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A Few Days in Arizona…

Written on November 16, 2009 at 1:02 pm, by Eric Cressey

Sorry, everyone, for being a bit MIA of late.  I’ll use today’s post as a quick catch-up on what’s been going on, and what is on tap for EricCressey.com in the months to come.

Last week, I flew out to Phoenix on Tuesday to attend a seminar with Dr. Pavel Kolar.  With the exception of just a few of us, everyone in attendance was a strength and conditioniong coach, athletic trainer, or physical therapist with a major league organization.  For those who aren’t familiar with Kolar, he is somewhat of a “rehabilitation rockstar”  in the Czech Republic, with “clients” that include Jaromir Jagr, Roger Federer, Petr Korda, countless world-class track and field athletes, multiple Czech Olympic teams, and the president of the Czech Republic himself.  Needless to say, he’s a really smart dude; otherwise, people all around the world wouldn’t be paying to hear him give seminars in Czech (yes, the majority of the seminar was through a translator).

All of us in attendance are probably still trying to wrap our heads around his ideas, but Kolar presented a very interesting perspective on dynamic neuromuscular stabilization (DNS) based on developmental kinesiology.  The “Cliff’s Notes” version is that the central nervous system and muscular system it governs are immature at birth, and must go through a very specific adaptation process to achieve anatomical maturation.   In rehabilitation down the road, examining this sequence of events during the first few years of life – from rolling over, to crawling, to standing up, to walking – can help us to understand how we must re-educate the nervous system to optimize function in those with aberrant patterns.

According to Kolar, one can have altered stabilization patterns for any of three reasons: 1) abnormal early development, 2) abnormal training methodology, and 3) trauma.  Sounds simple, right?

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.   Sequencing of patterns – from the feet all the way up to the head (and including things like diaphramatic breathing and optimal tongue positioning) – is what’s important…NOT recruitment of specific muscles.

So, while EMG of the vastus medialis, posterior rotator cuff, lower trapezius, transversus abdominus, and loads of other muscles that’s important, it’s how all those muscles work together that’s important.

All in all, it was an awesome seminar that really tested those in attendance.  A pessimist would have walked away from it saying that it was too complex and that it couldn’t be applied right away.  The optimist (and I’d include myself in this camp) left realizing that there were a lot of things I’m anxious to research and integrate in one’s programming to get our clients back to their “roots” of rolling and moving from ground-based to upright movements (think sprint-start from the ground and Turkish Get-ups).

We’re also looking a ton more at breathing patterns in all our athletes – especially after spending a few days in AZ with my buddy Neil Rampe, a great manual therapist with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Most people don’t realize that the diaphram is both a respiratory and postural muscle, so if you’re not using it properly, it’ll interfere with both oxygenation and muscular activity.

Fun stuff.  Just trying to get better…

14 Responses to “A Few Days in Arizona…”

  1. Mark Young Says:

    Sounds awesome Eric!

    How would you compare Dr, Kolar’s ideas with those presented in Z-Health?

    To be honest, I’m not particularly knowledgable about either, but I really think the nervous system is going to play an increasing role in rehab, strength, and performance in the coming years.

  2. Patrick Ward Says:

    Kolar’s stuff is very interesting. Sounds like you had a great time..

    Breathing properly is everything! It is incredibly important to train or re-train appropriate breathing patterns.


  3. B.G. Dick Says:

    “from rolling over, to crawling, to standing up, to walking”

    Didn’t I read something like this from Gray Cook too?

  4. Rob Says:


    Do you know if Gray Cook and Brett Jones had heard Kolar lectures prior to creating their Secrets of Primitive Patterns DVD? It sounds (albeit on a more “entry-level” that is accessible to most lay folks) like they might have drawn inspiration from his work…………….or it could be that highly intelligent professionals tend to be on similar wavelengths, even when they may not have directly networked with one another or attended events presented by the other.

    Thanks for the brief insight into one of the many things you do to stay on the cutting edge. It’s educational and also a kick in the posterior reminding me that if the best of the best go the extra mile to keep getting better, then I have no excuse for not going at least an extra quarter or half mile!

  5. Patrick Ward Says:

    Cook was influenced by Janda and Kolar is a contemporary of Janda’s and works at the Prague Clinic where Janda/Lewitt worked. The information came from the same source. Janda was a pediatrician and a lot of Gray’s stuff comes from those basic patterns learned as children (as does Kolar’s).


  6. hector Says:

    Sounds like phenomenal stuff. Makes perfect sense-i’ve always felt a bit weak on my feet, and I definitely trace it back to neglecting my soft-tissue work before those playpen games.
    I can’t wait to see how you integrate this knowledge into Cressey-do karate.
    Cook mentions rolling in his Athletic Body in Balance book, and says that his inspiration for the Primitive Patterns DVD came from his early years in PT school.

  7. pete Says:

    That sounds like excellent stuff! I was going to say the same as all those above that it has Cook undertones as well as Evan Osar. Looking forward to hearing more of your thoughts! Thanks

  8. Jeff Says:

    Sounds like a pretty intense seminar! I really enjoyed your previous post here – and on Mike Reinold’s website – about your recommended reading list but was wondering, as far as these kind of seminars you attend/write about, where do you look to find a schedule? It’s great to read about this stuff, but the ability to hear it or ask questions first hand would be even better!

  9. Mark Woodall Says:

    Sounds like a great seminar. I think Paul Chek has been talking about this stuff for a long time too. I may be wrong though.

  10. Mike Says:

    Eric and Mark,
    I have seen and practiced some of these ideas to rehab my shoulders. Theresa Nesbitt out here in San Diego has been helping me (I think she mentioned she has met Eric before). She is very much into Z-Health but seems to like some of these concepts a little more for some situations. I cant say I know much about either but she is probably the smartest person I’ve ever met so I just go with it.

  11. Mari Ann "Burn Belly Fat" Says:

    Sounds you enjoyed the seminar! Interesting and excellent stuff 🙂

  12. Mike T Nelson Says:

    Very cool that you got to go to that talk! SWEET!

    Yes, the whole body is so interconnected and we must test and re-test the body as a whole, not a sum of parts. I will post a video soon showing same side wrist and opposite ankle work gaining shoulder ROM (EC has talked about this here too before).

    Breathing patterns are huge, esp for shoulder tension as discussed here in the past.

    Mark, I am not overly familiar with Kolar’s work, but as mentioned my good buddy and fellow Z-Health Master Trainer Theresa Nesbitt has studied his work much more than I have; so if you have some specifics I can send them off to her (ditto for others here of course). I can’t promise anything beyond that though since I know she is quite busy.

    I understand the basics of his work (and Z Health of course), so anything I can do to help, let me know.

    Looking forward to more great info and thanks for sharing EC!
    Rock on
    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

  13. Theresa Nesbitt MD "the movement doctor"Eric Says:

    Hi – I have attended a couple of the DNS certs and am a ZHealth master trainer as MD. Pretty familiar with Gray Cook, Chek and Osar as well. Definitely agree that in general things moving in a neurological direction – and many practitioners are getting great results that help us put it together into the big picture.

    I think the difference between Z and Kolar is Kolar focuses on stabilizing the spine/torso in an innovative and developmentally correct way so you don’t need to use moving muscles to stabilize – It helps remind you how to breathe appropriately so that you have the best and safest foundation to build upon. It has more emphasis (currently) on a hands on approach by a therapist. It doesn’t need too I think – but it does. Z health uses joint mobility to help reconnect your mobility to your motor based nervous system. They overlap and are complementary. Everybody can have better stability, mobility and vision. When you improve these it is a lot easier and effective to work on skill. Both of them help you prevent injury because better stabilizers mean that the mobilizers aren’t being recruited inappropriately to stabilize you. Making your mobilizer work better mean that you have better body awareness and less stressful movement which allows you “remember”the innate (hardwired and non-trainable) developmental optimal stabilization. Better vision means that you get better coordination between the two – I think Pelvic Floor is a key component of all three —

    Eric – I really like your take on how you are looking to incorporate this into your philosophy. I have learned a lot from your programs and presentations and I am excited to see how it works out. I have had great success with DNS and Zhealth – they complement each other I think. Neuroscience is going to be giving us some great insights in the next couple years – I think our athletes (not to mention ourselves) will benefit hugely.

    Thanks for sharing EC
    Theresa Nesbitt MD “the movement doctor”

  14. Steve Collins Says:

    I’ve recently come across a system called Feldenkrais which seems to have some common ground with Kolars ideas. In that if you miss a development stage in early life like rolling or crawling or suffer trauma it affects your movement patterns in later life. I’v been to a few classes and its about very small movements to reducate the neural system and brain to try new patterns of movement rather than trying to force the muscles. Don’t know how this compares to z-health?

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