BioFeedback Training – How Can it Benefit You?

What if I told you that you could get stronger, become less likely to injure yourself and become more flexible all at once?

Would you be interested?  If so, read on.

On average I purchase about 100 books per year.  Since I don’t speed read and many of them are on the same three topics that I’ve read hundreds of books on already (Nutrition, Exercise and Psychology/Change), most of the information is similar.  Therefore, simply by skimming over many of the books, I get the advantage of quickly re-learning stuff I may have forgotten and when something new is introduced, I get the benefit of being able to focus on that one part and learn something new.

One of the books I purchased last year has quickly become one of my favorites called “Off the Floor” by David Dellanave.  In the fitness world, many people write e-books and for the most part, most are basically saying the same thing in different ways.  What eventually sold me on the book was something called Bio-Feedback and how it could offer clues as to what the best variation of Deadlifts a person could be doing.

Deadlifts and Pain

In training for both myself and clients, I absolutely love Deadlifts.  Most people know this, but I also know for some people there are times when they are contra-indicated (not good for the person).  As for myself, the left side of my low back has been “tight” and caused stiffness and pain at times after deadlifting.  This is not only unpleasant, it really starts to slow down my progress in the gym.

So for me, I started to experiment with different ways to overcome this problem.  I foam rolled more.  A tight IT band (the tissue on the side of your leg) can cause glute stiffness, which can cause low back pain.  The quadratus lumborum is a small muscle that when one side is tighter than the other, can cause pain on one side of the back.  If you’ve ever had low back pain after shoveling a lot of snow, it’s usually this muscle that’s been involved in causing that tightness.  Your hip flexors can be tight, your piriformis (the muscle that’s tight when people complain about sciatica) along with a  bunch of other factors.  So I spent more time working on these muscles, trying to strengthen my right quadratus lumborum, while foam rolling and stretching my glutes, IT band and piriformis.

lowback pain 240x135 BioFeedback Training   How Can it Benefit You?

In addition to that, I employed strengthening for the surrounding muscles that are often overlooked with low back pain – think your abs, obliques, etc.  I tried other modalities, but the only solution from that angle was to stop deadlifting (which to me, wasn’t an option).  I  incorporated the Serola belt which helped but felt more like a band-aid solution.  In addition to the physical aspects employed, I also combated it through diet and supplements.  Curcumin, and Omega 3 fish oils have been shown to have very significant anti-inflammatory responses and help to alleviate pain.

And all of these things were not in vain, as I got out of pain, but I still wasn’t able to deadlift heavy with confidence.  I could do lighter weight and other variations where lighter weight was actually called for such as a snatch-grip deadlift (hands really wide on the bar).  And although these things helped me to maintain my strength, it wasn’t helping me to get any stronger.

So when I saw that this book could offer a potential solution to that problem I jumped on it and I’m glad I did. I originally purchased the book in July, but it took me about 5 months before I actually started to implement the Biofeedback techniques into my training on a regular basis.

My highest deadlift I’ve ever lifted without straps on my hand has been 435 pounds and that was about a year ago with all cylinders firing.  Before I started training with this on a consistent basis, I was struggling to get 405 off of the ground.

In the month that I’ve been incorporating this technique, I’ve lifted 425 on two separate occasions, 415 on two separate occasions…and set a new best of 455 pounds.  During this time, I also have gotten rid of the pain in my left hip flexor that had been nagging me for about 5 months, while getting rid of the pain in my left elbow that has been around for as long as I can remember.  Those things were done while getting stronger on my chest press and shoulder press and deadlifting as often as I ever have.  And the real benefit is that I also haven’t had any sign of a tight lower back since I’ve started either.  My main lifts have gotten stronger, I have gotten out of pain and it is easier for me to be flexible all because of BioFeedback.

The Top 7 Benefits of Using BioFeedback Training

Here is a short list of the benefits by incorporating BioFeedback training into your current routine:

1 – Will help you to prevent injuries
2 – Will help you to become stronger
3 – Will help you recover faster and not feel as beat up even after a challenging workout that would have run you into the ground even a week ago
4 – Will help you to recognize when you should stop an exercise for the day
5 – Can offer clues as to what your body is asking for (more single leg work, doing more work on your weaker side, etc)
6 – By taking stress off of your nervous system, you decrease your stress hormones in response to training (a theory of mine is this helps immensely in being able to control one’s appetite…and by “theory,” I mean there’s good science behind the belief)
7 – You can implement this into any type of goal you have such as weight loss, fat loss, muscle gain, strength gain

How to Use BioFeedback

BioFeedback is basically your body’s way of telling you what is taking stress off of your nervous system.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t workout hard or that you can’t work a certain muscle group, but that not every exercise is going to be beneficial for you on any particular day.  For example, if I want to work shoulders, I can do seated dumbbell shoulder press, standing barbell shoulder press, seated Arnold presses, etc.  In other words, there are a lot of variations for the same muscle group.  Some may be beneficial to you on that day, while others may over-tax your nervous system that day.

biofeedback Loop 300x196 BioFeedback Training   How Can it Benefit You?

So the question becomes, how can you use this to your benefit?  For some of my clients, I’ve already started to implement this into their training sessions.  With others, you can start to use this today following these 4 steps (you can view the video after these 4 steps):

1 – The Baseline Test ~ The baseline test is relatively simple, but you have to be honest with yourself.  This may take a couple of attempts but basically consists of standing with your feet together (they don’t have to be touching, but a regular standing distance).  From there, you go down like you’re going to touch your toes.  You go down only to the first place you feel any tension, anywhere in your body.  This is where you stop and the baseline test is over.

For example, I can touch the ground with my palms on the ground and legs straight, but the first place I usually feel tension is in the middle of my knee, a good two and a half feet higher.  Some days this will be higher or lower depending on your quality of sleep, your electrolyte balance, other stress on your body, etc and really should not be judged as a “good or bad” thing.  It just is what it is.  No need to judge it.

You want to mark that spot.

2 – Choose an exercise.  For example, let’s say I wanted to do deadlifts today.  I would go to the gym and with a very light weight (maybe just the bar), I would do 3-5 repetitions of the exercise.  This can be done with any and all exercises you want to perform.

3 – Re-test.  After you did the 3-5 reps of the movement, re-test, following the same exact steps in the baseline test. Stand with your feet at a comfortable distance and go down to the first spot that you feel tension.  If you got down further, then the exercise tested well for you on that day.  You can include it in your routine for that day.  If it didn’t, try another exercise that works the same muscle group and test that movement.  For example, if the deadlift didn’t test well, I could try a sumo deadlift, or a trap bar deadlift or an off-set deadlift (one foot slightly in front of the other) or a single-legged deadlift, or rack pulls, etc.

4 – Find the exercises that tests well on that day and workout.  Total testing time should only take 5-10 minutes.  You can try about 25 different exercises in that time.  Make sure you’re not trying to push past your baseline test and instead you’re simply allowing yourself to go down to where you first feel tension.  After you’ve found ones that work the muscle groups that you wanted to work that day, you can workout and feel a bit more certain that you’re not over-taxing your nervous system.

This should leave you with more energy throughout the day and more importantly, help you to stay injury free while getting in your workouts.  Testing after every set (should take 5 seconds) will help you to identify if you should stop an exercise for that day.

For those of you that are visual learners, this video sums it up succinctly (4 minutes):

10 Quick Tips to Help You Integrate This Training

I have only been truly doing this for about 4 weeks now and have been using with clients for about 3 weeks, so I’m still learning about this in general.  Here are some things I’ve noticed:
1 – Those who have been in bad car accidents in the past tend to not test positive with many exercises, at least initially.
2 – The AirDyne Bike has been almost universally a positive thing for people.  In other words, nearly everyone that has tested on it, has tested positive, on a consistent basis.
3 – You will not always test positive on an exercise that is good for you one day.  In other words, if you tested well on regular deadlifts one day, you might not the next and the same can be said for nearly any exercise.
4 – Some people are off balance and will test well on one side, but not the other.  This includes me, with my left split squat nearly always testing positive, but not my right.  This same thing has shown up with my stretching as my right hamstring and hip flexor love being stretched and show a positive response every time, but never on my left.  Therefore, stretching my left hamstring and hip flexor are actually not recommended for me on most days.
5 – Some people try to push past the initial tightness they feel as they expect to get to their original distance in the stretch every time.  This can skew results and therefore needs to occasionally need to be re-evaluated.  Once they accept that they don’t have to beat the original distance every time, the test works much better.  Remember, it’s not a contest, just feedback to enhance your training.  Don’t cheat the test.
6 – The more consistent you use this with all of your training and warm-ups, the better the results with pain reduction and strength increase.  This can make your warm-ups not only faster, but more effective.
7 – Even if your main goal is fat loss, you can use this to become less injury prone and therefore push as hard as you can on any given day.
8 – Some exercises will show a considerable improvement, whereas some will show a slight improvement.  Some will go back to baseline and some will actually show up negative.  Only the ones with an improvement, even slight, should be considered for that day.
9 – Some people, after a sufficient warm-up (or even after a couple of exercises, will have a new baseline level of the test.  This means that if you test poorly and then every single exercise starts testing well, it may well be that your body is showing that everything is good for you, or it might indicated that you have a new baseline for that day.  The easy way to test this is to go back to an exercise you tested earlier, that tested negatively and see if it goes to the new baseline or back to where it was before.
10 – Once you know how to interpret the “hints” your body is telling you, it can be easier to find exercises that work well for you.  For example, If basic forward and back movements are not testing well for you, try single legged and single-armed variations.  This causes the stabilization muscles on your sides to work more and tend to work well with a good amount of people.

Give it 4 Weeks

Over the years, I’ve learned a ton about diet and exercise and have almost never universally recommended a technique when it comes to working out.  This is the exception.  If I were you, I would give it 4 weeks and see how it can help you get out of pain, while moving you closer to your workout goals at a faster rate.

This technique is really simple in practice but may be hard to visualize, so please watch the video below if you haven’t already.  If you have any questions after watching the video, please feel free to email me.

If you wish to learn more about this you can read:

To watch the video on BioFeedback Testing:

To learn about some of the benefits of the system:

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