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.”
It’s the unfortunate state of our sport. Ask any physical therapist, chiropractor, or acupuncturist what they think of CrossFit and the reply is usually, “I love CrossFit, they keep me in business.” Ouch.
I don’t believe CrossFit is inherently dangerous, especially if taught by intelligent, experienced coaches. However, CrossFit is brilliant at pointing out people’s natural, athletic, structural, and muscular deficiencies. As coach Eric Malzone says, “CrossFit is going to let you know all of the ways that your regular life has screwed you up physically.” Unfortunately, it often does this through an injury.
Malzone and I actually own a CrossFit gym together, and we’ve had our fair share of “gurus” walk in and present their new-fangled gadgets and modalities. Oh wow, you’ve combined muay Thai, Zumba, yoga, and hypnosis into an eight-minute workout my clients will love? Fantastic, leave your flier on the counter and try not to disturb anyone who’s actually training on your way out. Thus, when Dr. Eric Goodman came in and asked us if we’d heard about his Foundation Training, I smiled a lot, batted my eyelashes a few times - since, well, he is kind of dreamy - and listened to what the man had to say. With a heavy dose of skepticism we let him run a few of us through an abbreviated version of his usual hour class.
I believe Malzone and I were both sold on what Dr. Goodman had to offer about thirty seconds into that first Foundation session when we couldn’t get our legs to stop shaking nor our sweat glands to close. To this day it infuriates me that with my current physical skill set I can’t hold the proper Founder position for more than about fifteen seconds without wanting to cry just a little bit.
So what the heck is Foundation Training and why should it be making its way into the lives of CrossFitters? Per Dr. Goodman:
Foundation Training is a set of movements and positions designed specifically to teach our individual muscles to act within strong, flexible chains of muscles. This allows us to disperse weight more evenly and keep our postural alignment, even under load.
Dr. Goodman spends his day teaching people how to change the movement patterns that are breaking them down – the patterns setting them up for injury in CrossFit.
As a coach, I have found the positions and movements of Foundation to be invaluable training tools. Telling an athlete to engage their lumbar is one thing. Putting them into a physical position where they are forced to engage their lumbar and therefore have the tangible experience of it being engaged is exponentially more powerful. Repeatedly putting people into that position until they are not only engaging their lumbar consistently, but additionally building the necessarily strength in the corresponding muscles is the best way to keep them out of the chiropractor’s office.
The Founder Position is the core of the training:
To enter into a proper Founder:
Stand with your feet facing straight forward, legs about 3 feet apart. Stand tall with your chest held high and chin pulling back towards your neck.
Press your body weight into the heels and pull your hips back behind you with knees ever so slightly bent. Be sure to continue your chest lifting and chin pulling towards the neck throughout the whole movement sequence.
As the hips pull back bring the arms, with palms up, straight ahead of you. Lift your arms as high as you can and keep your eyes on the horizon. Your lower back should be on fire within 20 seconds if in the right position.
After 20-40 seconds of the founder position you are going to stretch to the ground or to a chair height object I'm front of you. As you stretch, be sure to keep your weight behind your heels, knees slightly bent and hips as far back as possible.
If you feel the stretch in your hamstrings, calves, glutes, and low back you are nailing the exercise. Hold it for 20-40 seconds.
SLOWLY begin to return to the founder position by pressing your hands to the shins and lift your chest up with a tight, braced lower spine. WATCH THE VIDEO AT LEAST ONCE THROUGH BEFORE ATTEMPTING THE FULL EXERCISE.
As soon as your chest is high enough to look forward and your weight is pressed firmly into the heels you can bring the arms behind you, making your chest as wide as possible. Your goal is to recreate the dense muscle tension at the low back muscles while stretching the hamstrings. That will make a lot more sense after practicing a bit.
The finishing move is bring the arms forward and up as high as possible while keeping the hips hinged, the weight on the heels and the chest as high as possible.
Do this a lot.
As an active athlete in CrossFit competitions, Malzone had this to say, after trying the protocol for a while:
It's easy when I do Foundation consistently - my back doesn't hurt at all and I can throw around a lot of weight in workouts. When I don't do it consistently, my back starts to hurt and I have to spend my training time icing down. For me, that's not really a choice.
At our gym, Malzone and I include Foundation Training as part of our regular class rotation not just because it is hard (hard does not mean effective - golf is hard), but we both endorse it because, very much like CrossFit, we walked away from it that first time thinking, “Well…I’m not all that sure what the hell just happened, but 1) it was awful and 2) I feel amazing and want to do it again.”
Malzone has a herniated disc at L4/L5 from a lifetime of water polo meeting a #400 deadlift. I’ve got a royally screwed up neck after from a few years of MMA. After a few weeks of Dr. Goodman’s hippie movement voodoo, we’re both training harder than ever - pain and injury free. As are our clients.
"Powerful New Way to Compensate for Sitting – Foundation Training!
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 address this issue. Many elite and professional athletes are big fans of his work."
According to recent research, if Americans cut back on the amount of time spent sitting down, it could add years to your life expectancy.
Unfortunately, most people spend a large portion of each day in a seated position. It's hard to avoid these days, as computer work predominates, and most also spend many precious hours each week commuting to and from work.
The study estimates that reducing the average time you spend sitting down to less than three hours a day could increase your life expectancy by two years.1 Reducing the time you spend watching TV to less than two hours a day could increase it by 1.4 years.
As reported by NBC News:2
"The study adds to a growing body of evidence suggesting that sitting itself is deadly. While previous studies have looked at the health risks to the individual, the new study examines the risk of sitting for the whole population, said study researcher Peter Katzmarzyk, of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La. The research 'elevates sedentary behavior as an important risk factor, similar to smoking and obesity,' Katzmarzyk said.
Other studies have found our culture of sitting may be responsible for about 173,000 cases of cancer each year.
Because U.S. adults spend, on average, between 4.5 and five hours a day sitting down, a significant shift in the population's behavior would be needed to have an effect on life expectancy, Katzmarzyk said. This might be achieved through changes at the workplace, such as the use of standing desks, and by watching less TV..."
Obesity Panacea3 made a good point in its report on this study:
"These sorts of theoretical studies obviously need to be taken with a large dollop of salt (just like the recent Australian study4 which estimated that every hour of TV viewing shortens your life by 25 minutes). The point is simply that there is a non-negligible impact of sitting/TV viewing on mortality, and given the extremely high prevalence of these behaviors at the population level, they can have noticeable impact on the lifespan of the population as a whole."
How to Increase Activity Levels on the Job
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. So how can you increase your activity levels if you have a "desk job," as so many of us do these days?
One of the things I do to compensate for the time I spend sitting each day is to regularly do Foundation exercises developed by a brilliant chiropractor, Eric Goodman. These exercises are used by many professional and elite athletes, but more importantly can easily address the root cause of most low back pain, which is related to weakness and imbalance among your posterior chain of muscles. It is easily argued that these imbalances are primarily related to sitting. I have recently interviewed Dr. Goodman and he shares his comments on the featured report below.
Powerful New Way to Compensate for Sitting – Foundation Trainng
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 address this issue. Many elite and professional athletes are big fans of his work. I asked him to comment on this article and he wrote the following:
"Many lifestyles require that people sit very often. While this may not be ideal, it is certainly ok. No law of nature requires that our body begins to deteriorate as soon as you sit down; it's actually the simple repetition that gets you. Fortunately there is a lot you can do to help counterbalance this, starting today.
You have some important anatomy happening in and around your hips, pelvis, spine and stomach. Unfortunately, these are precisely the areas that get the worst of your weight when you sit all day. It is because of this that teaching your pelvis and spine to remain supported while we sit, and more importantly, while you stand, is of the utmost importance.
Think about it for a moment, we are all very muscular animals… well, at least we have the ability to be very muscular animals. If sitting all day teaches your back, butt and leg muscles that it is ok to remain squishy and act more as a cushion than a support structure, you should do exactly the opposite to counter it. You have to let your muscles feel what they have accidentally forgotten, the feeling of being used for their original purpose.
Stand up throughout the day to stretch your body appropriately, the way it is meant to be stretched. The simple act of standing as tall as possible for a minute or two will help break the pattern of sitting, as long as you repeat it frequently. Be sure that while standing you take full deep breaths to expand your torso as well. We often have very shallow breath while we sit, counter that with big deep breaths as often as you can throughout the day.
My opinion is that people should not go longer than 30 minutes in a chair without standing, deep breathing, walking and stretching. If you think I am crazy for asking that much of you, then I suggest you not go longer than 20 minutes.
Helpful Tips You Can Do Now:
You will do less harm by sitting upright on the front edge of your chair. Back rests tend to promote excessive rounding of the spine, and tend to push people into what's called an anterior head carriage. The further forward your head goes the shorter your hip flexors will remain and that just leads to all sorts of movement problems.
When sitting for a while try to keep your chest (sternum) in front of your chin. As soon as the head starts to fall forward you enter the compression and degeneration danger zone. Play around to see if you can feel a difference.
Think of lengthening the distance between the rib cage and the pelvis when you stand. This will lengthen your hip flexors.
If you have a life that keeps you sitting frequently, and you haven't tried Foundation Training yet, please do. Our work will likely help you. At least watch my TED talk and learn an important trick to counter balance the effects of sitting all day."
Regular Exercise May Not Be Enough to Compensate for Excessive Sitting...
I am a major proponent of exercise and believe it is absolutely essential if you are going to achieve any level of high-level health and wellness. Interestingly, previous research has suggested that even if you have a regular fitness regimen, it might not be enough to compensate for excessively sedentary behavior during the remaining hours of each day due to the adverse metabolic effects sitting down generates.
One 2009 study5 highlighted much of the recent evidence linking sitting with biomarkers of poor metabolic health, showing how total sitting time correlates with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other prevalent chronic health problems. According to the authors:
"Even if people meet the current recommendation of 30 minutes of physical activity on most days each week, there may be significant adverse metabolic and health effects from prolonged sitting – the activity that dominates most people's remaining 'non-exercise' waking hours."
In other words, even if you're fairly physically active, riding your bike to work or hitting the gym four or five days a week – you may still succumb to the effects of too much sitting if the majority of your day is spent behind a desk or on the couch. Researchers have dubbed this phenomenon the "active couch potato effect."
The Price You Pay for a Sedentary Lifestyle
A number of studies have looked into the health ramifications of leading a sedentary lifestyle. The research linking too much sitting with increased risks of disease and premature death is quite eye-opening:
Men who were sedentary for more than 23 hours a week had a 64 percent greater risk of dying from heart disease than those who were sedentary less than 11 hours a week, according to a 2010 study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.6
A study of more than 17,000 Canadians7 found that the mortality risk from all causes was 1.54 times higher among people who spent most of their day sitting compared to those who sat infrequently.
Sitting time is a predictor of weight gain, according to a study of Australian women,8 even after accounting for calories consumed and leisure time physical activity, such as exercise time.
The risk of metabolic syndrome rises in a dose-dependent manner depending on your "screen time" (the amount of time you spend watching TV or using a computer). Physical activity had only a minimal impact on the relationship between screen time and metabolic syndrome.9
People who use a computer for 11 hours or more a week, or watch TV for 21 hours or more a week, are more likely to be obese than those who use a computer or watch TV for 5 hours a week or less.10
More Exercises You Can Do
I recently interviewed Dr. Goodman and he comprehensively described his program but that interview will not be out for a while. In the meantime he also had these useful suggestions to share:
"When it comes to your core, 'It's all in the hips, baby.' Every muscle that directly connects to the pelvis should be considered a piece of your core. To say it another way, your athletic ability, flexibility, balance and strength are all rather dependent on powerful hips. Here are some muscles that it would be a good idea to strengthen:
Glutes: These are the powerhouses of the body. They do not work alone.
Adductors (Inner thigh muscles): 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 the body.
The 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.
The 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.
In order to better stabilize your pelvis you need an integrated approach at strengthening all of the muscles surrounding it. Focusing on the abdomen and hip flexors excludes roughly 80% of the muscles which allow stable powerful movement from the integrated core of the body. I speak about adaptation very often, in this case by allowing our bodies to adapt to a seated position we have stopped using many of our most important muscles effectively. These core muscles are not able to function as they should without proper length, strength and balance.
You've got to get reacquainted with your posterior chain of muscles, get the back of your body stronger, and start by connecting the deepest layers. Use these 2 simple exercises to feel what I am talking about: (Founder and integrated back extension) I know what happens on the other end of this, I've had the personal reward of changing my movement patterns for the better. I used it to avoid back surgery at a young age and I now surprise myself daily at what I am able to do without pain.
A simple shift of patterns can lead to extraordinary, life changing results. Enjoy the process!"
I consider my self to be pretty healthy, and I spend quite a bit of time making sure my fitness level stays high. This includes weekly yoga, strenuous hiking, and weight training. But there’s one thing that’s truly kicked my butt over the years: chronic lower back pain. Due to numerous back injuries, hiking with a heavy backpack, and lack of a clear strategy for eliminating the cause of the pain, I’ve struggled with this problem far longer than I want to remember.
While yoga has helped, it’s a tricky balance between doing enough and doing too much, which can lead to injury (as it did with me). I’ve tried other approaches such as chiropractic and stretching, but never with lasting results. Most of the cures out there focus on eliminating the symptoms (pain), where as I wanted to eliminate the cause. Oh and by the way, doing crunches until your dizzy does not strengthen your core as so many are lead to believe.
I recently discovered a book called “Foundation” (and accompanying DVD/video download) which outlined a program that claimed to reduce and even eliminate back pain. The basic idea is that back pain comes from weaknesses in the muscles of the posterior chain—the muscles that run along the entire back of the body from the shoulders down to the buttocks and hamstrings. By specifically focusing on this huge and powerful muscle chain, the body would learn to move in a healthier way, avoiding stress along the lower back, improving posture, and hence reducing and/or eliminating pain.
I had my doubts, but started the program at home 6 months ago hoping I might get lucky-I felt I deserved it after so many failed attempts. And my back has never felt better. I had my reservations at first, but stuck to the program as best I could, and it has done wonders for me. My back pain isn’t completely gone, but for all practical purposes is a non issue. The exercises can be intense at times, but the results speak for themselves.
My routine takes about 25–30 min to complete, and I do it about 3–4 times per week. Best of all I don’t need any special equipment or space, I can do the exercises anywhere. This is huge for me since I’m often traveling on a photo trip or teaching a workshop. You can also custom tailor the program based on your particular fitness level. I started as a beginner, and after a few months was doing the advanced routine.
So what does this have to do with landscape photography? If you hike to your photo locations with a heavy backpack, then I would say quite a bit. There’s nothing worse than back pain to dampen your mood and spirit when you want to get out into nature with your gear.With a stronger back, you’ll tackle difficult hikes with more confidence, and experience less fatigue which leads to more time in the field.
If you have any problems with back pain, or just want to strengthen your core, check out this book and program- the DVD is also great to make sure you’re doing the exercises correctly, and for motivation. It has really made a difference for me.
The very first time a yoga teacher told to me to lean forward against a wall to do a modified down dog (wall dog), I was petrified. My lower back, my discs, do not like sustained flexion. The yoga teacher showed me that the goal was to lengthen the spine and keep it in neutral.
Once I got over my fear, the modified down dog became a mainstay of my disc exercise routines.
I am reminded of this because foundation training uses a "braced spine" position as a way to strengthen and tone the back extensors, in concert with activating the whole posterior chain. Eric Goodman, the chiropractor / trainer who developed this routine, defines the core as any muscle with a direct connection to the pelvis, from below as well as from above. He emphasizes doing four times as much back work as front work. (How many patients hurt themselves doing Pilates, which emphasizes flexion and the abs?)
When I first saw these exercises, I was a bit skeptical. I have a broad variety of exercises I teach my patients based on symptoms and the results of functional tests. Could a single exercise system work for multiple low back problems?
After using it and teaching my patients this model for a couple of months, I am convinced this approach is powerful and effective. What do I like?
The exercises feel like real exercise. You feel the burn; you know you are working. Some motor-control exercises from other traditions are just too subtle. This has depth and subtlety, but it is within a context of exercises that are relatively straightforward and physically challenging.
The integration of activating the hamstrings, adductors and gluteals, along with the back extensors, is profound. I have come to appreciate that many of the tight muscles we used to just stretch actually improve in their function much better if we strengthen them, ideally with strengthening in length and/or functional positions. In foundation training, the emphasis is on strengthening the adductors and the hamstrings in a lengthened position.
The patient and the doctor/therapist/trainer get immediate feedback. When you are doing these exercises, you can feel where you are weak. After you do the exercises, your posture and function immediately improve.
It is safe. The emphasis on maintaining a neutral spine keeps the lower back from getting injured.
These exercises are clearly from the yoga tradition. The older style of yoga that I learned 30-40 years ago seemed to emphasize strictly relaxation and stretching. The newer forms of yoga, at least the ones I appreciate, emphasize co-contraction, activating the muscles as you lengthen them. The best yoga, in my opinion, does not just go for extreme positioning at the end range. I don't think you should sacrifice any joints in the name of some theoretical ideal end-range position. Foundation training is clearly in the newer style of yoga tradition.
Here's what one of our colleagues, Daniel Kalish, DC, had to say about these exercises in a conversation with me a short while ago:1
"[This training] to me represents modern-day yoga, exercises adapted to our current lifestyle where we sit at computers, drive in cars and predominantly lead sedentary lives … [The] postures resemble yoga positions and when I first saw the pictures of the exercises I incorrectly assumed these were modified yoga postures and that there was nothing new, just a reinvention of an ancient tradition. Within my first 60 seconds of my [session], I realized how wrong I was. These subtle variations in positioning that form the basis of the work completely alter the dynamics of the exercises and force the body to adapt, to use muscles we leave dormant, strengthening the body in just the areas of weakness that modern life generates.
"As a 30-year practitioner of yoga and a trained chiropractor with a long-standing focus in biomechanics of the spine, I can honestly say that a 15-minute foundation training exercise program will activate and strengthen muscles left completely untouched in a 90- minute yoga workout."
Here are a few quotes from Dr. Goodman himself, the first one regarding the "founder," one of the primary exercises featured in this training system:
"I used to think of the Founder as an exercise for strengthening the body. I now recognize this exercise as the pathway to awakening the otherwise dormant, primitive neural pathways of original human movement. ... It all comes down to even distribution of weight among the muscle chains designed to absorb. If force is dispersed well, individual muscles have an easier job and will feel more supple. The muscles just work better as a team. Always look for the weakest link in the chain (most often the low back stabilizers and glutes), find the shaky spot and hold it."
"What [foundation training does], in the most simplified terms, is strengthen and train the many small muscles of the spine to brace the entire lower spine while the hips pivot. These muscles are usually used incorrectly. They are made for simple stability and not powerful movement … When you move incorrectly, you are asking these muscles to do a job they are not designed to do. It's like asking a toothpick to do the job of a tree trunk. When these muscles are strong, they have the ability to stabilize the spine while the larger muscles move around the them. If your movement originates in the hips and your large posterior muscles, the muscles surrounding the vertebrae, are no longer being compressed or overworked. All of that tension, all of that compression, all of that friction is distributed to the hips, glute muscles, and hamstrings, instead of being placed on that tiny spine muscle and that vulnerable disc."2
Enough talk; let's make it practical. Dr. Goodman has done a wonderful job of sharing this work via free videos on YouTube3 and his Web site (www.foundationtraining.com). So, let's do the "founder." I've included pictures of the essential first two movements in this article. The key is to start with a hip hinge. I was surprised to see how few of my patients, even after I had trained them in my previous rehab models, really understood this motion.
The key is the details. You have to start with the hip hinge; this is a challenge for most lower back patients. Keep the weight back. The legs are active and isometric, pulling together but not pronating the feet. Maintain the lumbar lordosis actively as you brace forward.
This is a brief synopsis. Watch the videos for the full routine and to review other exercises. There is depth here; you are not going to fully get it unless you learn more and just do the exercises yourself. I think you will love this. I think even those of us who are not rehab geeks will find it very useful for a majority of our back pain patients.
Personal communication; used with permission from Daniel Kalish, DC.
Goodman E, Park P. Foundation: Redefine Your Core, Conquer Back Pain, and Move With Confidence. Rodale Press, 2011.