Critical Look #1 – FRC

Christine Ruffolo

 

‘Critical Look’ challenges the way systemic information is presented and questions the story being told.

 


Personal background with system – attended a FRC seminar/certification in December of 2015.


What FRC is getting right

They have been brilliant at internalizing the focus of movement.  Getting people to pay attention to their joints and tissue tensions adds an important aspect to one’s personal practice.  An awareness of dysfunctional parts is critical, particularly when the intent is to integrate them back into a whole.  The focus of seminars has shifted to coaching movement instead of the judgement of movement, giving participants practical, out-the-door strategies for using the system with their clients.

 

Possible flaws within the FRC methodology:

       1.  Targeting the hardware at the expense of the software

Because so much of the brain remains an unknown, the system targets afferent feedback through the joint capsules and surrounding tissues.  But they are forgetting the brain’s role in the sequence of organizing movement.  In narrowing the scope toward the body’s parts, they overlook the impact of coordination and dynamic systems theory.  At its most robust, the hardware would be examined alongside/ in relation to the software, and these elements could be combined for greater, more lasting effect.

       2.  Repetition over variability

Every damn day.  I have such a hard time with this.  To even write a CARs post I had to frame it in the lens of exploration.  Monotony breeds boredom and non-compliance.  It’s what makes FRC a ‘cold’ practice, void of expression and creativity.  If volume breeds efficiency wouldn’t you want to use your time applying that efficiency toward other things, the larger movement goals/ambitions at hand?

        3.  Tension, work, and making things hard

While ramping is indeed a clever and effective way to engage tissue, promoting the idea that full body irradiation is essential for greater mobility dismisses the fact that relaxation can also be an effective tool.  The concept of fluidity relies on it.  As does breath.   Perhaps the work-effort coupling is the marketing  Kinstretch hinges on — people want to show up to a fitness class to work, and people won’t keep coming if it isn’t hard enough.  They’ve latched onto a very desirable premise to ‘control yourself’, but maybe what more people need is the ability/ permission to ‘let go’.

       4.  Tight lines vs. natural arcs

CARs of the ball and sockets (hips and shoulders) aim for circles with greatest proximity to the body.  Keeping your bicep, for example, as close to your head as possible throughout the entire circle.  Does training against these natural arcs attempt to create force where it should not?  Is it possible that optimum engagement exists in more of an oval?

 

 

FRC claims that are suspect

“Gain control of your joints and then explore how you move”

The idea that you must checklist your parts before you examine the whole seems backwards.  How would you know there was issue until an attempt at a larger movement pointed it out?  The assumption that joint control must precede activity seems to fall under systemic bias.  It facilitates the notion that the system is a pre-requisite to doing, and might go so far as provoke fear in an already reluctant general population.

 

“Improves performance”

There seems to be misleading cause and effect circulating.  Take a look at this poster from a climbing gym in Seattle:

That’s a heckuva lot of benefit.

 

It both improves and can improve.  Couldn’t anything be movement enhancement?  Couldn’t any system, if practiced as intended, also tick the same generic boxes?

 

Sometimes the assertions are less subtle:

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Why @tombarrywsbb, @westsidebarbellofficial and I focus on assessing, treating and training physical capacity at the joint level. . ✅The more physical capacity your joints possess, the more range of motion, strength and control you possess. . ✅The more range of motion, strength and control your joints possess, the more movement variability, strength and control you will have over your movements. . ✅The more movement variability, strength and control you have over your movements, the less likely your movements will falter. . ✅If your movements falter less, then the less likely your chances are of injury. . ✅The less likely your chances are of injury, the more likely the chances are of cultivating increased physical capacities and skill acquisition. . ☑️Functional Range Assessment used to assess/quantify movement capacities. ☑️Functional Range Release used to treat physical capacities. ☑️Functional Range Conditioning used to train physical capacities. . @drmchivers & @rannyron exposed me to the capacity demands equation at FRA. . This quote is a spin off from @drandreospina quote on joints; I replaced joints with physical capacity. Same thought process. . #functionalrangerelease #functionalrangeconditioning #functionalrangesystems #functionalrangesystems #frpractitioner #frrelease #controlyourself #westsidebarbell #conjugate #conjugatemethod #conjugateclub #physicalcapacity #asseenincolumbus

A post shared by John Quint (@jquintnmt) on

 The green checkmarks slant toward facts instead of possibilities.

 

Replacing ‘joint capacity’ with the broader ‘physical capacity’ makes a big difference.  It leads the onlooker to presume that joints with more range of motion and control leads to strength gains, less chance of injury, and greater skill acquisition, which is not an accurate statement.  It is misleading in both the soundness and completeness of its logic.  The possibility of results should not be mistaken for the certainty of them.

Similarly, professional athletes using the system does not legitimize the system.  It only shows that high-caliber athletes believe in the potential of the system enough to try it, not that it actually enhances their performance.

 

“Bridge between rehab and training”

 

 

Once upon a time, FRC was just an arrow.  It was a bridge.  In its growth to encompass everything (FR Assessment, FR Release, Kinstretch), both the arrows AND the words, it appears to have become it’s own place.  With this expansion the question becomes, is this a place that intends for you to stay, or is this a place that intends to get you elsewhere — a place of your own choosing and design?

 


Response from Sev Gurmen:

1. Agree. FRC methodology actually derives it’s super powers from rehab principles that has been used by -well trained and mostly russian- physios. That is how i first come in contact with the “ideas” and thought that it could be used to enhance performance. Then I found FRC. Fixing the parta and strengthening the tissues was the easy part, getting them in their new ROM in a coordinated way WITHIN my movement practice was a whole other monster. In the end i incorporated Alexander & Feldenkreis methods along with the wonderful awareness in movement ideas from the book “Neurodynamics”. Which focuses on the software as Chris wonderfully put it. I even needed to change the way my brain records the muscle memory of simple tasks such as sitting/getting up/walking etc…

 

2. Agree. It would also be great to be taught “how to create your own CARs” depending on the demands of your life, instead of just a set of excercises. But then again, it is tough to teach people.critical thinking in a 2 day seminar when there is 80 attendees! But they do say that these are only a start and you can get creative, it just depends on how good you are on critical thinking at that point. Every damn day in itself is a bothersome statement for me, then again, some people like that mentality. If it works for you, then it works for you.

 

3. Not sure. FRC does focus on strengthening the ROM and the surrounding tissues so it does kinda makes sense that they integrated the tension and “work hard” into the system. Since it is not actually a movement based discipline, I can understand that. Also, in contortion training you don’t exactly “relax” and let go either, there is always contraction and active muscle work, if you want to be safe in those extremes that is… Since I also practice Feldenkrais and Alexander method, I also understand the value of letting go, but in their case the action is rarely in the extremes. Plus, the emphasis is not “conditioning”. I never have my flexibility students relax in a position, but full body tension may not be always necessary. It really doesn’t teach you to use your body as a whole, just how to contract the whole thing. On the other hand, it is a brilliant method to use for circus or pole conditioning because you usually HAVE TO contract your whole body through movement in the air. Another possible use for the whole body tension is if you have hypermobile clients, they benefit a lot from learning “not to let go”. I guess it depends…

 

4. Disagree. Natural arcs according to what? I like the specificity of CARs because they are designed to be able to do what our skeletal system should be able to do -in theory. So if my shoulder ideally should be able to extend that much, then yes, I want to train it out of its natural arc. We can also argue that our natural arc now has become natural to us because we have not used our joint in its full capacity. Does everyone need this? Of course not. But as an individual who does 360° skin the cats, I want my shoulders natural arc to be the one that CARs promotes.

“Gain control of your joints and then explore how you move”

 

I agree that this idea does tend to create fear in already reluctant population, but i also suspect that it is not entirely FRC’s fault. Andreo Spina does say to gain control of your joints BEFORE LOADING THE TISSUE through movement, which is a different statement then most 2nd hand practicioners translates it into. I think this idea was first created to adress the issues of intense movements (such as planche, over head weighted squats, handstands etc..) and their specific problems of the loading tissue not being strong enough to attempt the thing itself. I have experienced first hand how almost all wrist injuries in handstand training has been because the wrist itself (or the shoulder) did not have the active mobility to get into the alignment to carry weight more efficiently. So for high risk and high load moves, it makes sense to chock the joints beforehand to be on the safe side, coming back from an injury isn’t fun. Does this need to apply to all movement? I don’t think so. Playing around in unknown territory and being experimental is the best way to learn about the possibilities and limits of your own body.

“Improves performance”

Yes and no. In my own experience with my body and everyone I have trained, working with FRC actually decreases your performance for a while… Just because you gained more active ROM does not mean that it will immediately transfer as strength to your own discipline and movement. On the contrary, it creates an “unknown” feeling and relatively weak territory for your body, until you get used to it. New neurological pathways do not always mean that it’s going to better. Your brain need to get used to switching the line too. It took me 6 months to get back to my own level of performance, then there was a slight enhancement feeling. Honestly, for elite athletes, the gain might not be worth losing the time! What it does give you though, is more resilience so you tend to get less injured even in extreme accidents. So for me what I have gained was worth the struggle. Although you might not want to increase the ankle mobility of a sprinter in case it reduces the performance for good. Some things are done better BECAUSE of the tension and lack of mobility in the tissues, not in spite. Individual assessment and better analysis is needed, as well as a less ostentatious definition.

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