Steve Holmsen is a trainer and educator who specializes in dramatic movement improvement through correcting muscle firing sequences. He accomplishes this through balancing the muscular firing sequences. I accomplish this through balancing the muscular structure by releasing tension in the muscles which frees the body to move with noticeably greater ease. Once the body is free it can move the way it was designed to function and is now amenable to corrective exercise. After the movements are corrected the body can now perform at a considerably higher level with reduced susceptibility to injury and joint discomfort.
Listen to this episode of The MOVEMENT Movement with Steve Holmsen about moving better with real myofascial release.
Here are some of the beneficial topics covered on this week’s show:
– How it’s important to use non-invasive techniques for improving movement rather than relying only on invasive procedures.
– Why genetics and environment don’t determine your ability to move effectively.
– How myofascial release and foam rolling can be used for movement improvement and durability.
– Why building a strong foundation starting feet first is crucial for overall movement efficiency.
– How your shoe choice plays a role in foot stability and overall movement patterns.
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If you are not feeling as healthy as you want, you’ve got various issues, how many of them do you think are like, I don’t know, genetics, something you got from your parents, or something about your environment or something? I mean, basically it’s something out of your control. I mean, I’m sure you think there’s quite a few of those, right? Maybe not. We’re going to take a look at that today on this episode of The MOVEMENT Movement Podcast, the podcast for people who want to know the truth about what it takes to have a happy, healthy, strong body starting feet first, you know those things that are your foundation.
We break down the propaganda, mythology, and sometimes the straight out lies that you’ve been told about what it takes to walk and run and play and do yoga and CrossFit and whatever it is you like to do, and to do it enjoyably and efficiently and effectively. And did I say enjoyably? Of course I did. It’s a trick question. Because if you’re not having fun, do something different till you are. That’s the bottom line. You’re not going to keep it up if it’s not enjoyable. And even if you were going to keep it up, if it’s not enjoyable, where’s the fun of that?
So I’m Steven Sashen, co-founder, co-CEO of xeroshoes.com. And we call it The MOVEMENT Movement Podcast because we’re creating a movement about natural movement, letting your body do what it’s made to do. And the movement part involves all of you just spreading the word. It’s really easy. You can go to our website, www.jointhemovementmovement.com. There’s nothing you need to do to join. There’s no secret handshake, no money involved, no whatever.
You’ll just find previous episodes of the podcast. You’ll find places you can find us on social media, ways to interact with us, and of course, ways to leave reviews and thumbs up and hit the bell icon on YouTube and subscribe. Well look, if you want to be part of the tribe, just subscribe. You know how it goes. All right, let’s get started. Hey Steve, do me a favor, tell people who you are and what you’re doing here.
Yeah, my name is Steve Holmsen, and Steven Sashen asked me to be on the show to talk about some of the things I’m interested in, which are helping people to move better and to essentially get rid of all the excuses of why we don’t move better.
And pursuant to what Steven was talking about, all these things that people say it’s genetics or it’s environment or what is it? Or I don’t have any control over it, or do I have control over it? Or do I just hang out with people who make excuses so I subscribe to that kind of thinking, or do I think there is a better way to do things and I need to hang out with people who are more progressively minded?
That’s a good one. And in a similar vein, when we met, what impressed me about you is that your understanding of these things that we’re already just talking about was so different than what I hear from most people. And more accurately, or more importantly, you were able to demonstrate real changes in people really, really quickly. And they were legit, not just when you go somewhere and they put a magic holograph bracelet on your wrist and they go, “Hey, look, you’re stronger with this magic bracelet on your wrist.”
Which by the way, whenever I’m at a street fair and there’s one of those guys selling those things, I’ll have them put the thing on my wrist and then when they’re not looking, I take it off and kind of put it on the ground and then they do the experiment on me and I go, “Hey, it didn’t work. The thing was actually not on my arm when you were trying to show that my arm got stronger because I was wearing your magic bracelet.” Then they get mad. But anyway, be that as it may, the short form, I like messing with people who are trying to sell placebos. That’s the bottom line.
Yeah, understandably. There’s so much to break through, and that’s what I’m all about. I mean, honestly, I tell people all the time, look, unless you have something majorly wrong with you where you have torn ligaments or tendons or something broken, then I can help you. And what I always say to people is that we’re conditioned to think that we have to do something invasive, but why can’t we do non-invasive things?
And I think the issue is people always say to me, “Well, are you a doctor?” No. “Are you a PhD?” No. “Are you a physical therapist?” No. But I will teach you how to move better so you can resolve your issues. Because not everybody is trained in what I’m trained to do. And honestly, the reason that I learned about what I do is because I was an example of one of those people that had terrible movement patterns. I was an example of a guy that had a big ego, that thought he knew how to do things and had to acknowledge that he sucked. And I’ll never forget reading that book, it’s called Mind Body Mastery or Body Mind Mastery. It’s that guy Dan Millman who wrote The Way of the Peaceful Warrior. And that book became required reading for-
There’s nothing more fun than, I will never forget … Wait, it was either, hold on. Wait, so I like that one. So anyway, sorry for interrupting, but that was just too funny for me. So you read Millman’s book, who by the way, I talked to a couple of times. We’re both former gymnasts, so we have a lot of fun when we chat, but so you read that book. And I want you to back up. What was going on prior to reading that book, and then when you read that book, what was the aha moment that led you down the next part of your life journey?
Well, I’d been a skiing instructor for years and I thought I was pretty athletic. And when I first met my wife, she was a former professional dancer and she taught Gyrotonic and Pilates, and she also studied exercise science in school. She was a National Academy of Sports Medicine personal trainer who I got certified through afterwards. She inspired me to do that.
And she was taking me through a kettlebell workout, and I had no idea how to create a hip hinge. I didn’t know how to activate my glutes. In fact, I had what they refer to as glute amnesia, and I had lat amnesia. And the combination of both of those is the reason most people have terrible posture because they’re all part of your posterior chain. And if you can’t fire the biggest muscles in your body, which are your glutes, and your lats, the biggest muscle in your upper body, there’s no way you’re going to eradicate all the issues and you’re going to create, literally, it’s physics. You’re going to create sheering and compressive forces on your joints.
And I had no idea because I had taught skiing. But the sad thing about the ski industry is they’ll tell you they teach mechanics, they don’t teach mechanics. They define mechanics as well, this is the movement that you need to do. But so often the people who are on the Professional Ski Instructors of America demo team, and every four years they have their version of the Olympics, showcasing their stuff, a lot of them don’t necessarily have movement dysfunction.
In other words, they maybe don’t externally rotate their feet or internally rotate, their knees don’t collapse in, they don’t have Q angles, they don’t have as many of these postural things that are going on. So people just think, well, I taught them how to do it and they didn’t learn it, so they must not know how to do it. But it’s because they don’t know how to correct the movement pattern. And the only way I’ve found that you can correct the movement pattern is by literally doing myofascial release, foam rolling, things like that. I mean, you literally have to get the fascia and the muscles to slide on each other. And if they’re getting stuck, then that’s a problem. And that brings up somebody that everybody knows, who’s considered the goat.
Well, pause because I want to do this, because for some people who think they know what myofascial release is or what foam rolling is, this is one of the reasons that I adore you, is that what you’re doing is not what people think. And so I want people to stick around if they’re thinking, eh, I get it. I know I’ve got to go foam roll. No, no, no, it’s going to be very different than that. And we’ll dive into that in a bit. But just quick prelude, stick around. You will be surprised. So all right, back to you for the win.
So one of the things I used to talk to people about, or athletes or people who had issues, and for the most part, women take direction better than men. Men, we’re like, “I got this. You can’t tell me. I know how to move, I know how to work out.” But one of the reasons that I named my program that I did on Tony Horton’s website, powernationfitness.com, I named it Movement IQ, is because most people have a relatively low movement IQ. We have so much emphasis on the mental aptitude, but not on the physical aptitude. But if your body can’t carry your brain, then you’re not going to be able to accomplish nearly as much in your life.
And I realized I had a very low movement IQ, and I would tell people all the time, if you want to last in, let’s say professional sports, this is what you need to do. And people would be like, “No, no, no.” They’re doing the combine exercises. And then lo and behold, the goat of football, Tom Brady, comes out with a book, TB12, and half of the training is what is called myofascial release.
And you’re right, a lot of people, it’s a difficult thing to talk about. Fascia, what is it? Well, it’s just all this connective tissue. It literally goes from your feet to your head. And what he talked about, and he explained it very simply, there is ability and then there’s durability. And if you want durability, you need pliability. So what that means is people, you can get tight. And what I mean by that is you can get knots, lesions, adhesions, scar tissue, whatever, from sitting on the couch or from surfing the biggest waves in the world. It doesn’t matter. We all have it. And there’s many people that can get along, but eventually they’ll burn out.
I mean, they even did that with Kobe Bryant. When he used to shoot, his knees used to collapse in and go way forward and they fixed his movement pattern so he could get a longer career. And going back to what I was talking about with the Body Mind or Mind Body Mastery, I can’t remember how it goes, that became required reading for a lot of people going into the NBA because the premise of that book was, I can’t help you if you’re not coachable. If you come in with this huge ego and this arrogance, like I got this, and I know a lot of them have issues because I’ll never forget working with a kid, speaking of basketball, he had a full scholarship to go play at college, but every time he jumped, his knee hurt.
I worked with him one time, that’s it. I corrected his movement patterns by doing the myofascial work, and the foam rolling, you’re right, Steven, you’re absolutely right. Most people, they just go up and down their leg. The whole idea is you want to find the most intense spot you can. You want to hang out there for a minimum of 30 seconds so the GTO, which is a golgi tendon organ, releases. And then you want to do some flex and extension movements, especially extension.
And this is more lower body. You can do some of the movements on the upper body as well where you do variations of you’re releasing your pecs. It’s like a single arm snow angel or releasing your rhomboids. There’s all sorts of stuff you can do. But so often the problem where somebody has it, let’s say they have a knee issue, the way our body works is things alternate. Our body is actually really smart.
And the first thing, and this is why I love your shoes, is your feet have to be stable. If your feet are not stable, then you are essentially building everything on a faulty foundation. And most sports are oriented towards complex movement patterns on a very weak foundation. So I realized how weak my foundation was when I had been wearing orthotics for 20 or 30 years and I had a cushion shoe and all that. And getting into your shoes forced me to make my feet stronger.
So if your feet aren’t stronger, nothing’s going to work because your body literally alternates all the way up. Excuse me. You go from your feet are designed to be stable, your ankles mobile, your knees stable, your hips mobile, your low back stable, your thoracic, which is that mid to upper back, mobile. Your shoulders are a mobility, stability joint, but we need to learn to stabilize it, and we want our cervical to be stable. And the reason why this is so important to understand is if you have a low back issue, everybody’s like, “This is where all the pain is.” There’s probably something going on in your hips and there’s something going on in your mid to upper back, your thoracic. If you have a knee issue, you probably have insufficient mobility in your ankles and in your hips.
So what we’re trying to do, and the reason where a lot of pain comes from, is we’re trying to get mobility out of a stability area. And that is unfortunately what happens to us all the time. And I did that for years. Teaching skiing, everybody’s like, “Okay, you’ve got to get forward.” So I’m camping out in the front of my boot. Well, all that’s doing is loading my quads. My glutes never even get a rest.
So it would be like for anybody who knows Groucho Marks, and he would do that low walk all the time, that’s essentially the way a lot of people are skiing. They never extend, they never use their glutes to use that motion, like if you’re doing a squat and you want to come up and you have to use your hips to come up. So when we walk, we flex and extend. If we don’t even out that motion, then we have issues. And for me in skiing, I was way too flexed all the time. I never knew how to extend.
The other problem too is, and it all comes back to what you’re doing with your shoes, is the ski boots are too tight. And what I mean by that is they make, they’re all pretty much made in Italy. And of course they’re Italian, so of course they want to look fancy and chic. And it’s almost like a modern version of foot binding, not as bad as what the Chinese did and broke pretty much every bone in girls’ feet in China so they would look attractive. But it was literally, you’re putting your foot in this thing and they thought, well, you’ve got to control the forefoot. And you don’t have to control the forefoot. You have to control the heel.
So now they’re actually making them wider. My feet never get cold. And they’re actually making them flatter than they did. I wouldn’t say they have no ramp angle, maybe a little bit, but not nearly as much. But all these things contributed to years of people having knee injuries and tearing ACLs in scheme. And when I say this to people, they’re like, “No, no, no, no.” I’m like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” They were trying to get everybody forward. But the problem is you want to be flatter because if you’re flatter now you can dorsiflex and plantar flex. So dorsiflex is being able to flex your feet.
Yeah, pulling your toes towards your knees.
Pull your toes, yes. And then being able to point your feet. And that’s actually how I make most of my corrections skiing. But because I didn’t have that ability to do that, because I was so far forward in the boot and it was jacked up so high and a lot of bindings, the heel piece is thicker than the toe piece, and they’re making them leveler now. But these all contributed to people having issues, but you want to be able to use your whole foot.
And so this is how I learned about it, because I’ve had four knee surgeries and it was all due to poor movement patterns. And even though I might ski with guys in the demo team and all these educators, and don’t get me wrong, the skiing has been awesome for me. I love skiing. But I am constantly surprised and disappointed that it doesn’t matter if it’s skiing or any other sport, none of the coaches know the body mechanics of movement.
And you see coaches all the time telling their kids to do this. They can’t do any of the movements. They can’t demonstrate what a good pushup is. Everybody’s like, “Do a pushup.” Well, there’s an art to doing a pushup. I mean, I used to teach at a place here called the Professional Fitness Institute. They would do a two year study and become a personal trainer and run gyms and things like that. Most people, they’re like, they would be doing pushups. Their shoulders are killing them and their low back is killing them. I’d fix them.
And they learned all this theoretical stuff, and they probably knew more about the origins of every muscle, but who gives a shit? I was able to fix them and get out of pain. When you work with somebody, they want to feel better. They don’t want this theoretical idea and all this data that corroborates that. That stuff is so immaterial. They want to feel better and be able to do stuff better.
So going back to the guy I worked with about basketball, he literally, within an hour, I got him out of pain. He couldn’t believe it. Because I did the myofascial, the foam rolling, I showed him how to do that. And I corrected his squat mechanics. I got the right muscles firing in the right sequence. It would be like the equivalent of giving the ultimate tuneup to a vehicle where it’s running like crap and you want it to run right. And afterwards he jumped, and I was like, “Well, see if you can make knee.” And he jumped, he said, “I can’t believe it.”
So here’s what would’ve happened. He would’ve gone to college and he would’ve been told to suck it up and here’s some pain meds. And there wouldn’t have been anybody to identify that. And who knows, he might’ve had a long career or he might’ve blown out. But when everybody says the best athletes are out there, that’s bullshit. If you get somebody who gives you some guidance and you get a good mentor, but most people don’t.
And the sad thing is, there’s so many people in the industry that are challenged by people like me. They don’t like me because they want us to keep doing the same stupid shit they’ve been doing forever. And I’ll be honest with you, it pisses me off because a lot of people associate their sport with pain, not pleasure. And it starts at a young age.
I worked with a girl who’s a figure skater. She was 10. Her parents had a lot of money. They hired the best Russian coach. But she already had low back, knee, ankle pain. I fixed all of that. And then she started sticking all her jumps. But she would’ve associated her sport with pain forever because everybody’s like, “This is how it’s supposed to look.” But they don’t understand the mechanics of, you can still make it look good, but biomechanically correct so you don’t blow somebody’s body out, so they’re not in pain the rest of their life, which is completely, as far as I’m concerned, unnecessary.
I think the whole idea of associating any activity with pain for many people starts earlier, especially if they’re in some sort of sport in junior high school, where the average coach, if he’s mad at you, will say, “Go do a lap.” And so they’re using running as punishment. And so that’s just one. And then, yeah, there is a whole lot of suck it up.
I mean, I was in junior high and high school, I was an all-American gymnast. And there’s just a lot of times where frankly, you get injured and you have two choices. You compete or you don’t. But also, I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and I’m dying to get your opinion, I think that for many sports, we like to get kids into them way earlier than is appropriate because they don’t have the control or awareness to actually have a good movement pattern, or even the ability to have the strength to have an effective good movement pattern from the start.
I mean, I was just actually watching, it was not a young guy, it was an old guy. It was a 73 year old guy at a CrossFit gym swinging on rings through a muscle up, and this guy’s going to rip his shoulders out because he didn’t actually know how to swing. And he was putting his shoulders under an amazing amount of stress. But ironically, his swing looked just like ours did when we were 11 years old and we had no strength. We had no ability to pull the rings back as part of the upswing or push them forward as part of the swing when you’re going up in the back. We were just swinging through our shoulders, which is why I’ve had my right rotator cuff repaired, and I’ve had both bicep tendons taken out and screwed back into my arm, because I just shredded them when I was a kid. And it took forever until that showed up.
Wow. What age were you when you shredded them?
Oh, well over a six to 10 year period of time. It’s just that it didn’t show up until later for whatever reason. This one actually, my right shoulder … Well, I can’t do this joke on a podcast. What the hell, I’m going to do it. Okay, so 28 years ago, my right shoulder went out for the umpteenth time, and I go to the orthopedic surgeon and he says, “Well, yeah, your bicep tendon is shredded. Your rotator cuff is shredded. You’re going to need surgery.”
And I said, “What’s the recovery on that going to be like?” And he goes, “Six to eight weeks in a sling and six months of physical therapy minimum.” And I said, “Ah, yeah, I can’t take off that kind of time because that’s going to interfere with my professional masturbation career. And nationals are coming up and people are expecting a lot out of me.” I literally said that to the doctor.
And then I just put it off and I kept having shoulder issues, shoulder issues, shoulder issues, until one day it was so bad, or actually for about three months, it was so bad, I went to another doctor and he goes, “Yeah, this is,” well, I’ll say it this way, after he did the surgery, this is a guy who’s as Asperger-y as they get, he cannot carry on a conversation. I love him. That’s what I want in a surgeon, someone who just does it all day every day and doesn’t care about you, cares about doing the job. He comes in after the surgery and he goes, “Wow, we got to do a lot of work in there.” And I said, “I’m not sure how I feel about you being so giddy.”
That’s pretty funny. That means there’s no pretense. He’s totally transparent.
No, no, he was excited. It was like more than just run of the mill, which was very entertaining. So anyway, so I want to back up. I mean, you covered a whole lot in there. I want to highlight a couple points.
So first, let’s just describe with a little more detail, I’m going to try and do it and then you fill in any missing pieces, the difference between just rolling over the IT band in your thigh, which for people that don’t know, it’s that part in your outer thigh where if you’re on a foam roller, I don’t care who you are, it’s going to hurt. I don’t know why they didn’t bring foam rollers down to Guantanamo and make all those guys just do IT band rolling because they would’ve confessed to anything. They would’ve confessed to the JFK murder. I mean, you name it, because that’s usually really painful.
But what you’re going to do, so the first thing, and some people will get to this next part of like find the spot that’s particularly unpleasant and hang out there. That’s cool. And that can often create a response. But the part that you did when we worked together that I adored is now just so you’re lying on your side. Let’s say you’re on your right side, you’ve got the foam roller under your right leg, you’re using your left leg to take a little bit of weight off of the rest of you.
And then when you find that spot, you’re going to flex and extend your knee. You’re basically just going to bring your heel into your butt and away from your butt. And that’s going to add just that stretch and release thing around that tight spot, and again, will most likely make you want to curse people’s lineage. It’s just not the most pleasant thing. And then after however many seconds of agony, you get up and it’s like, oh my God, that feels way better. So that’s one application. Did I get that? Did I describe that well?
No, you did a brilliant job, and it’s better than me because that’s exactly what I went through the first time. In fact, a friend of mine who was a chiropractor and a yoga teacher introduced me to foam rolling, and I was in absolute agony, so I know what that’s like.
It’s interesting for me, one of the most important things about the foam rolling is to not do it in a vacuum. In other words, I always say to people, “It won’t mean anything to you. I mean, you’ll feel a difference. I know when you got up, you felt a difference and you felt a lot looser.” But I always tell people the reason why the National Academy of Sports Medicine does movement screens and then foam rolling, then does a movement screen again, is to fix the movement.
So I always say to people, “Try doing a squat.” And the overhead squat is particularly hard. If you have your arms overhead and if you think about your arms being in the same line as your torso, and then when you start squatting back to see if that’s parallel, almost like a parallelogram with your lower leg, and you can have somebody look at that. Or when you squat, do your feet flare out, do your knees collapse in? Do you have an anterior or posterior tilt in your low back, which is basically tucking, arching, or rounding?
I mean, these were all the things we’re looking for because honestly, that tells everything about somebody’s problems. I mean, somebody might think, well, I’ve got this problem here. How come you’re going there? And more often than not, where you have the issue is not the source of it. And so then I have people do the rolling so they can feel the difference.
And then I introduce the corrective exercise where it’s like, okay, can you feel these muscles moving? And one of the big things I like to do with people that I feel is missed a lot of times when people get worked on, and don’t get me wrong, I love massage therapy, I love everything, but I want people to know what am I supposed to be feeling when I’m working out? What’s the dominant mover and what’s supposed to be assisting in?
Or there’s things that happen where the wrong muscle is working and we have to get the right muscle working. So there’s literally a reeducation neurologically of what’s supposed to happen. But once you do that, and the reason why this is so important, and I mean this is the basis for me for everything in terms of people’s self-esteem, because so often growing up, kids would be like, “Oh, I suck at sports,” and that’s bullshit. I have fixed so many kids’ movement patterns, and all of a sudden they’re really good because they’re just fighting themselves biomechanically.
I mean, there’s a guy in Santa Barbara who contributed two of the workouts when I helped Tony Horton create P90X2, and he did the PAP, which is a post activation potentiation. This guy Marcus Elliot, PhD, MD, he’s a genius. He’s awesome. He has his facility in Santa Barbara, and he had us out there, and he and I talked a lot about that. He’ll get kids that are in middle school, high school, that are just mediocre, and he’ll make them great because he won’t say like, “Well, you can’t do this or that.”
He’ll be like, he identifies the faults, the movement pattern dysfunction, whatever, and he corrects it. A lot of people think like, well, this is the way I’m born. I’m supposed to walk duck footed or pigeon toed. No, you’re not. And once you start fixing that in people and understanding, just like you said, punishment for kids is to go run, but nobody ever says, well, if you’re making a lot of noise running, you’re probably not doing it very well.
No … No, go ahead. Sorry.
No, no, no, no. Because that goes back to if somebody is externally rotated duck footed or internally rotated pigeon toed, they can’t roll through their feet, which means they don’t have any ability to absorb anything. And one of the movement screens that I do that you might remember is when we release the calf and the Achilles, your gastroc soleus. Yeah, unfortunately, Aaron Rogers just tore his Achilles, which sucks.
But the reason those are so critical is because if you have somebody hop up and down on one leg, a lot of times they’ll just land hard on their heel because they don’t have the ability to decelerate. But when you release that gastroc soleus, sometimes your anterior tib, anterior tibialis is a muscle just to the outside of that shin bone that people hit on coffee tables all the time. So that’s basically your shin splint muscle. You can get rid of shin splints really easily.
But if you get all these muscles firing properly, then you have the person try the leg they just released, and all of a sudden they’re bouncing up and down and they’re not slamming on their heel. And then the other one, they’re still slamming on their heel because they’re not able to decelerate. Now you’re thinking that in terms of the coach making the person make a lap and the person’s landing hard, and all they’re doing is wrecking themselves because he never fixed the mechanics of it.
And you know a lot more about running than I do. But one thing I say to people all the time because they say, “Well, how should I run?” And I say, “Well, the easiest way to learn because this worked for me, is go run barefoot on grass or on a padded track and see how you land. See how you can make the least amount of noise or the least amount of impact.”
I’m going to give you a clarification, but first things first, I think we actually just landed on a real part of the problem that we hadn’t identified, and that is my dad used to have a line, he was a dentist. He said, “Do you know what they call the guy who graduated last in my dental school class?” I said, “What?” He goes, “Doctor.” And his other line was 80% of the people in any profession are not qualified to do that.
And so with coaches, they don’t have the eyes to see the way you are describing, most of them. They’re just regurgitating something that they learned somewhere or heard somewhere, and they’re not thinking it through. I mean, I tell the story of a friend of mine who’s a world champion 400 meter runner. When he was coaching me at one point, he said, “When you’re in the air during this one drill, you’ve got to get your hips over your feet.”
I went, “Dude, it’s too late. I can’t do anything while I’m in the air.” What you mean to say is I’m not taking off in a way that puts my hips over my feet, and that I can kind of figure out, I can work with that, but you’re giving me a cue about something after the fact. There’s no way to change it. Or my favorite, again, that I mention all the time, is when parents, especially junior high and high school sprinters, will yell to their kids “Knees up.” It’s like, no, no, you don’t lift your knees up. The fact that your knees go up when you’re sprinting is a reactive thing, not an active thing.
So the coaching I think is a big part of the problem is engendering these bad movement patterns is they don’t know any better and they don’t have the eyes to see what the problem is, let alone correct it. So anyway, there’s that.
The correction that I’m going to toss in your direction for running, I agree, is take off your shoes. But the problem with grass is twofold, or a padded surface. If you have padding and the grass can be padding, your leg is going to be stiffer than if you don’t. The more padding you have, the stiffer your leg gets, and the less feedback you’re getting in your foot. And with grass in particular, you don’t know what the hell is in that grass or you don’t know what the undulations are of whatever the hell is underneath the grass. So I don’t sprint on grass because invariably I will step on something where it’s a little too high or a little too low, and my gait goes like this, and so that’s not good.
So I would say a nice smooth, hard surface. Irene Davis from Harvard says the same thing. Because you’re going to get the most feedback, which is, but I mean you were heading in the right direction if you want that feedback. But I would say that a smoother, harder surface is going to give you that better feedback. You want to make an accomplished barefoot runner get misty-eyed, take them to somewhere where they just painted a freshly painted white line on the side of a road. Because it’s nice and smooth, and it’s cool and it’s not really padded, but it kind of feels like it is. I mean, it’s really pretty dreamy.
But to your point, it’s really the number one thing that’s going to engender a new movement pattern is getting the feedback that something that you’re doing is incorrect. And the problem is that if you do it incorrect long enough, your brain habituates and thinks that that’s correct. And so when I see kids who walk like their parents with some totally dysfunctional movement pattern, I’m sort of stunned by it, but it was clearly something that we developed millennia ago about how to fit in with our family and our tribe, is we start imitating those movements that are often dysfunctional patterns or malfunctioning patterns, and we do it to fit in.
One of my favorite things is almost anyone can do this, where you see someone a hundred yards away, they take two steps, and if it’s someone you know, you recognize them. You can’t see their face, you just saw them took two steps or saw them take two steps and you recognize them from the movement. Clearly the way we move is a very important thing evolutionarily that we don’t really fully appreciate.
But related to that, after my little rant, I want to ask you this question, and I’m going to put myself in a similar category to you in that I’m good at spotting movement patterns that are right or wrong and figuring out what the kind of essential thing is. I’ve taught everything from zen archery to running to Tai chi to gymnastics, to whatever else, but what I noticed is that I’m seeing things differently than what other people are seeing. Why do you think you went from realizing you had these problems, reading this book from Millman, and suddenly applying your ability to see into coming up with these methods for changing movement patterns? Do you have any frame of reference for what I’m even talking about?
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And you’re right. I mean, honestly for somebody like me that had done things wrong for so long, I suppose I finally opened up my mind. Because I just feel like life’s a series of mentors that are out there, and some you listen to and some you don’t. So I’m just glad I started listening during that time. And I’m still working on things to this day that I want to fix because-
It’s easier for me to fix somebody else than myself often. But for me, I think from years of teaching skiing, I just got good at looking at things. Just like you said, you can tell from two strides, I can tell who somebody is from two turns. And so then I had a better idea and I started teaching differently than anybody else because I started teaching firing sequences of muscles and what people are supposed to feel. And people are like, “Wow, this is so much easier.” And I’m like, “I know. I wish I’d known this before.” And oddly enough, there’s a lot of sports I’ve taught people how to do, and I don’t do the sport.
Right. Oh yeah, absolutely.
Because I just-
Sometimes that’s better. Yeah, sometimes it’s better if you don’t, because if you do, you may have developed some ideas about the way it’s supposed to be that if you’re naive, you come in with a different set of eyes. I mean, I’m not trying to pat myself on the back when I say this, but I have some friends who are long-term high level footwear designers, and I have some patents on some things that I came up with. And I said, “How come I’m coming up with ideas that none of you guys did?”
And they said, “Because you didn’t know anything about footwear.” And so I walked in with a clean slate, but I walked in knowing what I was seeing when I was watching people move, running and walking in super slow motion or in various controlled situations where I could identify it. This is in a lab with a guy named Dr. Bill Sands. It was his research, but he’s showing me all these videos and it’s like it couldn’t have been more obvious to me, and to Bill as well, but other people just weren’t seeing it.
In a related note, back to some of your glute amnesia and some of the things, I’m trying to remember something you said that made me think of this. One thing that amazes me in terms of using the right muscles, that’s where it came from, mostly in America and other places as well, definitely in the West and mostly in America, we don’t even know how to walk because we’re not using our glutes and hamstrings at all. We’re not using these things to extend from the hip.
And the writer David Sedaris, I’ve been quoting this quite a bit lately, lives in France, and he said, “My French friends accused me of walking like an American.” And he said one day, “What does that mean?” They go, “You throw your legs in front of you,” which is not the right way to walk. It’s using the wrong muscles in the wrong place. But around here, we don’t know how to walk by using your glutes in any way that’s going to move you forward by using strong muscles instead of trying to pull you forward by putting your glutes and hamstrings in a weak position.
Wow, that’s a fascinating idea. Actually, unfortunately it makes a lot of sense just because on average, Europeans do dramatically more walking than Americans do because walking is considered something enjoyable, as opposed to here we kind of frown upon it. You’re walking, like what the hell’s wrong with you?
I agree with that completely. I had to relearn how to walk. I mean, when I had all these knee issues, my physical therapist was like, “How come you’re kicking your leg out?” I mean, it was literally like Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks. And yeah, I had no idea I was doing that. But as humans, it just points out we’re amazing compensators, but process we definitely erode quite a bit. And the hip extension you’re talking about is a critical one. That was one of the biggest things I was teaching in skiing, which I never did before, which nobody ever told me. Hip extension, so your glutes actually fire.
But you’re right. I had to literally learn how to do all this stuff. And maybe because I relearned how to do all this stuff in my forties, it meant more to me because I knew so many people that told me, “You’re not going to be able to do this. You’re not going to be able to do this.” And I just have never really subscribed to the naysayers. And so I was like, “Well, I’ve just got to figure out a way to fix it and also hang out with people that have ideas of how to fix it.”
But yeah, the same thing happened to me when I was asked to help out with a guy who had been in the NFL and he had been in for three seasons, and then he was running the gym, and I was one of the trainers there, and he asked me if I could work on him, and he had a hamstringing issue. I got rid of it in an hour and fixed all. He had good movements. He was obviously an athlete. But I just made him feel better than he had.
Well, put it this way, the first thing he said to me afterwards was, “Why didn’t I learn that in the NFL?” And I said, “Well, that’s the first thing I teach people.” Because there’s an assumption that when people get to higher levels, they’re never taught these things. It’s kind of like your body either blows up or you make it.
Sorry, there’s … I don’t want to name names. There’s a running coach that I know, let’s just leave it at that, who has become very famous over the years because he had some really good athletes. But I’ve watched him work with his athletes and he basically, he looks at the way he coaches as a Darwinian experiment. It’s just going to, you know, see who survives what he’s doing. And if they survive, then clearly they must be the best. But I’ve watched really, really good runners fall by the wayside because he just beat them up so badly. And if they weren’t beat up so badly, they’d still have careers.
I mean, it’s the bottom line. It couldn’t have been more obvious, and I was blown away. Now I will also add in, people might actually figure out who I’m talking about when I say this, he’s gotten some criticism for this lately and had some people basically say that he ruined their careers as a result of training with him.
And actually, now that I think of it, you won’t be able to look up that person based on that because there’s a number of people who are getting that accusation lately. Suffice it to say it’s endemic. But that idea that you’re saying, it’s like whoever survives clearly is the best one, but they only survived because they were able to survive, not because they’re optimal, not because they’re performing better or functionally better necessarily.
No, I agree with you completely. I think about, and I’m sure you do as well, so many sports that happens to people. I was asked by this guy who was an NFL player, and when he said, “Why didn’t I learn that in the NFL,” for me, the biggest thing I like to do when I work with people is I don’t want to … So often people will come and they’ll fix you. You feel better, but you don’t know why. The why is always missing.
Well, how did you do? Oh, it’s almost like people would tell me, “Well, you have a crappy business model because they don’t need you anymore.” And I’m like, that’s the point.
No, I think anyone who says that is-
Yeah, no, anyone who says that’s a crappy business model doesn’t understand what happens when you help someone quickly and then they tell everyone they know, “Oh, you’ve got to go see this guy.” I mean, that’s a way better business model than having them on the hook for months or years at a time.
I mean, there’s a chiropractic place down the street. They had this one particular machine. I just wanted to get one treatment with that one machine because I’d used it somewhere else, and they were the only people that had one around here. They said, “Well, you’re going to need a whole bunch of other stuff. You’re going to have to come see us three or four times a week for six months.” And I said, “Oh, is that going to fix me?”
They go, “Absolutely.” I said, “So you guarantee it?” They go, “What do you mean?” I said, “Well, I mean that’s a lot of money and a lot of time. So are you guaranteeing that I’m going to be fine after six months?” “Well, we can’t guarantee it.” I go, “Well, then why are you saying something like, well, where’s the information that tells me this?” Their whole model is just to get you on board. And invariably I know that if I had spent the money and spent the time, at month five and a half, they would’ve found some new shit that is going to be another six months.
And that’s the unfortunate part about it, just because the general direction we’re going in, as an example, which is the antithesis of the direction we’re going in, in terms of we have no idea how to prevent things. Most of our medicine is towards catastrophic.
And a buddy of mine who’s an acupuncturist up in Jackson Hole, awesome guy, and he studied in China quite a bit. He had his own acupuncture clinic in Kathmandu, studied a bunch of, he was into but really into acupuncture. But he said in traditional China, before Mao ruined the place in ’49 and on, the only way an acupuncturist would get paid is if he had no patients.
I love it.
And for me, I’m on the same model. I guess there’s a part of me that if you’re ethical and conscientious, sometimes I’ve heard people say that, where there are people out there who know how to fix people, but they’re like, “Oh, just do a little bit. Don’t do too much.” I’m like, no, why am I going to hold back? I’m going to fix them as much as I can. I mean, I just-
No, no. Here’s your new completely unethical business model. So you fix people and then you tell them that for them to maintain that fix, you need to do some sort of psychic surgery every night, and it’s going to take about an hour and they need to pay you for the psychic surgery as well. So I think that’ll do it.
I know, that’s classic. So in any event, going back to where coaches, players, just a lot of people in general, where you said you could spot things you were surprised they didn’t see. Well, that happened to me as well. I was asked by this guy who was running a bunch of football camps for people who were trying to make it in the combine or maybe help them get drafted, whatever, so he said, “Hey, can you come out and put them through some workouts?”
So I put them through some workouts where I could identify movement patterns, and I’m pointing out to all these coaches, “Do you see that? Do you see that?” They’re like, “No.” And I was like, hey, I’ll just make a little gamble to myself. Let’s see how well they do when the ball is involved. And the guys that had the better movement, they got to the ball better or they caught the ball better or whatever, whatever they needed to do task wise, they achieved it.
And I said, “Do you see the correlation?” And none of them could see it. I did the same thing with basketball. I was like, “Look at that.” Some of these poor squat mechanics, I mean, the person’s more trying to figure out how to move there as opposed to just handle the ball. And then the people who had the good mechanics, they’re already there so they could focus on the actual task, not the movement component of that. And it was another thing where I was like, they couldn’t see it, so I just felt like, I don’t know, I was just kind of beating my head against the wall. I improved all of them, but they didn’t understand how.
And I remember I did the same thing with a tennis player. She got like half the shots and this guy’s like, “She’s really good once she gets the shot.” So I worked on her literally for 20 minutes. I worked on her coach for 20 minutes. He moved better, but he didn’t understand what happened because he was clueless. And she got every shot after that, and he just thought, oh, it was just something simple. He didn’t understand, well, there’s actually, I’m taking a scientific approach. I’m not just pulling something out of nowhere. There’s actually a reason and rationale.
But it’s almost like he didn’t want to learn that. For me, I guess if I was in that position, if somebody showed me that, I’d be like, “Show me how you did that. Can you work it on my athletes?” Nope, nope, nope. He wanted control. He didn’t want to be challenged.
That’s it. I mean, I see this on a regular basis. So there’s these events that are put on from a couple of the top researchers about natural movement and footwear, and a bunch of physical therapists go to get continuing education units. And most of them walk out of there and they will not change anything they’re doing.
And I think it’s for a couple of reasons. One is they think they made a rational decision to be wearing the dumb shoes they’re wearing, and they don’t want to … And you can’t just give people data to talk them out of what they think is a rational decision. The other is, in a way, they take it as discovering that they were wrong and they don’t want to admit to their clients and patients that they were wrong, instead of saying, “Hey, I learned something new.” Because even if it’s like I learned something new, they think that would breed some level of distrust because, well, wait a minute, I thought you knew everything.
And this is a problem from the patient side, is that we expect medical practitioners to know everything for every possible situation that we could be presenting them with, which is of course ridiculous. But that’s what we do. And then there’s one other thing where there’s just a self-image thing about making any kind of change, but in the case of this coach, it’s like if he had to learn something new, again, it would be admitting that he is not as good as he had been trying to portray himself or as people thought he was.
Now my former gymnastics coach, who’s still a friend of mine, he was the exact opposite. He was always experimenting and always open to learning something new. And often to the great chagrin of the parents of his young gymnasts, where he would discover something and go, “Oh, we’ve got to go back to the basics. We’ve got to spend a month just doing round offs and handsprings because I just learned a little thing where half of these people are doing it wrong.”
And then the parents would lose their minds, “You’re taking my potential Olympian and making them just do round offs like they’re five years old.” It’s like, “Yeah, that’s what I’m making them do.” And then a month later, they’re 20 to 50% better because there was some little thing in a movement pattern that he now knew about and it made them better. And then the parents, they never said thank you. They never came back and went, “Wow, sorry, my mistake.”
But this is a guy who, like you, his only concern is how do I do a better job at what I’m doing? And is it working? Is it for real? And that’s why he’s produced more high level gymnasts than I think any other coach that I’ve ever heard of. Not the ones who are already getting the ones who are already elite level. They don’t count.
That’s awesome. I mean, I think that you’re right. That’s endemic in our society, too. And honestly, it all comes back to self-esteem. I have no problem admitting I’m wrong. I screwed up. I did something. I was a dumbass. I mean, so many people have problems saying that about themselves. I’m secure in who I am as a person. And if you don’t have good self-esteem and you can’t laugh at yourself, then how can you take any direction?
And that’s the thing for me, if somebody says, “Hey,” oh great, I’m glad you showed me, as opposed to like, “Oh, you can’t show me. I’m supposed to know this. I’m male alpha. And you can’t talk.” It’s funny where you’re talking about your friend, the gymnastics coach, that’s exactly that Dan Millman, when he worked those gymnasts, it was high level gymnasts. And they’d be doing these complex routines and he’d take them back to what they consider the basics and they’d feel all insulted. What do you mean? I’m better than that. And you’re right. It’s like those parents who aren’t appreciating, saying, I mean, honestly, if they had a little more understanding, they’d realize they’re saving your kid from injuring themselves.
Don’t they understand that?
No, I just realized the problem with this hey, let’s go back to basics, is it’s presented as let’s go back to basics. Let’s go back. Instead of, all right, you’ve gotten to the point where you now know enough to learn how to really do this, what you think is a simple move, even better. If it was because I remember when, my coach’s name is Jack, when he did it to me was during one summer session. He said, “This whole summer, we’re going to do nothing but these two things,” that couldn’t have been more basic.
And I was already the top tumbler in this state and I was just angry and confused, and I don’t know if I was insulted, but it’s like I didn’t feel like I was going to be moving forward. If he had presented it in a way that it was like, this is part of the moving forward plan, I would’ve been all over it. I would’ve been completely on board.
And you’re right, go back to basics, even though you’re tempted to say that. I always say, “Let’s shore up your foundation. Let’s rebuild. Let’s make it stronger so we can build complex movements safely.” Because you’re right, it’s all in the phrasing because people feel like, as you just said, and you experienced that yourself. I just wish I had had somebody like that.
I grew up playing ice hockey, and we had a great coach. It was like under the NHL where we played hockey in Salt Lake City. And the guy who was the captain of the team was our coach. And I remember he gave me the greatest compliment I ever got from any coach. He just said, “Look, Holmsen is not nearly as talented as you guys, but he works harder than all of you.” But I just wish he had had the knowledge to teach me how I can get better.
I mean, if I wasn’t even firing my glutes or I had anything, you know what I mean? All those things when you’re growing and things aren’t right and you’re awkward or whatever’s going on, if I had just had some idea of like, wow. And that’s what I love working with people now, is showing them you don’t have to do something for six months to get stronger. Sometimes you can make somebody stronger in one hour because you just get the right muscle working. All of a sudden people are like that much easier. They’re like, “Well, one is that much easier and my joint doesn’t hurt, and I can move farther than I ever have.”
And for me, that’s the most gratifying thing of all. And I’ve worked with some people that were a little resistant in the beginning. I used to train the SWAT team here in Vegas, and I was training them for this big obstacle course competition. It’s like this Best in the West for all the SWAT teams in the West. And these guys, they’re all pretty yoked. They were strong, but they had knee issues, low back issues, shoulder issues, just the standard stuff. So I fixed all that because the first time I brought out the foam roller, they’re like, “What’s that?” And then they’re like sweating profusely.
But I think the only way they listened to me, and this is why I’m a huge advocate of being able to perform things, is they saw me go through the obstacles a lot easier and a lot faster than them. That’s when they start listening. But the other thing for me and why this is so important, it’s not just about being better or whatever, it’s like, you know what? You’re a SWAT guy. You lay your life on the line every day. When they went to that competition, they were the oldest team.
Not only did they dominate the competition, but the other teams said, “How did you make the obstacles look so much easier than the rest?” And I’m thinking, well, that could be a life and death thing. So for me, and honestly that’s a big part of my philosophy of people think what, are you vain, you’re working out, you want to take care of yourself. It’s like, no, here’s the way I look at life. Everybody has somebody out there that they love. And if there was a disaster or an emergency, can you do what it takes to save them? And if you can’t, then you should get off your ass and do something about it.
And that’s the biggest problem these days. I mean, even in fire departments, police departments, there are people that are super fit and they resent the people who are out of shape. And I remember when I had to get elbow surgery years ago, and one of the guys who was getting rehab for his shoulder was a fireman here in Vegas. And he told me he wouldn’t trust half the guys he worked with to save him. And I was just like, that is pathetic. Have we become that mediocre? We’re based on a meritocracy.
So really my philosophy is like, all right, I have the tools to, one, get you off of pain meds, unless you have something severe. I have the tools to get you to move better than ever. I have the tools to really incredibly raise your self-esteem, to make you realize how capable you are. And for me, one of the things that inspires me the most was that whole JFK initiative, that challenge in 1962 when you had the La Sierra High School in California, I think it was hundreds of other high schools. And these high school kids were insanely fit. They’re climbing the peg boards, climbing ropes, doing human flags, doing the hardest Bruce Lee type pushups, doing these crazy parallel bars that went up at an angle, down. I mean, it was amazing, but it’s just like, why aren’t we like that?
And for me, this is just, I know this is my own little philosophy here, but it’s like people don’t mess with countries where people are frigging fit. That’s the truth. But we’re an easy target because people can’t even get out of their own way. I mean, if you think about it, look at the Romans. They were kicking ass, taking names, but they got sacked twice by the Ostrogoths and the Visigoths in like 410 or 455. And they conveniently made Christianity their religion in 457 and then Rome fell in 476.
So it’s interesting, all these … I’m a big behavioralist, but I just look at all these things that are happening, like, oh, life’s so easy. It’s not supposed to be that way. And one thing I saw the other day, which I loved, and I’ve been sharing this with my son, and it talked about there are two kinds of pain. There’s the pain of discipline and there’s the pain of regret. And so often people are always like, “Oh, I wish I had done, I wish I had done that.” Yeah, because you didn’t have the pain of discipline. And maybe it doesn’t have to be pain or whatever, but it literally is that, are you disciplined to do it?
And so for me, the biggest thing I want to impart is like with the SWAT guys, it was a classic example. They were like, “This was awesome. Thank you for helping us.” And I loved helping them. They were great guys. And they said, “Hey, can you train all the other SWAT guys? Can you train all the metro?” I was like, “I’d love to.” So they go to some administrator and some administrator jerkoff says, “Well, is he part of SWAT? No? Well, he can’t do it then.”
So so often the people that are going to help you, if you want to improve your society, you don’t look within your society. You go to societies around the world and you see who’s kicking ass and taking names. I mean, look what the Japanese did. They were closed for 250 years. Admiral Perry sails in there in 1853. They had a choice. They could get subjugated like China and basically become an state, right? Because England said we’ve got to create, we have this trade imbalance, so we need to sell them opium, but we can’t sell in England because it’s a dangerous drug. Or they could send emissaries around the world, what they did, and catch up and find all the ways to improve their economy, their governments, and everything. And that put them on, like if you think about it, a 35 year, well actually 40 year winning streak, until obviously we had to bomb them.
But all I’m saying is I don’t know, what frustrates me is there isn’t that thing of like, well, how do we improve things? We think things are okay. And I’m like, I just feel like I know I’m an idealist about this, but why does it have to be an idealist? Why can’t it be a reality? Why can’t we get everybody into the best shape of their lives? It’ll take care of all the depression, all anxieties, PTSDs, all that stuff, and we’ll be competitive in the world because we’ll be able to do a lot of our own work. I know I went off on a little tangent there, but those are some of my-
No, A, I totally appreciate it. And ironically, it’s the perfect segue to wrap it up because after all of that, I mean, where I started this conversation is that you’re seeing things from a different perspective. I don’t know if I started that way, but it came up. You’re seeing things from a different perspective that’s working on bodies, but you’re seeing things from a different perspective and an oftentimes broader perspective.
And it’s something that is … I was just reading a thing. I went to Duke undergrad and I just got the Duke magazine, and there’s a whole bunch of stuff going on in the brain research world over there. But partly what they’ve done is they’ve brought in people who know nothing about brains. And it’s just by having people who are coming in from the outside, you’re just getting a different perspective, and something’s going to trigger something in someone’s mind that wouldn’t have happened if it was just a bunch of people who all knew the same thing. And that’s a really valuable situation to be in, that doesn’t happen often enough.
And you’re just one of those people who brings in all these things into a way that turns into the work that you’re doing that’s helping people. And that’s the simplest thing. In fact, you don’t even need to say all the rest of it, but it’s part of what you’re doing and part of who you are, and that’s why you’ve been able to be helpful. So on that note, if people want to get in touch with you or find out more about what you’ve been doing or how they can experience what we’ve been talking about, how can they do that?
Well, people are welcome to email me directly because I always like to communicate with people that way. And my email is just simple. It’s just my initials, [email protected]. So my name is Steven Bigelow Holmsen. I just use my initials. I use fitness, and it’s at Gmail.
SBHfitness at Gmail. Perfect.
And that’s the easiest way. And fortunately one of my good friends is Tony Horton, and he created a platform, his version of Beachbody, which has allowed trainers like me to get my information up there. And I’m really happy that my program, Movement IQ, has gotten so many people out of pain, helped a lot of runners, IT band issues, helped somebody avoid foot surgery, numerous other things, and helped people allow them to do plyometrics without their knees hurting. So for me, I just love having platforms so I can get my information out just to help people. That’s really my prime directive.
And so if people reach out to you, then you can point them to Tony’s thing if that seems like the appropriate thing to do, or wherever else. So I’ll let them just reach out to you and take it from there. I have mixed feelings. I’m hoping you get overwhelmed. I hope you don’t get overwhelmed.
But suffice it to say, I know you’re one of the handful of people who I know can be helpful for many, many, many people. So I hope they do take advantage of you giving out your email address and don’t turn it into some crazy spam thing. So anyway, Steve, as always, a total, total pleasure. Thank you so much.
And for everybody else, thank you for being part of this conversation. A quick reminder again, when you get a chance, go over to our website at jointhemovementmovement.com, find the previous episodes, find places you can interact with us on social media, and if you have any requests or questions or comments or complaints or people you think should be on the show, including people who might think I have a case of cranial rectal reorientation syndrome, which will be a pleasure, but no one’s ever taken me up on that offer, you can drop me an email as well. I’m at move, M-O-V-E, at jointhemovementmovement.com. And until next time, just go out, have fun, and live life feet first.