Voodoo Witch from Transsylvania

April 29, 2009 05:38 AM

Voodoo Witch ? there are actually clients that call me that, and they mean it :) (Sure, the idea of me never touching their 'problematic' shoulder but messing around with their legs, having them just breathe or squirm around on the floor instead, and still improving their reach in a matter of minutes might very well create an illusion of some kind of suspicious magic going on.) Okay, I'm not exactly from Transsylvania, but, as John Du Cane pointed out, it does make a fun element and it's a small lie of less than 20 miles so I can live with this deal.

At the FMS course Brett Jones did recently here in Hungary he told us that Gray Cook, if he could go back in time, would change the name Functional Movement Screen to Fundamental Movement Screen. Well, if I was in the position to change the title of the CK-FMS Manual, I would call it An RKC Instructor's Guide To the Galaxy, and would have Don't Panic!! printed all caps right on the first page. (The towel is already dealt with in the RKC Manual.)

A phone call, inquiring about rumours of massive gains through kettlebell conditioning. Oh, you bet! An appointment is made in seconds. So there's this big bear of a guy walking in and telling you he had meniscus surgery on both knees 2006 and 2007 and an inborn rotator cuff weakness that keeps his shoulder popping in and out and gives him a hard time keeping the head of the humerus in the socket during punches. Punches? Yes, he is an internationally competing karateka. (And a dentist, to add insult to injury.) And this is why he came to me in the first place, he adds, he wants me to teach him kettlebell ballistics to up his conditioning. Quickly. Next comp is in less than 5 weeks and there's a lot at stake. Did I say stake? Aaaargghhh...

Remember? Don't panic!!

Does this mean you shouldn't be concerned? For God's sake, no. Being concerned is good, it will keep you humble. It will keep you from wanting to be oh-so-clever. It will make you want to stick to whatever you know is proven to work while being safe. Which, for me, is the Screen and the CK-FMS algorithm of interweaving corrections and S&C ? and without which tool I might have considered sending him to sign up for any medical examination that has crazy long waiting times to more or less cover my trying to somehow back out of this...

So you're a bit concerned but you don't panic, you simply rely on your tool and in secret you're grateful that it takes you out of the equation. You know you can't mess it up as long as you don't mess with it.

The screen says all symmetrical movements are fine, you see some compensations when stance changes to asymmetrical. Leg raise and trunk stability are excellent, rotational stability has room for improvement. But the weakest link at the moment, as was to be expected: Shoulder mobility is severely restricted; he also shows signs of impingement on both sides.

Looking at his general posture I could see his scapulae sticking out, his upper back rounding and his shoulders rolling forward. Position of scapulae changed for the worse in the upper pushup position. Crocodile breath showed he used abdominal breathing and his grip was strong and approx. equal on both sides, but he showed restrictions when testing T-spine mobility. Any activity above horizontal was out of question due to the active impingement, so we decided to start with work on T-spine mobility and scapular position stabilization in the horizontal plane.

As I teach him a modified (standing) version of Reach, Roll and Lift followed by the leg lowering drill in T-position for stabilization activation from the Secrets series along with the RKC shoulder packing drill in lying, he mumbles something like: /I was born with a shoulder like that and had to struggle with it all my life... Nobody in those almost 40 years had a freakin' idea what to do about it, this is the first time someone could actually show me what it feels like when my shoulder blades are where they're supposed to be. Now I can reproduce it any time I need to.

A few days later he calls me to say his overall posture has remarkably changed, he even had to readjust his car seat, and shoulder pains were reduced to a slight discomfort. We locked this in with the arm bar, rack walks and farmer's walks. I had no hardship teaching him the swing after some deadlift patterning so I could cut him loose on them pretty soon to meet his conditioning goals.

As soon as impingement was no longer an issue, we started working on shoulder mobility including overhead positions. I taught him the Brettzel, the RKC Pump and the Sweep from the Secrets. We started doing double KB front squats in training sessions to reinforce scapular position, rack walk and farmer's walk (and a combination of both) stayed in the program, and of course swings and more swings.

The next screening revealed a pretty good and symmetrical shoulder mobility so it was time to build stability over new ROM. Lots of possibilities here, like the Reach, Roll and Lift in bent forward position, the RKC shoulder packing drill in sitting, static press against doorframe / hanging from pullup bar with shoulders retracted; KB OH support, rotation and walk, combination of OH+farmer's walk, the half get-up, single arm military press and its variations (BU, waiter's press) and snatches to lock it in.

As you can predict, these exercises had quite an effect on his overall stability, too, especially regarding knees, low back and pelvis. Oh yes, those Hard Style lockouts work wonders. Gripping the ground helped his collapsing arches a lot and I also showed him a shortfoot exercise he could practice throughout the day in sitting, too. It was interesting to see how his performance in the asymmetrical standing tests was meanwhile improving, as a side effect, so to say, at some points even the scores changed, all by themselves... Voodoo magic, indeed... :)

Anyway, this was the point where we could start combining shoulder function maintenance, overhead strength work and rotational stability corrections. Some rolling from Primitive Patterns. Single leg bridges showed the same hip external and foot medial rotation of the supporting leg that was apparent at the step leg in the Hurdle Step tests earlier, too, so we used tubing RNT and he practiced leg lock bridges at home in a door frame (reference of vertical). Full tactical TGU, half kneeling presses (later also BU and waiter's), heavy single KB cleans and presses, snatches, single KB front squats, see-saw presses, renegade rows (also with symmetrical and single leg pushups) and bear crawl ? I'm pretty much sure he had no idea he was also being 'corrected' by them at all :) All the more was he surprised at his own first ?although still a bit wobbly ? unilateral reps at the next screening. Dangerously close to a 3... 19 points anyway. We have come a long way.

Now we are at SLDL patterning with the dowel behind his back, but he has difficulties carrying over his achieved static stability to dynamic tasks. Additionally, even if his operated knees cause no restriction in symmetrical, scissored or unloaded positions, being left to their own devices in the single leg stance seems to sort of frighten his nervous system, so we started over a decreased ROM. We use Pavel's knee stabilization technique of hip internal rotation and abduction (originally for pistols ? if you have access to the RKC forum and don't use it, you're missing something) along with tubing RNT.

As for his S&C gains, 5 months after having struck up an acquaintance with a 16kg kettlebell, he can now press double 32s, snatch the Monster, and he is at 60 sets of 7 using 24kg for VO2Max. He did 5 sets of 100 24kg snatches the other day, just to make sure he has his snatch test numbers in for the RKC he is now preparing for. (Oh, I almost forgot, he brought a medal home from that competition, and that got him back into the National Team he fell out of due to his knee injury.)

We'll keep SLDL patterning in program and might even advance to pistols some time. Explosiveness and work capacity will be assured by VO2Max twice a week, all other maintenance work will be taken good care of by the Brett Jones RKC Prep Program I've just put him on.

His 15-year-old daughter has a double 30+ degree thoracolumbar scoliosis. She actually got cleared to play basketball(!) a few years ago, provided she'd wear a brace... Go figure. I screened her. No pain. No core stability either. (No wonder.) I directed her to an orthopedic professional familiar with FMS and KB, for all cases. She has an appointment this Friday. I'm looking forward to working with her if she gets cleared.

I don't panic. Voodoo witches don't need to. Just don't mention stakes, okay?

For spooky-good kettlebell instruction contact Gabriella Katschthaler at:

Email: g.katschthaler@gmail.com
Web Site: HungarianCourageCorner.blogspot.com