Julie and Lauren talk with Dr. Eric Goodman about his new book “True to Form”. He also explains the importance of foundation training and what it means to your overall health.
Chiropractor’s pain prevention program focuses on exercises to strengthen lower back
By Celia Storey
Back pain lofts above the state on wings of black, red eyes searching, searching among the legions of the literate until they zero in on …
What? Why? What did I ever do?
“You’re not using the back of you at all,” Claudia Smith observes, eyebrows raised.
I’m just sitting here, people, reading. Leave me alone. I don’t want to think about this.
With Tara Kelsey, Smith co-owns B-Fit Studio at 25 N. Block St. in Fayetteville, a personal training business that in the past focused on Pilates but now emphasizes a less familiar program called Foundation Training. And pain’s chosen victim is … whoever. An athlete or a desk jockey — doesn’t matter. When we sit, she says, our backsides are largely lax, and our minds are thinking about other things besides using those muscles in a coordinated fashion.
“And think about how much time we spend sitting,” Smith says.
Eric Goodman, a Carpinteria, Calif., chiropractor who created Foundation Training, says anything we make our bodies do more frequently than other things is training. And so, sitting is a training regimen. Specifically, it trains the body to sit.
And the body adapts. In videos on the website foundationtraining.com, Goodman explains that — besides encouraging us to stop engaging the powerful muscles on the posterior of the body when we actually need to — sitting a lot compresses the spine. It also shrinks the chest, flattens the lumbar curve, tucks the pelvis and shortens hamstrings, sinks ribs into the waist and crowds internal organs. The chin juts; the neck strains to hold up the head; shadows fall; puppies cry.
Which is no biggie, except that sooner or later you have to get up to go play football with the NFL or do something totally insane like bending over to pick up the dog. And this is why the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases lists having a sedentary job in the same paragraph with another big back-pain risk factor, having a job that requires heavy lifting, pushing or pulling. (There are other risk factors, too. See 1.usa.gov/21oE0h4.)
Unless we notice what’s happening and take action to counter it, the body’s “complacent adaptations” to sitting degrade the way we move, Goodman says.
Accidents, poorly planned workouts (yes, even core workouts) and becoming very, very good at one sport also can accomplish the same bad thing: Movements that should be led by back-of-the-body powerhouses including the arse and legs are instead done by the muscles we keep wishing looked like a six pack.
But really, Goodman says, pain isn’t the problem. It’s a symptom.
The problem is unsafe movement habits.
Springdale physical therapist Joe Paul sees Goodman’s Foundation Training as a “very good” program healthy people could do to prevent back trouble.
Paul has been a physical therapist 28 years. He practices Foundation to manage his own, serious spine problems, and he sees the techniques help patients at Total Spine, a Division of Northwest Arkansas Neurosurgery Clinic.
“In some cases, Foundation Training has been the critical ingredient in giving a patient control of their spine, decreasing their pain and allowing them to return to activities they had lost hope in ever doing again,” Paul says. “It is a great adjunct to the arsenal of methods we use to get these folks moving again. In some cases, Foundation Training is the only thing we are using.”
In other cases, it’s not appropriate, he notes.
He names a few, starting with any new or severe pain: “acute nerve compression syndromes such as newly herniated or ruptured discs; acute spinal fractures; unstable spondylolisthesis; severe spinal stenosis; acute neck or low back pain …
“This is by no means a complete list, and one should always check with their physician before trying any new exercise regimen.”
That sentiment is a fitness program boilerplate for good reason. The wrong regimen can wreck a back.
Paul began his acquaintance with Foundation after a crisis in his spinal situation, when his wife suggested he download a two-disc DVD set — Foundation Training: From Pain to Performance — from Goodman’s website. (Digital download or physical discs cost $59.99.)
“Nothing can replace” working hands-on with a qualified instructor, he says, but “the models are great at demonstrating good technique versus bad.” Beginners should “pay close attention.”
Goodman advises beginners to spend about a month with Disc One before attempting Disc Two. “Don’t jump ahead,” Paul agrees.
“Anyone trying Foundation Training on their own should be aware that some
soreness is normal with any new exercise program,” he says, but if doing Foundation causes big pain, stop. Check with your doctor.
(He, his wife and one of the clinic’s physical therapy assistants, Shannon Wilks, have become Foundation instructor candidates. They have yet to pass all the requirements to be fully certified teachers, including a four-day workshop.)
“What was very appealing about Foundation Training is it’s simple, accessible movement that can be put into your everyday life … not a flash-in-the-pan big trend, but a reorganization of some really good principles of human movement,” Smith says, explaining why she and Kelsey certified to teach the method.
They still do Pilates and yoga, “and I love all that stuff,” Smith says. “It’s not meant to replace that stuff” — walking, running, Pilates, skating, football, CrossFit, Zumba … whatever. Foundation is designed to accessorize a larger program or sports training.
“I’m CrossFit certified, too, to teach,” says another Foundation-certified instructor, Lisa Cooper, “and you’d think they’re extreme opposites. But they’re the best complements.”
Cooper teaches Foundation at Little Rock Racquet Club and at Little Rock Athletic Club in west Little Rock, where she is director of fitness and group exercise. Cooper’s former boss, Pat Riley Jr., is also a certified instructor and teaches at the Athletic Club. (Riley sold that facility, the Racquet Club and North Little Rock Athletic Club when he retired in 2013.)
FAMILIAR BUT FOREIGN
Downstairs in Little Rock Athletic Club’s fitness room, glance at Riley’s Foundation class and it looks like yoga. Students are mostly women, barefoot on sticky mats, and they’re holding poses.
The poses look easy. And they are — at first.
“It’s surprising how hard this class can be for only a 25-minute class,” says student Mary Remmel Wohlleb, who began attending a year ago, hoping to strengthen her lower back. (“And it seems to have helped.”)
The exercises include “the founder” — isometric forward bends (done while standing, squatting or kneeling) in which the focus is on using the hips to hinge forward instead of bending the spine. Legs and gluteals must be contracted strongly, the torso braced so ribs stay lifted off the waist; and the fanny is pressed back, weight on the heels (“putting your weight in your back pockets,” as Smith says).
There are anchored hip bridges done lying supine while trying to drag the heels toward the body. There are long stretches called decompressions; there are crossover stretches. There’s a standing lunge in which students reach as high as possible, actively lifting their weight off the ground.
The arms come down and then reach forward and to one side, and the lunge becomes a rotated form of the founder called “the woodpecker.”
Students say their lower backs warm and their legs shake, but they aren’t panting. Teachers say the effects will be felt less from what goes on during class and more from how students apply the principles the rest of the day.
Gail Wells, 77, takes Cooper’s class at the Racquet Club. “One thing it does is it reminds you to push your bum back,” she says.
Every fall oaks pepper her lawn with acorns, and if she doesn’t collect them, a mini forest takes root. Before Foundation, she wasn’t able to clear the whole yard at once, because that hurt. But this time “I did the whole patch,” she says.
ELITE AND LESS SO
Goodman began developing Foundation while struggling with his own degenerated discs in his mid-20s — while he was in chiropractic school (his TedX video is at bit.ly/24kB87p). After he chose to think of his pain as a symptom, he began to understand why he was moving incorrectly.
He refined his ideas with strength and conditioning specialist Peter Park of Santa Barbara, Calif., who trains elite athletes. Lance Armstrong wrote the foreword to their book, Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move With Confidence (Rodale Books, 2011). And today Goodman’s website carries testimonials from surfers Kelly Slater, Dane Reynolds and Lakey Peterson; actors Matthew McConaughey, Rob Lowe and Jeff Bridges; basketball player Derek Fisher; pro cyclist Lucas Euser; Terry Schroeder, head coach of the USA Olympic water polo team …
Goodman’s story — personal trainer at age 18, candidate for spine surgery at 25 — resonates with Riley, another lifelong athlete who has suffered crippling bouts of back pain since age 17, when his first spasms struck after a swim practice involving the butterfly stroke. His diagnosis is spondylolisthesis, insufficient space between his fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae, and also scoliosis: “My spine is not straight,” he says.
“I would say 10 years ago I was probably spending eight or nine days a year where I couldn’t stand up because my back would be in spasm,” Riley says.
He walked, saw a chiropractor, did yoga, “and I would say everything has helped.” Then his sister, Katherine Shoulders (former co-owner of Fayetteville Athletic Club who lives in Boulder, Colo.), told him about Foundation, and “I got the book and I got the DVD, and I started doing the exercises on my own.
“I would just do three every day,” he says. “Within two weeks, my back pain issues lessened. I haven’t had a back episode since I started doing it, which was three years ago.”
He knows that men looking in on his class assume it’s not manly. “Most guys also will tell you they have some back issues, too. …
“This is subtle, although if you do it, you really do it — oh man. That’s why the class is so short. It doesn’t take much time to make a big difference.”
Source: Arkansas Online
Good-bye back pain, hello improved posture. Foundation Training founder Eric Goodman’s simple exercise plan gets results fast.
Good posture isn’t just for finishing-school grads and pageant contestants. Strengthening the posterior chain of muscles that allows you to stand straight and tall helps you look more vital and youthful, and is the basis of a strong and pain-free back. Anyone who has suffered through back pain will tell you there is nothing quite as debilitating. Like many chefs (and TV personalities) I spend hours on my feet, which can leave me with a sore back on occasion. So I was intrigued when I heard through the grapevine about an exercise program that not only improves your posture, but can relieve acute back pain and keep it from returning, too.
Foundation Training, a movement-training program based in California, has a bit of a cult following among elite athletes and celebrities (Lance Armstrong, Rob Lowe, and Matthew McConaughey are fans), who attest to its ability to relieve pain and improve physical performance in just a few weeks. There are Foundation trainers around the country, but founder Eric Goodman has also written an acclaimed book, Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain and Move with Confidence, which outlines his approach and includes a few basic moves. We’re excerpting it here, along with a pain- alleviating exercise that’ll have you standing tall, and with less pain, in a matter of days or weeks.
If you’ve suffered from back pain for any significant amount of time, you’ve probably absorbed an endless amount of information about the injuries and conditions that cause it, but as you also know well, no one provides a simple plan of action that works for long-lasting pain relief.
People suffering with acute back pain usually just want to lie down and rest. When you are in extreme pain, movement can be scary. You do not want to risk hurting yourself more. An acute injury may require a day or two of rest, and the hardest part of feeling better is taking the first step. Movement is challenging if you really hurt, but there’s little else that will put you on the road to wellness more quickly than moving correctly.
Often, with the intention of preventing further back injury, doctors will prescribe prolonged bed rest and limit all activities. We would not say that this is the wrong approach, but it certainly does not accelerate the healing process. Though it may seem counterintuitive, proper movement—even when you are in pain—is the most effective remedy. Extended bed rest will only make your muscles weaker, and, as you have learned, pain is the price you pay for weak muscles.
Muscle spasms cause pain, but they function as a warning sign: Something else is going wrong with your body mechanics. Back spasms are defense mechanisms; the muscles contract, protecting a deeper problem. The only way to get the muscles to relax is to move, functionally transferring the stress that is causing the injury or inflammation in your back to your posterior chain, which is built to take it, and thereby relieving the pain.
The Foundation program consists of three 2-week workouts that correspond to different levels of back pain and rehabilitation, as well as difficulty: a basic workout for acute pain, a moderate workout for chronic pain, and a more intense workout for prevention and strengthening during pain- free periods.
We created the first workout to fix your pain, with five basic exercises to develop strength and endurance. The most basic move is The Founder. The basic exercises were designed to eliminate pain quickly. Once you cross the pain bridge, you progress to building strength and reinforcing the movements. (If you do not feel a change after 2 weeks of doing the basic five, either you are doing the exercises incorrectly or you should see a doctor.)
There’s a side benefit to our training, too: Nothing makes you look more confident, fit, and energetic than good posture. When your back is straight and you hold your head high, you look as if you are ready for anything. When you slouch, with your chest concave and your shoulders up to your ears, you look stressed and negative. You don’t want to send that message.
The good news is that the most visible benefit of Foundation training is terrific posture—and you won’t even have to think about it. When your spine is properly braced, your shoulders are automatically back, your chest is high as your spine curves naturally, and your movement originates in your hips.
Once you integrate Foundation exercises into your life, you won’t have to think about posture, but here’s a tip to start: If you want to improve your posture, pull your shoulder blades down, rather than back, to accentuate the natural curve of your spine.
(Adapted from Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence by Eric Goodman and Peter Park; learn more about Foundation Training’s 30-Day Founder Challenge and watch Eric Goodman’s TEDx talk.)
This exercise works the entire posterior chain. You are activating your glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and upper back. It is the basis for all Foundation movement, designed to teach you correct movement patterns. The Founder strengthens the deepest muscles in your spine, which hold your spine in extension. The exercise actually consists of several movements that flow from one to another.
Eric spoke at the Ancestral Health Conference on August 9th, this is the video from his talk.
Bad backs, bum knees, chronic headaches and an unwelcome variety of other chronic ailments may be the true plague of modern society. We are complacently adapting to our seated and sedentary culture and it is deteriorating the natural movement of our muscular body as it clouds our mental clarity. Foundation Training is an innovative movement program that mitigates this damage and allows us to become pain-free, stronger and rather well postured, naturally. Foundation Training teaches the body to properly support itself by first strengthening the Posterior Chain to bring the body into better balance.
When you arrive at Dr. Eric Goodman‘s Carpenteria home and Foundation Training base camp, you’re instantaneously at ease. It’s mostly the super-relaxed vibe Goodman and his business partners/friends emanate as they stroll barefoot along the patio. (The dogs running up and down the stairs have a little to do with it, too.) Or it might be the fact that his whimsical home is tucked away behind Hass avocado fields, a good distance off the Pacific Coast Highway where the rustling leaves and treetop view make you forget about the California traffic. Whatever the reason, you’re damn happy to be there.
And that’s what Goodman’s revolutionary Foundation Training is all about: being happy. By isolating your back muscles with exercises employed to disrupt natural tendencies that keep you slouched, the good doctor strengthens your core, relieving back pain and providing a foundation that inspires improved performance (and ultimately, a better life). From the world’s most exciting surfers in Lakey Peterson and Dane Reynolds to legends Kelly Slater and Tim Brown, Dr. Goodman is doing his darnedest to keep you charging, paddling and in the lineup rather than dealing with avoidable aches and pains. And from the looks of his students, he is doing a hell of a job. Watch above as The Inertia invades Goodman’s homestead to find out more about the mind and body benefits of Foundation Training.