Today, Dan and I will round out our two-part blog about FRC. Hopefully, you guys enjoyed the first one! If you haven’t read the first part, we’d highly recommend doing so: Why You Should Flex #everydamnday for Mobility Gains: Part 1. Now that we’re all caught up, without further ado, here’s Part 2.
Picking Up Where We Left off
In our first blog post discussing Functional Range Conditioning, we covered a lot of the heavy scientific information that forms the basis of the system and then dove into the three foundational pillars of FRC: irradiation, CAR’s, and PAIL’s/RAIL’s. In part 2, I want to dive deeper. The FRC system, like any other good training program, encourages making progress over time. There is an additional layer to the system that further enhances the benefits gained by acquiring the foundation in part 1 and flexing #everydamnday for mobility gains. What we will go over and demonstrate in today’s post is what encompasses the rest of the FRC System, which are PAL’s/RAL’s, full range PAIL’s/RAIL’s, and eccentric neural grooving.
Now that we’ve been doing CAR’s and PAIL’s/RAIL’s for a little bit, the next thing we want to do is establish end range control. The ability to actively contract in new ranges of motion is great, but we also have to teach the body how to respond more dynamically. This is where PAL’s/RAL’s come in, which respectively stand for Progressive Articular Loading and Regressive Articular Loading. Three sub-categories that encompass PAL’s /RAL’s are passive range liftoffs, passive range holds, and end range rotations. Notice too, that the “Isometric” part is missing here from the acronyms, which is exactly the point. We are looking to improve the strength, function, and control over the ranges of motion we gained utilizing PAIL’s/RAIL’s. In reality, you would most likely not be moving isometrically (I mean you can’t, otherwise, it’s not isometric!) nor forced to contract isometrically. Both real life and sports are dynamic in nature; most of the time, injury prevention, strength, and performance come down to the ability to absorb and produce force.
Remember that mobility is not only about having range of motion at a joint, it is also about having the ability to access that range of motion safely and effectively. Once you have acquired a newfound range, the next steps are learning to maximally recruit all the motor units involved here (increase neural drive) and learning to control that range eccentrically. In simple terms, when shit hits the fan outside of the training session, we want to make sure our nervous system and our joints can adequately deal with it, as Serena Williams artfully demonstrates.
At this point, I should mention that this is also where you will see some of the “cooler” exercises that are derived from the FRC system, which we mentioned in the beginning of part 1. Once again, I just want to remind you not to jump into these sexy exercises from the get-go!
I’m doing Passive Range Lift Offs for the hip. I’m trying to create a stronger, active range of motion. Preparing them for all the fun things I do that are hard on my body, like Jiu Jitsu, and kick boxing. Need to keep them strong and healthy! #impactperformancetraining #newbergimpact #frcms #functionalrangeconditioning #kinstretch #bjj #jiujitsu #impactjj #kickboxing #muythai #newbergoregon #yamhillcounty
Passive Range Holds
Let’s say that over time you have increased your ROM at a joint by 30 degrees using PAIL’s/RAIL’s. Now, you have to make sure that you have full control over this range of motion, and the first step in this process is using passive range holds. The idea here it to bring a joint to its end range passively by using some assistance or structural support, and then create as much tension as possible by irradiating to increase the amount of motor unit activation. After you create maximal irradiation, you then remove the passive support and ACTIVELY hold that end range position. Ideally, we want to see about a 10 second hold without lagging (losing position) or compensating before moving on to a more demanding exercise.
Be sure to check out the video below for an example of passive range holds for hip flexion:
Passive Range Lift-offs
This brings us right into passive range lift-offs, which follow the same principles as passive range holds in terms of irradiating and positioning the articulation at the end range of motion. Lift-offs are a logical progression from holds, as you are not only maintaining the passive position you’ve achieved previously, but also contracting concentrically into further range of motion, increasing neural drive even further.
As you will see below, these are way more difficult:
Finally, we can now move on to the most neurologically taxing exercises that encompass PAL’s/RAL’s: end-range rotations. Again, we want to bring the articulation to it’s end range, but this time, we perform small circles of about 5-10 cm in diameter in that position. Holding the articulation in this position while going through small, dynamic circles increases neural drive even further.
Watch below for a demonstration of end-range rotations for the shoulder, which is in full flexion:.
With end-range rotations, we also have the option of performing global end range rotational training, something that Dr. Spina says is essentially “CAR’s on steroids.” In this case, we are simply loading CAR’s with an external stimulus throughout the entire range of motion. An example of this is using ankle weights during standing Hip CAR’s.
With the three different tiers of PAL’s/RAL’s we have a set progression of how to get essentially every joint in the body moving into new ranges of motion and controlling them which brings us to the final two aspects of the FRC system: full range PAIL’s/RAIL’s and Eccentric Neural Grooving.
Full Range PAIL’s/RAIL’s
The biggest benefit that I have found for utilizing full range PAIL’s/RAILS’s is that it allows one to take all the newfound range of motion, control it, and then carry it over to the exercises they love and can now perform better. For instance, over the course of the last few months, I have established the required range of motion through my ankles, knees, hips, and spine to perform a pistol squat, but for whatever reason when I got into the bottom position I was unable to do so. This is where full range PAIL’s/RAIL’s come into play. By isometrically contracting and driving out of the hole deeper and deeper in the pistol, over the course of a few weeks I was able to perform a full range pistol squat for reps, when at one point, I couldn’t get much beyond parallel. The reason that this comes after everything else in the FRC system however is that we need to make sure that every joint required in the movement is able to get into the proper position to assure that no compensations are occurring.
Eccentric Neural Grooving
Finally, we can move on to Eccentric Neural Grooving, which is the final progression in the FRC system. For years, people have reaped the benefits of eccentric training for things such as hypertrophy and strength. Well, eccentric training has numerous benefits within the FRC system as well. Eccentrics work within the FRC system to further enhance the tissue adaptations that we have been working to improve prior. When we think about stretching in the traditional sense, one usually gains (passive) flexibility by increasing his/her tolerance to the stretch. On the other hand, eccentrics actually help to improve flexibility by adding more sarcomeres to each muscle fiber.
See below for a demonstration of eccentric neural grooving for the anterior compartment of the legs:
The final benefit of ENG becomes apparent when examining how the majority of injuries occur. Injuries occur when the external load exceeds the loading capacity of the tissues involved. Thus, by eccentrically loading the tissue, we can increase our tissue resiliency even further. Now this is not to say that eccentrically loading the lateral aspect of your ankle will definitely prevent you from spraining your ankle; there is something to be said for the velocity at which injuries occur which we obviously can’t replicate. But through eccentric loading we can ideally take what would normally be a grade 3 ankle sprain and make it a grade 1 ankle sprain because the tissue is more prepared to handle the load. Scroll up and rewatch the GIF of Serena Williams sliding into a split, and take note of her right foot. She definitely has the tissue strength to prevent her from spraining her ankle.
Piecing Together the Puzzle
Between both part 1 and part 2 of these articles, we’ve went through the entire FRC system and all of the progressions. The examples that we’ve provided here are really just scratching the surface of FRC; it’s still a ton of information, and I would like to top it off by going over how to take it into action.
On this note, it is important not to view FRC as something to use during your warm-up or as a “filler” between sets because the exercises are low intensity. It is actually quite the opposite; after all, much of what we do and have demonstrated that falls within the realm of FRC training is actually very taxing on the nervous system. For example, you can do CAR’s as part of your warm-up and move on to PAIL’s/RAIL’s, but you should not be supersetting PAIL’s/RAIL’s with heavy squats or passive range lift-offs with clean & jerks.
I don’t expect you to completely abandon what you love to do when you train in favor of FRC 5x a week. But if you want to make true improvements in your mobility and prevent injury I would recommend trying to dedicate at least 2-3 hours per week of FRC specific training, and perform daily maintenance CAR’s #everydamnday. This is where something like Kinstretch classes comes into play, and on that note, you can find out more about our offering here.
Otherwise, where do we start? It is best to perform what is essentially a whole body scan using CAR’s and make note of which joints move very well and which need some work based on your goals. For example, a weightlifter trying to improve his snatch will have different needs than a powerlifter looking to improve his back squat. You can probably hedge your bets that the ankles, knees, hips, and shoulders are priorities for the majority of people, though. Obviously, your best bet to link up with a FRCms who will have an exact idea of what every joint in your body needs and where it is on the spectrum. For now, here is a super handy flow chart below that I constantly refer back to when I put FRC into practice, either for myself or our members:
To recap, FRC is a system that supports sports performance, injury prevention, and movement practice by improving articular control as well as by preparing the body’s tissues to absorb load. With all this information at your fingertips, it’s time to go out there and #prepareyourself to #doANYTHING . Hope you found this two-part blog insightful; be sure to let us know what you think!
featuring Dan Cerone
Dan Cerone is the Director of Programming at Halevy Life.
Dan holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Clinical Exercise Science and a Master’s Degree in Human Performance, which were both completed at Ithaca College. In addition, Dan is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and Functional Movement Screen Specialist (FMS).
Prior to joining the team at Halevy Life, Dan completed a coaching internship at one of the country’s premiere strength and conditioning facilities where he worked with a wide variety of athletes, but mainly professional and collegiate hockey players. More recently, Dan worked as a Strength and Conditioning Coach at Ithaca College where he programmed and worked with numerous varsity teams.
Dan is a competitive powerlifter who has placed first in multiple competitions.