Find yourself hunching more than you should? Posture not where it should be? Dr. Eric Goodman is a superstar in the world of “structural bio-mechanics”, and has released a new book that will put you back into shape.
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.
I recently learned of Dr. Eric Goodman’s work through his TED presentation and was excited about the simplicity and elegance of his approach to exercise — an innovative method called Foundation Training, which he developed while in school to become a chiropractor to treat his own chronic low back pain.
He now teaches classes and seminars on this method — co-created with Peter Park, a world-class professional athlete trainer. Foundation Training exercises are designed to help your body be the strongest it can be and move the way nature intended. Many professional and Olympic athletes use and are big fans of his work.
Exercise has been one of my passions for almost 45 years now. It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to go to medical school in the first place, as I intended to use exercise as a therapeutic modality to improve people’s health. I eventually shifted more toward the nutritional component, because I realized nutrition is really crucial. But you really cannot be optimally healthy without exercise.
What is Foundation Training?
Foundation Training was birthed through necessity, as Dr. Goodman began suffering repetitive back problems while still in his mid-20’s.
“I had a blown out L4-L5 and L5-S1, and was told at 25 years old, ‘Eric, you need to get surgery’… It just wasn’t an option,” he says. “I was in chiropractic school. I really understood the body well. I decided that this is going to become an obsession. I’m going to figure this out. I can’t become a doctor, have patients come to me that are asking for my advice on an injury that I have that I can’t fix. It’s not okay.
So, over the course of about four years, I did that. I became very obsessed. I used my anatomy knowledge. I used my understanding of exercise. I was a personal trainer actually long before a chiropractor. Foundation Training is what I came up with. It’s what I do for myself every single day, and it’s what I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate to teach to thousands of people at this point.”
Foundation Training is all about your core. As Dr. Goodman explains, your core is anything that connects to your pelvis, whether above or below it, and this includes your hamstrings, glutes, and adductor muscles. Foundation Training teaches all those muscles to work together through integrated chains of movement, which is how you’re structurally designed to move, as opposed to compartmentalized movements like crunches.
Key Basic Exercise: “The Founder”
“My primary exercise – the Founder – the one that everybody has to learn… is an integrated movement. We take your entire posterior chain of muscles and we pull them together,” Dr. Goodman explains.
“Every exercise in Foundation Training adds as many muscles into a given movement as possible, dispersing more force throughout your body, taking friction away from your joints and putting that tension into your muscles instead. It’s basically the answer to a very plaguing question for people, which is, ‘I sit all day long. I drive my car all day long. I look at my phone all day long. I watch TV.’ Your shoulders are just continuously going further [forward]. Your head is falling further forward. Your hip flexors and your abdomen are shortening.
Every exercise that I teach lengthens the front of your body, the over-tightened, over-shortened muscles in your body; strengthens and lengthens the back of your body; puts it to its effective lengths; stands you tall; and allows your body to move as a human animal is designed to move – very powerfully, very gracefully, and with a lot of flexibility.”
“The Founder” helps reinforce proper movement while strengthening the entire back of your body by dispersing your weight through the posterior chains. As a result, your weight shifts back toward your heels and “untucks” your pelvis. By doing so, you lengthen your hip flexors, gaining length at the front of your body.
“In doing that, you teach your hips to hinge properly with a nice, long and strong front; you’re keeping the sternum high, keeping the chest high,” he says. “The place to start is learning how to hinge effectively. Learning how your hamstrings, lower back, and glutes are designed to stretch together. Once that part is in place, you can then advance to all the exercises that build upon that foundation, that build upon that first exercise.”
The Founder is an excellent exercise that can help reverse the effects of frequent and prolonged sitting. While sitting down is not the only thing that can cause trouble (adopting any particular posture for long periods of time can slow down your circulatory system), sitting is one of the most pervasive postures in modern civilizations.
Relearning Proper Posture is Essential for Virtually Everyone
According to Dr. Goodman, the more frequently you do The Founder exercise, the easier it will be for you to get into the progressive positions that follow.
“The only reason that I’ve focused so heavily on the posterior chain is our modern lifestyles,” Dr. Goodman says. “It’s not that these are more important muscles. It’s that our modern lifestyles have pulled us out of [proper alignment and movement]. Our glutes, hamstrings, and lower back, they don’t work as they’re designed to anymore. They’re a team… [but] we’ve separated them, and… they’re not able to function properly until they connect again. So we teach basic, postural, support, strength – all of these things beginning at the posterior chain, beginning with those integrative muscles.”
The following exercise: “Adductor Assisted Back Extension,” is another exercise that will teach you how to properly extend your spine.
Breathing Also Affects Your Posture
Breathing is another important tool that is unfortunately ignored by most people. In the interview, Dr. Goodman demonstrates structural breathing, which will help improve your posture, especially while seated. He also demonstrates how to do this in his TED talk below. Here’s a summary:
Sitting down, place your thumbs at the base of your rib cage, pinkies at your waist. Think of the space between your fingers as a measuring stick
Pull your chin back and take three deep breaths
As you breathe in, the distance between your thumbs and pinkies should increase
As you breathe out, tighten your abdominal muscles to prevent your core from collapsing back down
When done properly, your breath will help lengthen your hip flexors, and then support your core using your transverse abdominal muscles. This will strengthen your back and keep your chest high and open. Do this exercise for 30 seconds or so, then go back to your normal seated position. With time, those muscles will get stronger, and your seated posture will gradually improve.
To Improve Your Core, Strengthen these Muscles
According to Dr. Goodman, “When it comes to your core, ‘It’s all in the hips, baby.’”
Every muscle that directly connects to your pelvis should be considered a piece of your core. Your athletic ability, flexibility, balance and strength are all dependent on powerful hips. To accomplish that, Dr. Goodman recommends strengthening the following muscles using the Foundation Training Program:
Glutes: These are the powerhouses of your body. They do not work alone.
Adductors (Inner thigh muscles) are your built in traction system. When the adductor group of muscles remains strong you have increased in hip stability, stronger arches in the feet, and a pelvic brace using a couple of the strongest muscles in your body.
Your deep lower back muscles facilitate the proper integration of the Posterior Chain of Muscles. Simply put, a weak lower back changes every aspect of your movement patterns for the worse.
Your abdomen and hip flexors: Think of the front of your body as a window that shows what is happening at the spine and pelvis. If the front is always too tight, the back is not working properly.
The Transverse Abdominal muscle: A built in bracing system. When the transverse abdominus is tightened against the other muscles among this core group, the entire system becomes stronger
The basic Foundation Training program takes about 20 minutes, and is ideally done daily.
“If you have an existing program, just put it aside for two weeks and see what happens when you do this one for 20 minutes. Then go into the intermediate, which is about 35 minutes… You’re still doing the basic five exercises, and then we add two more into it.”
You can purchase the Foundation Training DVD from my online store. FoundationTraining.com also offers free videos you can peruse, and the companion book available called: Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move with Confidence.
“It’s a really good book, as far as understanding why you have back pain, and applying 10 exercises to fix it, just going through that process,” Dr. Goodman says. “Even some of the feedback we’ve gotten from a lot of people who even just reading the aspect of why they have back pain stops them from doing the things that cause it, which in amount itself is enough to stop back pain in many, many people.”
By Tim Brown –
Show me a person who has good posture, and I’ll show you someone who is increasing their chances of enjoying a long, productive career, life … and 11 world surfing titles. OK, maybe not 11, but hear me out.
For those of us who are hunched over computers all day, commuting a half hour or more to work or carrying the kids around, posture is a hidden but alarming health issue that can gradually get worse over time. For surfers and other athletes, improper posture and muscle imbalance can lead to injuries and slow recovery. It can also dramatically affect performance on a surfboard. For more than 25 years of working with ASP athletes, including Kelly Slater, Mick Fanning and Jordy Smith, I have preached the power of posture as a vital aspect in their treatment and training as world-class competitors.
Slater has incredible body awareness and when he trains his focus is on full body mobility, stability and strength. He uses a system called Foundation Training, which emphasizes improving posture and core fitness by focusing on strengthening the back of the body to balance the overused, over-stressed front side. It teaches him how to remember what proper movement feels like.
The athlete with rounded shoulders and forward-carried head posture tends to have poor body awareness and alignment, and often walks and runs with a short, choppy gait with hips and feet turned out. These are the athletes most and often prone to declining performance, slower recovery, more injuries, sickness and eventually, a shorter career. The quality of one’s movement each day is literally a window to how well the body performs and recovers. Next time you see Slater at an event, notice how effortlessly he walks, paddles out and pops up on his board. This is no coincidence: it comes from how well his central nervous system is connected to his muscles.
I started working with Slater in the early ’90s. He has always had extraordinary mobility, but because his sport requires right and left sides to move differently, he always has to work towards achieving optimum balance.
Top strength and conditioning specialists focus on smoothing out and connecting movement. It’s somewhat counter-intuitive, but simply training to make muscles stronger is a recipe for injury. For those of us who don’t have the benefit of training with a professional strength and conditioning coach, if you want to improve your overall fitness and health, learn to move your body the way it was designed … like you did when you were a kid, and not a slave to sitting.
Slater also has such naturally keen movement awareness and innate understanding of how important good posture is to feeling and performing at his best. Poor posture and quality of regular movement patterns over time are the main reason athletes become injured; and for us regular folks and weekend warriors, it’s why we have bad backs and hips, sore necks and headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, and so on. Good movement is measured by an ability to move how the body was designed with the least amount of stress. Interestingly, nothing illustrates quality of movement like watching a great athlete do his or her thing. Why? Because they move like kids do … with economy of motion, balance and effortless grace. Guys like Slater make it look so effortless because they maintain a relaxed balance of form and function.
Add to this the fact that Slater has a tremendous thirst for knowledge and is a serious student of the body. He can move incredibly well in some directions, and is less effective in others. There is little doubt that he is a flat-out gifted athlete and has the drive a to be a world-class competitor, but his focus on constantly improving his health through good nutrition and improving balance, movement and posture throughout his career is undoubtedly a key factor in his longevity.