In this episode, Matt Cooper shares his unique and very holistic perspective on athletic performance, which includes an excellent discussion on biomechanics and fascial slings, the concept of “movement literacy,” training proprioception, and how to structure sessions and prioritize different traits and qualities of an athlete.
To see one of Matt’s articles that we mentioned on the show, check out: https://simplifaster.com/articles/proprioception-training-sports-performance/
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Garrett: Welcome to the Undercurrent Podcast. And I am very excited today to be having a conversation with my good friend, Matt Cooper. And Matt has, you’ll hear me call him Coop? So coop has a very holistic approach on athletic performance. Factoring in energy production, biomechanics, neurology, fascial, and tissue health and putting it together in ways that I think are very unique and effective. And he has some really cool methods and really effective frameworks for how to optimize performance across all of these domains. And based on many of the conversations he and I have had over the years, I’m very excited for this one because I think it’s going to be very informative, fascinating. And I’m excited to dive in with you here. So Coop, thanks for joining us.
Matt: Yeah, man. Thanks for having me. And I think that every Cooper out there, it’s like obliged, you got to go by Coop, right? I don’t know any person with the last name Cooper that hasn’t been called Coop at least, at some point.
Garrett: It’s got a nice ring to it. So I like that and well I guess sometimes if people hear me call you Matt, that’s your first name, but often it’s Coop.
Matt: Yeah. Yeah. It’s Matt Cooper. So it’s like one step away from John Smith. It’s like the second most common of these names.
Garrett: Well, you wear it very well. And I think people will know you by the end of this, for your knowledge and your take on athletic performance and human optimization. So you make a name for yourself beyond just the name on your birth certificate.
Matt: There we go. We’ll try it, keep the dream alive.
Garrett: So there’s a lot of different topics where you have deep expertise and knowledge that I want to dive into. Before we do that can you just let people know a little bit about yourself, your backstory and kind of how you got to be where you are today?
Matt: Yeah, definitely. So I played sports growing up and I always enjoyed it. I had a lot of fun doing it. For some reason I wasn’t into putting in the extra work at the time to like, make it, get as much out of it as I could. It was just similar to school. I always got good grades without trying too hard. Same with sports, I always started and did well without trying too hard. But much to the dismay of my father I never tried as hard as I probably could or should have. And then what’s funny now is like most people start playing sports and then they quit and they don’t have that activity in their life anymore, I’m kind of the reverse, I did play it, but I just didn’t really put all my eggs in that basket.
And then later on in adulthood, I’m living out that sports career that I never had by helping other people. Anyways. I was in college, going to school for something unrelated. I actually had a degree in communications and journalism, writing for the media and then realized I was really passionate about health and fitness at that time. And then what started as me search turned into research and other people kind of were asking me for help. And I found that I enjoyed helping them. And then that naturally eventually took me to where I’m at now, which is helping all kinds of people, really like a lot of pro and developing athletes. Some people with chronic conditions, some everyday people as well, and then just helping them with basically marrying integrative health with straining conditioning and rehab.
Garrett: Awesome. And who are some of the biggest influences among different mentors or different systems that you’ve learned? And I know you’ve done some cool trainings and have been able to combine some interesting things in unique ways. What are some of the biggest influences on you?
Matt: Yeah that’s a great question. So I’ve probably for my own betterment didn’t really like, I have gone through traditional schooling, like I have a CSCS and things like that for training and rehab, stuff like that. But I was always a guy who just saw someone doing something really well and then just kind of got on the phone and called them or went and visited them. So you being an example of that and neufit obviously and that whole, not just the technology but also the training system around it. I would say Marv Marinovich, Nick Kerson, that whole training family. Nick really opened a lot of, to give him credit, Nick’s speed of sport. He really opened my eyes to a lot of things and just sort of a new way of doing things.
And then from there that kind of lit the fuse on me continuing to seek that out. So people like Nadi Aguilar, Functional Patterns, Gary Gray and the Gray Institute, Todd Wright, a mutual acquaintance of ours. People like [05:56 inaudible] and the team at WAFF, of course. Dominic Sores. Other people too, Rick Stanzi. It’s like too many to list and then on the health and nutrition side of things, it’s similar as well, because I originally was following a lot of mainstream health and fitness advice, wound up making me really sick actually. And so I was sort of forced to seek out other solutions. And then again, that whole me search turns to research turns the research thing that happened again.
So on that end of things, I would say Dr. Ray, Pete, Nicholas Simpson, again, the Canadian straining conditioning coach sports scientist. Mike Maddox, who’s also a pretty amazing equipment, sports technology equipment inventor. They’ve all been pretty instrumental in that regard. Ryan Fricener, of course we were talking about as well.
Garrett: Yep. Awesome. So you’re one of the most well read and researched people that I get to interact with. And it was good to hear that. So thanks for sharing that. And you’ve definitely done the work and learned a lot from others, implemented it. Found a lot of, what doesn’t work, what does work and tweaked accordingly. And I kind of like your framework on that. So let’s go into some of what you’re actually up to here. And I would be interested to hear your thoughts on something that we’ve talked about on this podcast before. And we’ve got a couple episodes sprinkled in where we talk more about athletic performance. And I also wrote about in the book, thank you for the product placement there, with the book in your background.
Matt: I’m your regular old [07:47 inaudible].
Garrett: That’s right. So I appreciate that. I wrote about that concept of the pyramid of athletic performance, not unique to me or us by any means, but the concept that you have to have a base foundation of movement proficiency. You have to have mobility and coordination. You have to be able to get into the positions that you need. You have to also have the energy to fuel whatever it is that you’re doing. Only then does it make sense to start looking at building strength and speed, and then adding skill on top of that? So there’s this type of foundation. How do you think about the various traits and qualities or elements of performance, and then use that in terms of prioritizing, choosing what to work on, finding points of emphasis for your athletes that you’re training. How do you kind of look at the landscape of traits and qualities and figure out how to plan your approach?
Matt: Yeah, that’s a great question. It’s almost like I got a few kind of different models that feed into each other. Basically, I would say I hold the same pyramid that you do there, where you’re talking about like kinetics and kinematics or how someone moves. Their movement literacy, and then combining that with things like load and velocity or the Kinamtic part of the equation and the things that make that up and underpin that, whether it’s like the structure or whether it’s something under underlying neurological, like proprioception. There’s a lot that goes into that. So I would say to answer the second question first, I do something called like limitor bridge training. So it’s like if you’re doing a needs analysis, looking at what someone needs for a sport or their day to day function, and you see what their biggest gaps are, and then you try to attack those first, while not neglecting anything else.
And then over time, you can start to, you fill one pothole. Then that priority is covered you go to the next biggest one. It’s a little bit of an overly simplistic way to explain that type of programming, but hopefully that kind of paints a picture that makes sense. I definitely am one of those guys that tries to improve biomechanics and baseline neurological function for higher movement, quality and body literacy. And do things like increase or progress, like with load and velocity and things like that accordingly, as opposed to traditional models where they’re trying to just fit everybody right into these classic patterns of a back squat, a bench press. And we definitely lift, I’m just saying that instead of looking at things from a movement lens first, they try to like fit everybody into that traditional box from kind of how we look at health and human performance.
I stole this model from Aaron Davis and the guys at Patrick [10:53 inaudible], the guys that evolved health and performance, but like an energy structure function model. I’m not saying I have the same methods that they do because I don’t think we overlap everywhere in that regard, but just in terms of that kind of nomenclature and principle. Energy is what’s going to help fuel performance. It’s also, what’s going to help maintain structure as [11:18 inaudible] would say. You need that structure, that tissue quality and musculoskeletal qualities, all those kinds of things in order to actually function.
And then your functionality is also going to feed into those other things and have inputs on your structure and energy demands and all that too. So yeah, that’s kind of how I would look at things. We also tend to look at training as an output, like a necessary withdrawal or read from your bank account, and really look at sort of a concurrent pyramid with that of like the deposits. And so we try to turn as much of the lifestyle of a person, this gets into that energy side of that energy structure function model. We try to get as much deposits going in there as possible, whether that’s correcting respiratory limitations and breathing, whether that’s addressing deficiencies in someone’s energy metabolism, needed and changes in their environment, like getting sunlight, sleep, stuff like that, in order to make sure that they’re actually adapting to the stimulus of training. I know for you and me, that’s not really a revelation to say, but I think for most people that’s probably their biggest gap that they’re lacking there, how those things connect to each other.
Garrett: Yeah. I think that’s a great insight and I hope that everyone listening really takes that to heart. Ultimately it is adaptation. If you’re in there in the gym or you’re training, you’re doing something. If you don’t have any adaptation that comes from it, you’re not going to be able to make progress towards your goals. And ultimately it’s a waste, unless you’re trying to make any sort of athletic improvements, depends on your goals. But yes, that is a huge key. Can you talk a little more about your favorite ways to do that gap assessment, because I think that’s a very intelligent way to frame it up, is we’re only as strong as our weakest link. Trying to figure out the weakest link or as you said fix that one pothole, go onto the next one. But can you talk about kind of how you go through that process of identifying gaps?
Matt: Yeah. So I usually like to do a combination of watching the athlete move in their natural environment. So that just kind of is like a fancy way to say I watch a lot of film. I also like to get hands on and work with the person in front of me. And I used to be one of those coaches that thinks that you have to have this whole long assessment that you need to put everybody through first and then they go out. And to some extent that is true, but I just sort of look at what they need and think, alright, well here’s the reality. This is how much time I have them for, let’s focus on those things that matter the most. Kind of get an assessment of those. Let’s take the car out on the track a little bit just to see what they can and can’t do on the court, in the cage, on the field, in life, as well as in the gym setting.
And then from there just kind of work backwards, like, okay, this guy’s got, the first role is keeping guys available, because the best ability is availability. This guy can’t even stay on the court. Well obviously that’s going to be the first thing that I need to tackle there. And within that, okay, then I can see he’s a bad mover, maybe his right. Do some PRI kind of table assessments. See that his right foot is maybe stuck in external rotation. It’s kind of corrupting how his body interacts with the ground, which maybe is sending some energy up the chain and his back is getting hurt. And that would be where some of that Todd Wright, Gray Institute stuff kind of comes into play. And that’s basically how the athlete is dealing with physics, gravity, mass momentum, and those ground reaction forces is not working right.
So he might not be strong by some conventional metrics either but the bigger thing for me in that is alright I need to do some structural repositioning, just so this guy can move right. Do some baseline, sensory integration, sensory motor competency work. So this guy’s actually got kind of like a nice well integrated trunk or kind of more of a functional way to do core training, make sure that he’s actually able to just own his space on the field without pain. And even through that kind of mobility and training and whatnot, that’s kind of the secret, mobility training is strength training, you are getting stronger in there. And then later on, okay. Now I feel like I can do some stuff where I can really go after his vertical jump let’s say and do so in a way that’s not going to cause him not to be able to handle force as well and potentially get injured.
And that’s sort of, within that lens that’s kind of the other model I view performance through, is an activation absorption propulsion model. The word is activate, but I guess you could say facilitate. Sometimes you’re inhibiting things, but anyways, if you don’t have that baseline ability to use the right muscles in the right groups, the right time, and kind of link that chain, you’re not going to be able to absorb force properly so you could get injured. And if you can’t absorb force properly, you’re not going to be able to convert that force and translate it, transfer that energy in movement. So you’re also going to limit your propulsive capacity as well. So I just kind of in there, see, alright, where is this guy’s limitor and attack it from there basically.
Garrett: That’s great, very well said. That approach too, in business, there’s a concept known as the theory of constraints. And that is the same sort of thing. If a clinic owner is listening to this and you think, okay I’ve got all this capacity, but not enough people coming through the door, the constraint and complaint is lead generation. If there’s a bunch of people coming through the door and they’re booking a first session, but they’re all falling off, not completing their plan of care, then there’s a constraint related to fulfillment of services. There’s something off in the way those services are being fulfilled, where people aren’t wanting to stay and do more.
So same thing with athletic performance. If someone has a biomechanical issue that’s causing them to get injured, of course that’s a big constraint. And then further on as you optimize, there’s all these other things, mechanics of movement, endurance, and energy, and then eventually then the speed of movement and the load they can tolerate, all that becomes limit factor. So you keep getting the add on those.
Matt: Exactly. And that’s probably a more eloquent way to put it, is like, it looks like, alright I’m not doing as much traditional stuff in this regard, but putting a little bit more time spent in optimizing that big blind spot that they have athletically, the secret is I’m actually kind of going to improve all those other things right up the chain in performance. And then as I address this deficit, then I can spend, again this is not to say we’re not doing any, let’s say agility or apply work in this case, but I’m better able to spend more time doing that later on. And in the meantime I’m still improving them too. So I think that’s one thing I’d like to impart on people listening is by making people more durable, strong, and resilient, better movers, you are going to improve traditional stuff too, power, rate of force development.
What’s the saying, fast is fluid, fluid is fast. So I think that when you improve someone’s ability to move and self-organize in space, the best athletes really are able to own their space. So you’re going to improve their performance in that regard. And the analogy I like to use is with cars, like the conventional model, they put all the emphasis on the engine, whereas I’m putting emphasis on the engine and also the alignment and the steering fluid and the drive trains of the car as my friend, Nick Simpson likes to say. And that’s going to be a sports car, because technically like an 18 Wheeler or a Hummer is going to have just as big, maybe sometimes a bigger engine than some of these sports cars but is that really an athletic or, you know what I’m saying, is that really kind of like a fluid, fluidly driving car that’s going to win a race? No. And so I think that you kind of have to work on both.
Garrett: I like that, fast is fluid, fluid is fast and that reminds me of course a lot of the content I’ve seen you post, both the written content. I know you have that communications degree. You’ve got very, very good writing. People have a chance to look at your articles and we’ll share links and such and then you also post content on social media and on different channels about exercises. And before we get into some of those techniques in terms of fluidity and mechanics and this kind of pyramid of performance concept, can you share with us some of your thoughts a little deeper in mechanics, some of your perspective approach related to the fascia system, fascia slings, and some of your perspective there, because I think you have good takes on that concept.
Matt: Yeah certainly. Yeah. I basically, I’m working on kind of flushing this out in a way that I can teach it to other coaches or athletes who want to learn, but I basically take kind of a neuro biomechanical approach to movement and that’s to be both inclusive of the software or the underlying neurological behavior. And then also the hardware, which traditionally is really only musculoskeletal emphasized and fascia gets lip service, but it doesn’t really like make it to the applied side of things. I think what people need to realize is that your fascia is your largest sensory organ in the body. It interconnects organs, it interconnects muscle groups. It actually helps reposition the alignment of your bones and your structure.
And the other thing people need to realize is it’s highly, highly receptive to input. So when I feel stressed from life stress and I have a pain in my neck, it’s a multitude of things, but one of the key reasons why I’m feeling that is because of the sensory, proprioceptor in the fascia itself, muscle too but again, fascia is the one that kind of interconnects the whole body. You see it show up in things like acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine. They understood this, even if they didn’t necessarily use the same terminology we do. But in kind of an athletic performance context, or like a rehab context as well, your fascia is also responsible for helping you with movement economy or efficiency of movement. And so because fascia is highly adaptable to input most of us live in this linear world, we train in a way that doesn’t really have any type of elasticity or movement variability.
And so what happens is over time the fascia dries up, it gets dehydrated, it calcifies. Your diet can also play a role in this, but when that happens, those sensory nerves, basically they cut off access to that part of the body. And so only through integrating those concepts and training can you reinnovate the proprioceptor, the sensory nerves in the various parts of the fascial tissue. So then they show up in real time. So when you see me doing some of those movements with guys where we might be kind of almost like exaggerating, let’s say for like a midline here or exaggerating turns into that lead leg. If we’re talking about kind of like say,first step [23:25 inaudible].
Garrett: So for people who are listening to this, just so everyone can kind of understand what you’re talking about is examples of exercise, where you’re posting videos and descriptions and so something where someone might be lunging, but instead of just a straightforward or straight backwards lunge, they’re lunging and then they’re rotating over their legs. So they’re getting this full body transverse plane movement, so that type of thing, right?
Matt: Yeah, exactly. So pretend my legs are in a lunge here, my right leg is forward. I’m going to turn into that so that what I’m getting is that natural, I’m going to exaggerate that turn, so I’m making sure I’m hydrating all of that fascial tissue. Innovating all that fascial tissue. So then it shows up when I’m not exaggerating too. When I run, I’m getting the horizontal push pull spiral actions that are needed in literally all movements. Whereas, most coaches, unfortunately, especially in America, teach running is this linear and most movement is this linear endeavor. They don’t really let the anatomy of it all inform their training, which is, I think what Thomas Myers was getting at. And that’s why he called his book, literally Anatomy Trains. The physiology trains too, but also anatomy trains. Those are the things that should inform our decisions, not tradition.
Garrett: So what does a session with you look like in terms of how you balance this? I mean obviously you’re doing a gap assessment. You’re figuring out what the athletes needs are, but can you kind of talk about how you might work these movements in? Do you have a movement prep, and then you strength or speed? can you talk about, kind of where the rubber meets the road, how you would work that into an individual session?
Matt: Yeah, of course. So the politicians answer would be, it depends. So if I’m working with someone of those neurodegeneration it’s going to be probably super basic. We’re probably using the neufit for a good chunk of that work that we’re doing as well. And they may not be able to pull off some of those other things. But let’s assume someone has, an everyday person they’ve got like some solid enough bill of health. We’re looking at doing like mild fascia release, which ideally they’re doing on their own to actually help decompress or break up adhesions, things like that in the tissue. We’re doing some decompression and some work on the ground. We do a lot of ground work early on. We call it developmental on-ground program, which again is something from Todd Wright. I took from Todd Wright with the Clippers and 70 Sixers. And that’s basically just a lot of ground based movement and corrective exercise. The better you get at that kind of locomotion, the better you’re going to get standing, the better you’re going to move standing up.
Garrett: And so that that’s essentially working through the developmental patterns, like rolling crawling, like things that we learn as kids in order to progress towards walking, those types of things.
Matt: Yeah, definitely that. And then sometimes it’s honestly just corrective exercises that happen to be on the ground. Like some PRI, joint repositioning kind of stuff. And then usually after we do that, again it’s usually a combination of activation, some structural repositioning where someone needs it, let’s say some hip internal rotation, maybe triggering like the fascia a bit. The Fascia we’re going to see show up later in the session. We then kind of progressed to being on foot. And so pretty much every athlete is going to have some type of like or multiple types of core exercises, but not your classic, like crunches or twist a med ball on the ground kind of stuff. We make sure that we also do core exercises standing up. Sometimes it can also be just positional isometrics and things like that to reinforce good positions.
But the idea of being that with your trunk, all the functional anatomy of the core that hooks into your pelvis. I mean, the whole trunk as [27:34 name] has shown, he’s a Canadian sports scientist. He’s shown in his book and his work, the spinal engine, is that your trunk is the origin of all movement, of all energy, of all power. In America, they teach it wrong and they say, your legs are what propels it. And then the trunk is just, brace your core, it’s along for the ride. But the reality is, brace your core is a good cue for certain movements in the gym. Like let’s say for a power lifter on a back squat, but the reality is your trunk. It needs tensegrity, the fascia needs to be well developed so it has that intermuscular and myofascial coordination.
Some good quality balance between length and tension, but in a movement sense it’s purely rotary. Anyways, whether it’s going up to dunk a basketball, whether it’s running, whatever, the energy from the trunk gets transferred down the chain into the ground. You’re reacting, the athlete has to deal with things like mass momentum, gravity, ground reaction forces, and then how that foot interacts with the ground is going to basically see those same forces, that energy come back up the chain. And so if you’re holistically developing that kinetic chain with of course the right load, velocity, stuff like that too, you’re going to see those forces get accurately dispersed throughout the chain versus if you do not do that, you are going to see those forces more than likely get dispersed to one muscle group or one joint or one tissue area, God forbid. Knee, ankle is a common one, especially in basketball, a lower back pain is another one.
So that’s one way to also kind of view movement holistically rather than just saying, oh, this guy just needs to activate this, glutemed and then he’ll be good. He just needs to do some band walks and then we’ll take the car out on the track and it’ll be fine. Anyways, that’s what we’ll do for that piece of things. And then depending on where the athlete is at, if it’s in season off season, how many minutes they’re playing, things like that, we’ll progress into things like strength work which I know you wanted to talk about, we do some of that a little differently. And or agility, plyometric velocity work. So I would say we do take kind of like a Louis Simmons conjugate model in that regard, we’ll have days that are more based on twitching and ballistic dynamic, plyometric, sprinting, velocity kind of work and then we have other days that are more based around, strength, power development and to steal a quote from you “rehab is sort of woven throughout the whole thing.”
If we’re loading someone, we’re making sure that they’re being loaded in a way that’s general, that it’s going to transfer to the sport or we’re loading it in a way that it’s going to reinforce their locomotion and their locomotive capabilities. I would say not that this is wrong to do for all athletes or whatever, but we’re really not doing like barbell back squats and stuff. We might do like a well positioned hex bar deadlift with our feet inside of that, our columns, our power center. We don’t do a ton of traditional strength training, I would say, but that’s sort of how we would progress. You get in there, you get warmed up and then we gradually progress them to the main event.
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Garrett: That’s good. A lot of great insights woven in throughout there. Thank you for that. And before we move on from the topic of fascia and these different trains or slings, can you talk a little bit about something that I know is a topic near and dear to your heart, but the posterior chain or the posterior fascial sling and how that’s related to performance, the importance of it, and then a little bit about how you would work in some training that emphasizes that too.
Matt: Yeah. Yeah. I should also say before too. One thing that’s included in a lot of our sessions, I mean you’re technically always doing proprioceptor work. Because you’re, you’re constantly feeding information into your proprioception system and then the body is adapting accordingly. But we do a good amount of proprioception work too. And foot training, you just heard me mention the importance of how the foot interacts with the ground. And I think a lot of people don’t realize that proprioception also impacts body control too, and activation and relaxation, and how you engage or disengage your whole chain as a unit.
So we do a good amount of proprioceptive work. All of our guys are training barefoot, most sessions, I would say. We also do things like the WAFF proprioceptive pad, and that’s not just to improve how the foot maps force on the ground, but also for activation work, for positional ownership. Being able to own certain positions and find sensory familiarity in them, especially at crazy sporting angles. And then also just to get more strength and body control, and then to answer your other question about the posterior chain, yeah I think most people train it in kind of a fragmented way. They’re doing kind of like a traditional deadlift, things like that, but the posterior chain, you really need to think about it. If you look at the posterior mild fascia line, it’s going from, you can’t see me reaching here, I’m reaching low on my leg, all the way up through to literally like the back of your head.
And so when you see sporting events, whether that’s a baseball player pitching, whether that’s a basketball player going up for a dunk, that whole posterior chain is it not only needs to be the parts engaged, but it also needs to be able to fire and orchestrate in sequence. And so that includes getting the muscles developed that also includes doing some slinging type things almost like people think of the kettlebell swing. So think of that, but just a bunch of different movement possibilities using those same sling type principles. And that way you’re better able to elastically transfer force using much more of your back chain, your front chain, you want the core to be involved of course, but we want to try to minimize the amount of work that my quad is doing because when a quad comes along for the ride, then the knee comes along for the ride too.
And again, you need to strengthen your quads. They need to be involved, but you really don’t need to make them a point of emphasis in most types of training. You really should be focusing on a lot of the supportive muscle groups because most athletes are going to work their quads plenty on their own. They don’t need extra reinforcement there.
Garrett: And, a lot of athletes, I mean, is kind of a natural corollary to what you just said, that a lot of athletes are excessively quad dominant or pushed too much into the ground instead of pulling and using that back chain. Is that a fair kind of restatement or conclusion?
Matt: And I can even stand up if that’s okay. And show like an example. So yeah, I would say not only is there kind of like a lack of emphasis there in training, but also this would be an example of structured dictating function, but in terms of how they interrelate, but joint repositioning too. A lot of people, they’ll have that anterior pelvic tilt. It’s actually okay to have a little bit of that for athletes, believe it or not. But you’ll see where their pelvis is so tilted in an anterior capacity, it’s really limiting the engagement of the hamstrings and vice versa. The lack of hamstring ability [36:16 inaudible], the lack of development in the hamstring also causes an anterior pelvic tilt. But yeah. So you can see how that’s going to make someone overload their quads and knees a bit more, be more susceptible to back pain, things like that.
Garrett: Yeah. I think that’s a really, really important topic. And again, just in that very foundational, all this is still not necessarily sport specific. This is general movement, dexterity, motor control, that base of the pyramid. And there’s a lot of work to be done here for a lot of athletes. I mean, we’re talking about that gap assessment or training the gaps, that’s a big area. You can spend a lot of time working on that,
Matt: For sure. We could do multiple podcasts on just that. I mean, that’s kind of we’re talking different models to use through which to see these things. I think that’s one of them too, is like a lot of the athletes that I use are doing some of the same stuff and they branch out where necessary for their sport, but these are principles and we’re a human first, athlete second, sport specific third. I know my buddy, Paul [37:23 name] says that no I can’t remember, I already said that, but basically if you improve any of those foundational biomechanical things we evolve to do, like walking, running, jumping, throwing, punching, maybe basic loaded carries and stuff like that, you’re going to improve everything up the chain too. I’ve had athletes who come in and they are impressive in some ways with their strength and whatnot. They can put up a bunch of numbers in the gym, but they can’t sprint without their hamstring cramping.
And so it’s like, your training, what you’re currently doing is probably taking you further away from elite performance instead of nudging you toward it. And that’s why a lot of these athletes need to go in and do some of this general stuff, like the general work capacity stuff to build up their movement literacy and their sensory motor competencies that are going to transfer out elsewhere. And that speaking of people who I’ve learned good amount from, that’s where our mutual friend, Justin Rippy, I would say deserve some credit there.
Garrett: Yeah, for sure. I think those are the big themes, movement, literacy motor competency, I think those are great, probably even more illustrative words to describe kind of what I mean by that base of the pyramid. I really like that term. A little bit more in this realm of movement literacy before we move on there. Let’s see. So proprioception, can you talk to us a little more, I mean, you mentioned the importance of fascia, how innovative it is, a lot of sensory nerves there, talked about when you see these different positions, talking about the WAFF. I know you have a lot that you’re doing in there. What else are some of the main points of emphasis or go-to techniques for you in terms of this notion of increasing proprioception in order to inform and improve movement literacy?
Matt: Yeah. So, as I mentioned earlier, everything you’re doing is proprioception. So it’s like, I don’t want my inputs from the environment to be something that’s going to potentially dampen the proprioceptive ability I need for the sport. And so a lot of traditional training will do things proprioceptively that might dampen your ability to play on the court. Like you might mess up your ability to be elastic and your stretch shortening cycle and things like reciprocal inhibition, or your ability for one muscle to relax while the other contracts. If you’re doing an excess of movements where you’re getting a lot of co-contraction and, muscling through movements and not being as elastic. Force informs fascia so you need to be training, instead of going like high load, no velocity, most athletes need to be doing more work where they’re going high velocity lower load as well. You need to be doing. And again, the amount to which you need both berries and with training age, younger athletes are going to need more of one than older athletes would be. So you need to keep that stuff in mind when you’re kind of like thinking about exercise selection.
Garrett: And also that gap assessment. Some guys are going to be a lot faster, need more strength. Some guys and girls are going to be a lot stronger and need more speed work so I think that plays into that too, and needs of the sport.
Matt: Absolutely. So we might do a lot of like isometric type holds in certain positions. There’s a guy named Aaron Jesse out of the Institute for sport and medicine. And I believe that’s it in Boston. Anyways we do a lot of this like kind of musculo systemic engineering stuff, where we’re actually doing some of these super slow movements, while we’re maybe finding, we’re grouping together various parts of the body we want to see show up in movement. So I did a post recently, for example where I’m standing on the WAFF pro, I’m having an athlete, a basketball player stand on the WAFF proprioceptive pads in a defensive stance. And so he has a band around his knees. He’s also trying to high five the wall with his glutes so he’s getting pretty low.
He also has his hands overhead, like he’s contesting a shot. And then he’s being given certain cues by me. And of course, like the band and the positionality of the whole thing. So that way when he’s in that position on the court, instead of coach saying, Hey, get into his body, move this way, do that. Those are all left brain logical neck up cues. And some athletes might get that. Some athletes might not. So this is a way for me to kinesthetically cue the athlete without him having to think about those things. Because you can’t think your way through movements and expect to be a great player in sports, because sports is one and [lost on fractions of a second], right?
So I’m able to kinesthetically speak to the athlete in their own language. And through felt perception make these things show up, whether it’s structural repositioning, whether it’s activating something, getting those sensory motor competencies built up to where they’re just going to show up on the court. And then he’s going to try to lock a guy down now, he’s no longer in his front chain. He’s no longer just sort of stuck on his heels, getting blown by. His hips are more engaged. His glutes are more engaged. His force is mapping. His feet are mapping the force. And then thanks to, just to use this as an easy example for people to see him being on the WAFF is going to make sure that he has that full body CNS activation, he’s activating small intrinsic muscles he wasn’t using before. So then he’s completely like a central nervous system. And like the tissues that we want to see show up are fully engaged. So that would be like just one example. I think that was more of an example than an answer to your question, but I think people kinda learned better that way.
Garrett: Yeah, for sure. And so just so everybody knows when Coop is talking about the WAFF, they are these discs that create this unstable surface. So I mean, people might look at it as like a balanced disc or similar to a Bosuball, but it’s different structurally, and I know you found a lot of value in those. Can you just tell people a little, just describe them a little more so people understand, and then also share your thoughts on kind of the transfer between that unstable surface training into, into sport because there are some interesting links on that.
Matt: Yeah, absolutely. We could almost have a whole little, like what toys and technology do you use in that section too? So yeah, basically with the WAFF, like old proprioceptive pads in the past basically were all reactive surface and the material wasn’t really great either. They’re good for some things. Like for example, a [44:39 inaudible] ball can be good to like, if I’m running and want to do a little push off action there. If some people do some interesting stuff where they like load it for like landmines, to kind of pattern and get the foot in the right position. You can do good stuff with all these toys, it’s context. So with the WAFF there’s a central spine and then a reactive surface, you get the right blend of stability and mobility. So I could stand on like an AirX pattern, something like that and see my foot collapse in a valgus capacity. And that could really hurt and potentially put someone in a bad position that might reinforce an injury.
At the same time with the WAFF I’m able to do is kind of naturally auto correct things and put people in better positions. The material is such where it creates a quicker proprioceptive feedback loop, quicker reflex arc, rather sensory reflex arc to improve reflexes and speed of co-contraction around the joint, things like that. So yeah, we definitely do those. Those are our bread and butter for our like reactive surface training with proprioception. We also just have guys go barefoot as I mentioned before. We will do some other things too, just for again proprioception training, at least as it relates to the foot or surface manipulation, we’ll do like slant boards.
We’ll do a little bit of like balance discs, things like that. I think that would with preprioception training, there’s a tendency to throw the baby out with the bath water, because we’ve all seen the videos of dudes doing barbell back squats on a yoga ball and dumb stuff like that or people just doing curls on a bosu ball, like just to make it more intense. So that’s kind of made a lot of people allergic to it. But what I would say is that we’ve all seen coaches cue squats the wrong way, and they’ve hurt people, but we don’t throw the baby out with the bath water there or with battle ropes or with anything else. So why is it that this one modality has that done to it? So it’s just kind of interesting to me how people are super dogmatic there and I’ve kind of tried to help nudge that aspect of the industry along forward a little bit more.
But yeah, I think there’s times where you want a stable surface. Most of the time, 99% of the time in a training session, we are on a stable surface. But when you introduce the other one, you’re improving all the different sensory systems. You can do some interesting ocular motor work or vision work there. And you’re also able to do some vestibular work there too. So the vestibular system is part of what’s going to help athletes basically, let’s say if you’re running, your vestibular system sees your environment, the ground around you. And it codes in kind of an anticipatory muscle tone, so that you’re better able to prepare for those ground reaction forces. So proprioceptive, we say proprioception, what we’re usually talking about is sort of the reactive system. I need to react to my environment.
But you’re also getting information fed about your environment too. And so in training, whether it’s with these tools or not, you can try to stimulate different aspects here, whether it’s ply metrics, simple ply metrics and agility work, altitude drops, balance work on these different things. So we intermix it to try to help activate the CNS, help different tissues show up, help with positional ownership, help try to mimic elements of a dynamic environment that the athlete is going to see on the court too. That’s I think one thing. In that article I wrote for [48:24 Fabreez’s] athletes, I said technically the surface is stable and we want to do most of our training there, but in a live environment, it’s anything but. Your foot is not always going to land in that perfect scenario training or perfect scenario controlled environment. So sometimes you need to incorporate some of these unpredictable elements into training too.
And the last thing I’ll say on that, is that a pretty good outlet called sports injury bullet, just did a whole research review on the foot and how it needs that variability and training in order to stay healthy. I mean, there’s a mata analysis too. I can’t remember how many studies it was, but it showed that even poorly designed proprioception training, using old technology and a hodgepodge of methods reduced injuries by 40%. And you combine that with strength training it was 70%. In a mata analysis, that’s like liquid gold when it comes to research because it’s a bunch of studies grouped together. It’s not just over extrapolating one single study.
Garrett: Yeah, for sure. Can you send me a link to that actually? I’ll follow up with you, but it would be good to share an article on that. I’d also like to share an article where you were writing about these WAFF tools or disks and mentioned Fabreez’s name, you mentioned for Fabreez Cotia as a really brilliant French osteopath. And he came over to start working with a lot of their NBA players. So he’s there in the LA area. And I know you mentioned his name at the timer too, so he’s a really, really great practitioner there. Hot a cool spot in Beverly Hills now, too.
Matt: Yeah, he’s got more like the north bay, like Beverly Hills, I’m more of the south bay closer to the airport. He’s a PT osteopath, those are things that I don’t do. I do kind of like the post rehab or reconditioning. So that’s another thing too, I think it’s important to be able to find a team that all speaks the same language. And you have someone there that you can communicate to about these things, whether it’s just to have that competency in another area so you can know that what you’re doing is possibly impacting that area or vice versa. So it’s always good to, I think, just check your ego at the door and know that you don’t know things. And I think that’s one thing that I would leave for other conditioning coaches too, is, Hey, your main goal is to keep guys on the floor and you see them probably the most or right up there.
So you want to make sure that information you’re coding into them is going to make sure they’re staying on the court. And so to do that, I think the training staff and the medical staff have to really be pretty good friends
Garrett: Heck yeah. That’s very well said. Nothing to add there other than to, I agree. And I want to underscore underline bold italicize that. That was great. Very well said.
Matt: I should say too real quick, just for other proprioceptive tools too. A lot of it is just like kinesthetic cues. I might take like a pair of like propulsors or like egg weights and have guys hold them while they run so their arms tear through the air. And they get that rotary aspect of movement. We might do just simple resistance bands tied around someone in a way that’s going to help them reposition their rib cage and help them decompress. We might use an aqua bag or a Viper to do some loaded movement. So that way the brain, having this loaded cue. When you remove the cue, it’s better able to self-organize in space because it’s used to having that cue, which may trigger something like a lordosis of the spine when you’re running or getting your midline to kick in when you’re running too. So I usually say there’s no bad tools or technology, there’s just dumb ways to use them.
Garrett: Yeah, absolutely. And on that, I mean, that’s very good. You can be intentional, adding load will create more input and will reinforce whatever you’re doing. So if you’re using that to help cue someone or drive someone into a better position that gives them a chance to learn that and to learn it faster, because of the increased load. And speaking of tools and increased load and increased input, that brings me, I got to ask you for your thoughts on how you’re using the neubie in this realm here, in this strength and conditioning, optimization, some return to play, like you mentioned in these different scenarios. What are your thoughts and your areas where you’ve seen the neubie make the biggest impact in the realms that we’re talking about here today?
Matt: Yeah. So definitely shortening the gap on rehab time and closing that gap, I would say is one of the main things that I’ve used it for, like I mentioned before, I’ll check in with PTs and stuff. If someone’s working with a PT and then we regularly lap recovery times, sometimes as much as like 30 or 70% and that’s with the Neubie dosed in there. So definitely in shortening that return to play time and improving some of these sensory motor competencies. I would say that, I think you said it before, and I think [54:10 name] of the Phoenix [54:11 inaudible] said it too. And your way of saying it was, you’re never doing just rehab and performance, you’re doing both. And he says a rehab program and a training program should look really similar.
And so that’s kind of how the neubie slots into what I do, is we use it to help keep guys healthy and to improve performance. We also use it to improve some of the things we talked about today, like activation, to help guys reduce the amount of time they are injured, if they are injured in the first place or just ideally prevent them from getting injured, just in the first place. So that might mean putting pad placements on areas we want to see emphasized more, like various parts of your glutes. It might mean placing them on the hamstring. So we’re getting someone more back chain dominant. We might also especially when working with someone who’s kind of, needs to do more recovery or something like that.
We might use it for more of a master, one of the master resets. I’ll also use it to improve cross crawl reflex, like your [55:27 inaudible] lateral reciprocation. So I might try to get this opposite midline here, cued up with this opposite glue. We’ll do things too, where we kind of do like loosening or opening up protocols with it where we’ll turn it up to just like a super low sensation and have guys move through it. And we’ve seen a lot of really good results doing that. And it was kind of a, I won’t name out of respect to privacy, of course, for the parties involved, I won’t name any names, but it was kind of a full circle moment with the neufit recently too because I remember when I had first moved down here, very shortly after I first started using the neufit in my own practice, but I was talking to a couple NBA front offices, like there was a specific injured athlete at the time who’s well known and was talking about his agent and stuff like that.
And then at the time it was like too forward thinking. So they were like, oh, this is just regular east in. They kind of looked at me like I was from outer space when I was talking about some of this other stuff. It was sort of like, whatever, it’s just one of these other things. And then later on, come to find out more recently in a conversation with you, now that same athlete in that same group put the neufit in such a high priority there. And so to be involved with that and to see it go from, it’s almost like the Henry Ford model, they think they want faster horses, I’m giving them a new car. So to see that whole process in real time, going from being one of the first people out here in California showing it to people, to now being able to use it with these same pro athletes and have them kind of know what it is and want it to be part of their program, is pretty cool to see. But anyways, that’s kind of a fun anecdote.
Garrett: That is cool. Yeah. Thanks for bringing that up. It’s fun to see that the evolution and at first people are naturally resistant to new things and are skeptical with good reason, because there’s a lot of stuff that comes out that doesn’t work or doesn’t do what it claims to do. And so we understand the skepticism, but it is cool to see those breakthroughs where people who initially had resisted, when they kind of come around and start to see those outcomes that’s really cool. And then something you mentioned there and all those users of the neubie, I think it was very well said. One that I just thought is an interesting point of emphasis, when you talk about, if you want someone to engage a certain muscle more and more glued, more hamstring or whatever you put on there, it is a little different than a traditional output based electrical stimulation approach where you’re not just putting it on in order to necessarily contract that muscle. You’re putting it on in order to create more of that proprioceptive input, right in line with what you’ve been talking about, about the importance of proprioception, these different ways, different strategies for doing that.
You’re trying to create that input so that athlete’s brain essentially is more aware of that part of their body and can call upon it and can activate it better for themselves, as opposed to just relying on this machine as kind of a crutch to do it for them. They’re actually, by creating that input, you’re enabling them, you’re teaching them, you’re improving their motor competency or their movement literacy, as you said, so that they can call upon that area themselves and learn to do it faster and learn to do it even when they’re not on the machine. So I think that’s an interesting kind of connection there, a way to tie together some of the other things you brought up.
Matt: Oh yeah. I mean, I think people should, for sure. They should think of one of the things neubie does, I mean, of course when I’m putting the pad there, I’m also getting improved circulation. I’m improving, I believe, I think I just saw, was it you who posted the study on this? I think it helps the tissue’s ability to utilize oxygen proprioceptor. And I think that all those things are kind of combined. You see that show up in some of those like Moxi muscle oxygen sensors. They’re almost kind of a stand in for EMG. It’s like you see that the tissue is better utilizing oxygen. You put an EMG in its place you’re going to see the same thing. Whereas if it’s a lower grade on one, you’re going to see it show up as a low grade on the other.
So I think in addition to all those things, people should just think of the neubie as way to kind of provide additional kinesthetic cues for the athletes. So that way, when you remove the cue, like on the cord or on the field, or in real life, you’re going to see those things show up. I think also decompression is another thing I forgot to mention that most people don’t realize it can help with too.
Garrett: Can you tell us a little more about that, about just how you see it helping in that regard?
Matt: Yeah. So one of the main things for decompression and just feeling safe in your own environment is going to be, all of your sensory inputs collectively, nutritionally, your life, how you live, stuff like that. But physically here, like having a nice midline stability is really important. So you’ll see us putting like balls under a guy’s armpits, putting electrodes from the neufit here too. And actually kind of creating a bigger frame. Most of us have much bigger frames than we realize, but we kind of have this like small presence, the tissues get shriveled, the structures start to get compressed. We actually, most of us are a little longer and taller than we realize. And so we’ll do that and have guys do things like stand at attention. We’ll have maybe like tie some biofeedback resistance spans, like loop them around and over here to feed that dysfunction so it naturally makes us correct against it.
So we’ll do that with the neufit in certain areas we want to sync up and also just to get some sensory awareness around that midline, which is going to see guys get stronger, longer and then just generally kind of feel more fluid in their environment. It’s great for pain relief too. But that’s a lot of the stuff Dr. Eric Cobb and my boy [1:01:38 inaudible], they talk a lot about that. It’s just, they do that stuff as it relates to vision and all those inputs that you’re giving yourself. You could talk about that in different ways, is that stuff going to show up on the court in the field and limit performance if you’re not feeling safe in that environment? Absolutely. At the same time, it’s also going to show up in life too.
So from a performance input standpoint, from having a robust energy metabolism, from your diet standpoint, you’re going to need, the body is going to need to feel safe and relaxed to perform at a high level similar to how you see with pregnant women. Like the most energetically expensive thing to do for a woman is to have a baby. So that’s why it’s harder to get pregnant if you’re in like a super duper caloric deficit. You don’t have an abundance of energy. So in that context, it’s a different type of performance, but your body needs to feel relaxed and the relaxed state is a high energy state. So it’s all about making sure that your environment and the inputs you’re feeding it both through training or your withdrawals or your deposits, diet, light exposure, sleep, stuff like that are combining to give you that right energy balance.
Garrett: Yes. Very well said there, I think that both wraps up, puts a nice bow on some of the topics there and also opens up potentially some others. But I think we’ll have to save some of those other ones for a part two here. So as we wind down this one, as we wind down this part one, can you let people listening know how to find you, best place to look you up on website, articles that you publish social media, what are the best channels and best places to keep up with you in your work?
Matt: Yeah. So you can find me on my website, which is basically a fossil, but I’m slowly but surely updating it. And that’s rewireperformance.com. You can reach out there if you want to work with me. You can also go to Instagram and find me at rewireHP or rewire health and performance. I’m not as active on Twitter. I do have a at rewire HP twitter account. I believe that’s the little tag for it. And then if you wanted to read stuff I’ve done, you can almost go to Just Fly Sports. Simply Faster, I’ve done some articles for them. And if you wanted to ask me about any of the tools we talked about today, you can obviously go to neufit. I mean, you can go to WAFFstudio.com as well.
Garrett: Those are good. Simply faster and Just fly both are really good websites generally, and going there and searching by your name for the articles you’ve written. Those are really good resources. So I’m glad you mentioned those and we’ll put them in the notes as well.
Matt: Cool. Yeah. I’m almost hesitant, like any writer. I don’t like referencing stuff I’ve already done because it’s like, oh my understanding of that as changed. Like, I feel like a dumb ass, but oh, well, I think you could still get a lot out of those, even if they need a little bit of an update and I have a brand new article coming out soon on just fly on proprioceptor and basically sensory integration work.
Garrett: We’ll give Joel a plug too on Just fly. He’s got really good books and resources and good content there. And as do you. Excellent conversation here. Thank you for that and really good online resources that we’ll point to, and I’ll just end by saying thank you very much. Thanks for coming on and sharing your wisdom and perspective. And I imagine people listening got a lot out of it, whether it be some techniques or shifts in perspective and different frameworks that you’re using here. I think you have a very thorough and effective way of looking at performance and helping athletes improve. So thanks for coming on and sharing it with us.
Matt: Yeah. You bet, man. Appreciate you having me.
Garrett: Heck yeah. Thanks everybody for tuning in. We will see you on the next episode of the Undercurrent Podcast.
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