Education

My experiment with Foundation Training

Earlier this summer I stumbled across an interesting training program called Foundation Training. I say stumbled because it was purely by serendipity. Foundation Training is relatively new and certainly undiscovered by the majority of active people.

At first glance it looks a lot like yoga but Foundation Training, or as I’ll refer to it in this post – FT, claims to help relieve back pain by safely and effectively treating dysfunctional movement patterns. It was created by chiropractor Eric Goodman to treat his own chronic low back pain by utilizing a series of exercises designed to reintegrate the body’s kinetic chain.

Here is a good video to give you a little more background:

As you may expect, Goodman had me at movement patterns ( 🙂 ) so I took it upon myself to learn more about this new method and try a few of the poses and workouts.

What I did

Firstly, I should note that in the grand scheme of things my FT experience is very minimal. However, I had a very thorough introduction to the program as instructed by both Katherine Shoulders and Gili Wolf. Both Katherine and Gili had suffered back pain and despite trying many different methods, they claim FT is what really worked for them.

“I had already been living with chronic back spams for about 12 years…I found a lot of relief with the [FT] exercises, and it seemed to help stabilize my back…it also taught me to be conscious of my daily habits (i.e. sitting at a computer for hours) and to notice how my body is moving even while attending to mundane activities,” says Gili.

The two of them took me through the majority of the 12 postures, but due to my inquisitive nature, there were more than a few questions (read: atypical rest periods). Consequently, Shoulders offered to instruct me in an outdoor FT workout. This turned out to be approximately 30 minutes.

For the purposes of this post I’d like to highlight (3) things out of my experience with FT. The following (3) techniques or exercises were similar to things I’ve done in the past, but the FT coaching cues got me thinking in a new direction.

1. Decompression breathing

Now I consider myself to be very familiar with the prevailing breathing methods out there. And I think the one that most of us can identify with is the yoga method of exhaling through the nostrils (pranayama). But FT looks at breathing in a different, and I think more practical, manner.

The whole idea is to decompress your spine and if you’re any sort of office worker, then there’s a good chance your spine could use a little decompressing.

Katherine and Gili had me stand tall with my palms open and then instructed me to take a deep breath. Then they gave me a coaching cue that I really liked – to imagine on each inhale that my vertebrae were extending ever so slightly away from one another. Then on the exhale, I was to maintain that separation. So the idea being that with each subsequent breath I was actively lengthening my spine and in theory decompressing my discs.

After a couple breaths I started to feel all sorts of subtle muscles growing fatigued – a precursor of things to come.

2. Founder’s position

If there’s a fundamental pose to FT, it’s the Founder’s position. Here’s an explanation:

One thing I really like about this pose is that it forces you to weight shift. And what I mean by that is when you position your knees slightly behind your ankles you’re forced to shift your upper body forward – or risk falling backwards. This sounds obvious, but fact is, many people have lost their sense of balance and the simple act of hinging from the hips is almost foreign to them.

3. Eight Point Plank

This variation on the familiar plank is one that I really liked. Because let’s be honest with ourselves, the basic old plank is pretty boring.

So here’s a nice change. Lie prone and position yourself like you would in a forearm plank position. Place your elbows so that they are inline with your shoulders and a little bit out in front of them. Now flex your feet and keeping your knees on the floor, press your hips up. You should have (8) points of contact with the floor – your hands, your elbows, your knees and your feet – hence the namesake.

Those of you that remember Jack Lalanne (if you don’t know who he is, you should!) may be reminded of his impressive push ups with his arms extended out in front of him. That’s what came to mind when I did my first eight point plank. When you position your hands (elbows in this case) out front of your shoulders the intensity goes up to 11.

Motus Impression

Admittedly, it is easy to compare FT to yoga. After all, many of the poses are indeed very similar and the nomenclature of some of the postures is even derived from the natural world – just as in yoga.

But after going through my 30 minute workout I don’t feel that it is fair to see FT as just being another branch of the yoga tree. I do think it’s in the same ballpark, but it is a different game. For instance, you can put me through any yoga class out there and I’ll walk away feeling fine.

But during my FT workout there were times when my glutes were screaming.

Times where my leg was beginning to get the shaky-shakes. And then the day after was eye-opening as well. My right glute felt like I had been doing barbell hip thrusts to exhaustion the day before, when in reality I had only been training bodyweight poses.

And interestingly, did you notice that I only said it was my right glute that felt that way? My left was sore, but held up much better than the right. So right there I was able to identify a weak point in my physique that hadn’t reared it’s ugly head through yoga or strength training.

Where’s the assessment?

This is a big component that I feel is missing from FT. Back pain can be the manifestation of many things and if it’s a clinical issue, then no amount of posterior chain strengthening may help. So having an appropriate and well designed assessment in place would be a smart addition to the system. Especially when we talk about improving movement patterns. How can we measure something so subjective?

Regardless, be smart and always check with a medical professional if you’re experiencing back pain. Rule out medical problems first.

Parting thoughts

All in all, I think FT can have some real benefit in my own training. It did help me to identify some weaknesses (come on glutes!) and remind me that I’m not as strong as I think I am.

But it’s definitely only a part of a well rounded exercise program. I agree that the posterior chain is generally weak in most office workers, but I worry that some will focus exclusively on their backsides and neglect their anterior chain. That being said, I think FT could be a great break from typing on a computer for so many of us. It’s something you can do in your office without attracting too much interest from your neighbors and when combined with a little stair climbing (2 steps at a time) I think your glutes would be wide awake again.

Do you have experience with Foundation Training? Tell me about your experience in the comments below!

By Ryan Wagner

Correction: Sept, 11 2014 

An earlier version of this post misstated that the eight point plank was performed in a supine position. It is performed prone.

 

References:

Yoga Journal – How to exhale in pranayama

Foundation Training homepage

Foundation Training (YouTube) – Movement Basics

 

My experiment with Foundation Training by

11 thoughts on “My experiment with Foundation Training

  1. A couple of comments on your article…coming from a strong supporter of FT (I also work in the medical field-Radiology). I am happy to hear that you tried FT and felt it’s benefits. Firstly an edit…you are in prone position when you start the 8 point plank, not supine. Secondly…that very pose activates both anterior and posterior chains. You mention that there may be too much emphasis on posterior chain but maybe you are not aware that the goal is to bring the posterior chain back to the strength and length it should be so that it balances with the other chains? The practice progresses to balance all muscle chains in the body. Lastly, I suffered from multiple lumbar compression fractures and disc protrusions. What you might call a ‘clinical issue’. FT has taken me way further then many other movement therapies that I have tried over years and years. I am stronger and out of pain in a way like never before. I have heard many other testimonials much the same. I believe FT is a solution to ‘clinical’ issues. Sure go seek out ‘medical’ advice…but listen to your body and try this too. Especially before considering surgery. New studies are showing that patients are getting better results with therapies then surgery for back pain.

  2. Thank you for this post! I am a Foundation Training instructor, and it’s great to hear feedback from someone new to it. When teaching it a lot, it’s hard to always keep a fresh perspective, and many people will not take the time and effort to give honest and thoughtful feedback. Well done!

    1. Thank you Claudia! I think Foundation Training can be a great tool for a lot of people. It can help them to start thinking in terms of movement patterns versus parts in isolation.

  3. Hello Ryan! I am also a FT instructor. Thank You for your review. My chiropractor turned me on to FT. I immediately knew there was something special about FT. I have degeneration,spurs and a spondy. I have had back pain since high school… I get adjustments and massage regularly and have for the last 20 years. These 2 mediums have always helped, but I would still get the periodic “my back is out” problem. Since I have added FT to my daily fitness program I am dramatically better. Do I still get some muscle tightness from my desk job, or from playing golf…yes I do, but my back has not gone out one time since last Sept! That’s what’s amazing. My S I joint constantly rotated out of position causing much grief… Not anymore. I’m stronger, can really keep my hamstrings stretched much better, the decompression breathing really works, and my AWARNESS of posture and movement is off the chart.
    I am of fan of fitness and think people should do a variety of activities….that being said, FT should be a part of every persons fitness program, every work place, every senior living place…everyone should know about Foundation Training.
    I still get my adjustments at the chiropractor…I just don’t have to go 3,4 and 5 times a month like I used to. I go pretty much one time per month and now he refers patients to me. Also, I still get massage 2x per month. These 3 practices just compliment each other so well and keep this 57 year old body moving well!
    I am going to share your article.

    1. Hi there. I have much the same issues as you in my back. I have purchased the 2 dads. Can you tell me which exercises you found the most useful and how often you did them, and which you did every day.

  4. Hey Ryan,
    Just now receiving your question.
    I do a little FT most everyday. Sometimes 5 minutes, sometimes12,20 or 30. I do decompression breathing everyday…sometimes thru out the day.
    I do Founder, forward fold most days also. I do bridges, back ext’s, gorilla lifts maybe 2x week. Squats and wood peckers are 3-4x a week.
    Sometimes I do them individually, sometimes I put a few together and do a little flow. Sometimes, I’ll combine when lifting weights.
    There is not right or wrong…just do some.
    FT is adding new exercises and tweaks to everything. I plan to go take an update this summer…
    If you know anyone my way…here in Misssissippi…send them to me!
    Merry Christmas.

  5. Without question, FT changed my world. I’ve been a personal trainer for 33 years and my body was feeling the effects from a couple of catastrophic injuries, as well as from my day-to-day schedule filled with client sessions. I was ready to leave the business and my extensive clientele. I, too, happened across FT. I followed along with Dr. Goodman’s book, True to Form. After several months of practicing basic FT exercices, my nearly debilitating pain diminished. I became a Certified Foundation Training Instructor, and now all my clients make use of FT in their own lives. It has changed the way I approach training the most gifted athletes, office workers, senior citizens, and people with health challenges. There’s an inherent body awareness each has developed and through regular FT exercises combined with their enhanced training, all report positive changes in how they move, feel, stand, sit, and breathe. It’s been quite interesting to observe how positively each has evolved. It’s a pleasure to share FT with those with an open mind, plus I get to do FT every single day!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.