The Top Three Things I Learned from FRC

I recently attended a Functional Range Conditioning (FRC) seminar in Denver Colorado. FRC is a component of a bigger system, Functional Anatomy Seminars, that focuses on how we increase the ability of someone to control their movement specifically at the articular (joint) level. Dr Andreo Spina, a world-renowned musculoskeletal expert, developed this concept. Diving deeper, it looks at:

  • Functional mobility, (different than flexibility) which involves joint strength and neurological control. We have an active range of motion, which is the range we can move a particular joint. We also have a passive range, which is the range that someone else could move that same joint. For example, if you were lying on your back and lift your leg up as high as you could, that would be your active range. If that same movement occurred with someone lifting your leg up as high as it could go, that would be your passive range. Flexibility is that passive range. Mobility is the active range. The goal is to not have a difference between the passive and active ranges. It is in that difference that we don’t have control over that movement and injury is likely to occur.
  • Articular resilience, which is increasing a tissue’s load capacity to help prevent injuries. When we don’t have control over a certain range of movement or when the load of a movement surpasses our capacity, that it when an injury occurs. As I just mentioned when we have a gap between our active and passive range of motion we are at a greater risk of injury. The FRC principles look at decreasing that gap by creating stronger joints.
  • Articular health and longevity, which simply put is our maintaining, or even improving our joint health as we age. 

I learned so much from this seminar and it also helped to reiterate some things I already knew. Here’s my top three most impactful things I learned:

Daily CARs are a MUST for Optimal Joint health.

What are CARs? CARs stands for Controlled Articular Rotations. It’s an active exploration of our joint’s work space or moving a joint through its full (non-painful) range of motion.

You can’t maintain the health of your joints if you don’t move them. As the saying goes, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” This is why daily CARs are so important. If we are not moving our joints through their full range, overtime we will lose the range of motion we are not using. By doing CARs daily, we are keeping our current range of motion. Another fun fact, as we move, we help deliver nutrients to our joints!

Joint Health is Fundamental for “Bigger” Movements

You can’t expect articular inter-dependence if you don’t have articular independence. If one joint does not have the range required for a movement it will steal from another joint, or you may feel pain and stop the movement. Some examples:

  • If you don’t have enough wrist mobility, when you attempt push-ups and bear crawls you may have pain in your wrists during or after doing them.
  • If you don’t have enough pronation with your elbows, you may not have the mobility for a tradition pull up.
  • If you don’t have the shoulder mobility, overhead pressing may cause pain or you may compensate by arching your back.

Our Tissue is Adaptable

Our body has various types of connective tissue: ligaments, bone, fascia, skin, joint capsules… All our connective tissue is made up of cells, fibers, and ground substance. Together the fibers and ground substance is known as extracellular matrix.  It’s the composition of these components (cells, fibers, ground substance) that determines the type and physical properties of the connective tissue. When we apply force on tissue it permeates the extracellular matrix by way of integrin into the internuclear matrix then unravels areas of genetic code, which will then be transcribe into protein.  Simply put, you can dictate what your tissue becomes by the force you input. 

CARs allow us to maintain the range of motion we already have and PAILs (Progressive Angular Isometric Loading) and RAILs (Regressive Angular Isometric Loading) allow us to gain more and bridge the gap between our active and passive ranges.

What does progressive and regressive mean? When we move a joint there is an angle that is opening, or getting bigger and one that is closing or getting smaller. Progressive refers to the angle that is opening or getting bigger and regressive refers to the angle that is closing or getting smaller. PAILs combine stretching with isometric loading/training at opening angles to simultaneously expand your range of motion as well as strengthen and produce tissue adaptation in the new acquired ranges. What is isometric loading/training for PAILs? We are making the muscles involved in the opening angle resist and contract, but we are keeping the muscle length the same. RAILs does the same stuff, but on the closing angle side. PAILs & RAILs are the most efficient way to move one bone relative to another. It helps to break stuff apart to get a new range and remodel and then fill in the new ranges with neurology, which gives us control over that movement. 

For me, understanding the why behind something is important and allows me to have a bigger buy in to a concept. It will also help me to do something when I might not otherwise do it. For example, before this seminar, I knew movement was important, but the depth in which why it is important was really ingrained in my brain. I did CARs somewhat consistently before, but now, I make them part of my daily routine. I hope some of this information will help you understand why daily movement is crucial to your longevity. I also hope it stresses the importance of making sure you have the range of motion and control before doing a movement that requires it. 

Interested in learning more about these concepts? Drop a comment below! 

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