracic. Some women have a little bit of the opposite. So they’re quite good for thoracic, they have less muscle tone. They would have less weights but they might have a stiff lower back.
If you can’t bodyweight squat that’s going to indicate poor hip flexion that’s going to indicate some knee sort of stability and mobility then ankle dorsiflexion. Ankle dorsiflexion is the most limiting factor to lower limb mobility. If you’ve got tight ankles or you’ve got tight feet, that would be something I would address with a priority. And then breathwork.
Darren: Fantastic. Thank you very much, Ollie. Before we wrap it up today, is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you feel I should have asked you which will benefit the listeners?
Ollie: To be honest with you, I think that’s it. I think one thing I could say in general is it’s a hard thing to do because I guess it’s going back to judgment, preconceived ideas, but that’s not to be afraid of trying new things. Don’t be afraid of looking like the weirdo in the gym because as long as you’re not doing stuff with weight, you’re not really going to hurt yourself. If it’s bodyweight and it’s with control, you’re going to be just finding more about yourself. And if you’re in a gym where you don’t feel comfortable doing that stuff, then just don’t go. Cancel your membership.
Life is too short to be moving or living in pain. Pain is a horrible thing to live with, or discomfort or tightness. You might not have the cure of pain but you can certainly use a lot of natural things to really help yourself. That would be a big thing, to be more open minded and also not get bombarded with stuff. Just keep things simple. Your body is designed to move in lots of different ways and that’s basically it. Just try and figure out ways to improve that and if you’ve been doing the same programme for a long time, but you’ve not been seeing any results, maybe it’s time to look at the programme or the way it’s been taught to you or the way you’re performing it and make some subtle changes. Add some more mobility, add some breathwork, add a bit more traction at the end. Do it for a certain amount of time, don’t do it for a day or two. Do it for six to eight weeks like a normal programme and I’m pretty certain the benefits will be positive.
Darren: I agree. I think we all get too caught up in what people think and I think particularly as I’ve got older, I’ve cared a lot less about that. I think you just have to do it. And you do have to, for want of a better word, be the weirdo in the gym and try. I’m definitely going to be maybe trying the hanging that you suggested because I think I’m quite tall: I’m six foot three. But it’s only going to be beneficial for me, particularly with my swimming as well around shoulder mobility, hanging and things like that is only going to help me so I think that it’s very important.
The other good point that you made there was around don’t do the same training programme week in, week out. Yes, you have to do it, you said six to eight weeks but don’t do it for six months a year or so, because your body is very, very intelligent, and it will work out what you’re doing and you will just hit that plateau and you won’t actually move forward.
Ollie: Exactly. And then variety is the spice of life. It is all about your mindset and if your mindset isn’t prepared to change, it does not matter what exercises you get given, you won’t change. You have to internally think about the changes you want to make, whether that’s through visualisation or whether that’s you actually thinking about more the process of what’s going on and then your body’s ready to change. So yeah, it’s all about thinking a bit more slowly about stuff. Don’t get me wrong; I love getting sweaty so I love doing hard workouts and all the rest of it, but there’s a time and a place. If you’re doing the same thing every single day, the body is not going to thank you for it. It’s actually going to hate you for it.
Darren: I think that’s a great sentiment to end on there. Ollie, how can people connect with you? Where can they go? Website? Social media?
Ollie: Basically, you can get in touch with me via Instagram and my handle is @OllieFrostPT. If you’ve got any questions or anything, I do loads of stories throughout the day usually, Monday to Friday, so this sort of covers what I do with clients. If you see something you like or you think “that could be beneficial to me,” feel free to send me a message and I can try and help you as best as I can on that. I offer online coaching and there’s currently two spots available for that. That’s a tailored sort of one to one approach online. That’s done through a platform called TrueCoach and all my stuff’s on there. It’s very interactive, which is great.
And then I do one to one coaching in London, I’m based in Clapham. I have a physio practice in Clapham North, that’s Balance Physiotherapy. I do workshops four or five times a year, so look out for those, they get posted on Instagram, and I do some shorter courses in between. I’m mainly based in London, but I also have travelled outside London to do workshops for various people. So if you think this could be beneficial for a group of you or a gym which you are nearby, then feel free to get in touch to see if that could be knocked with me to come up and travel somewhere else as well. That pretty much covers it all.
Darren: Awesome. That’s brilliant, Ollie. I’ll be getting some members of my team together to get you to come up. I’ve wanted to do mobility classes for ages but because of where you are, Clapham, I’m not always there; maybe I’ll just step outside my comfort zone. Awesome. Well, thanks very much for your time today, Ollie. I really appreciate it and I look forward to speaking to you again soon.
Ollie: Great. Thanks very much. Cheers, Darren.
Darren: Thanks for listening to the Fitter Healthier Dad podcast. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please hit subscribe. And I would really appreciate it if you could leave a review on iTunes. All the links mentioned in the episode will be in the show notes and a full transcription is over at FitterHealthierDad.com.