Sunday, May 13, 2007

Paul Chek

Since I am presenting on Length/Tension Relationship imbalances at the RKC Level 2 I decided to really start organizing my ideas. There is a lot of material and I only have two hours, lol.So, I went back to my beginings and pulled out Paul Cheks Scientific Back Training video series.This information changed my life forever and set me on the path that got me to where I am today.I wouldnt have appreciated kettlebell and their importance in the 'most basic functional training' paradigm anywhere near as much had I not gone through my Chek phase first.

It was 1998 when I discovered Paul Chek's Scientific Back Training by accident. I saw his video on squatology advertised and, being a certified, squat training information FREAK at the time I decided to order it and then realized the entire course was available for not much more than the one video. I need the continuining ed credits for my personal training cert anyway.
When I got through the tapes I was another person. I couldnt beleive this one guy could be so smart and answers to so many of the questions I had about my body, my injuries and how best I needed to go about training my clients.

THis was the beginning of the 'functional training' era of PT and I was so happy to found Chek when I did.His corrective exercise approach was light years ahead of everything else I was reading and his understanding of anatomy,physiology,neuromuscular connections, biomechanics and orthopedics and his multi-interdisciplinary approach to getting the best results was mind boggling! Plus he was a total stud athlete who walked his talk to the Nth degree and that always counts big time with me. He was self taught for the most part but brilliant in his passion for finding real answers and totally devoted to the cause. He had scads of time in with clients and really fixing people, making them strong and preventing more injury at the same time. Just what I wanted to do.He was a neuromuscular therapist and worked on bodies all the time and knew just how badly muscles could behave and tweak a person if the root causes werent not found and fixed. His appreciation of Vladimir Janda so early just shows how smart he was.

At the time I was a 'regular' personal trainer, focusing on performance enhancement via bodybuilding, powerlifting,cardiovascular and nutritional techniques. After getting certified by Chek I entered a new realm of training people, one that sought to seek out potential injury sites, balance them out to avoid injury( pre-hab) with corrective exercise program designs as well as heal people's( and my own ) overuse injuries with a combination of stretching, strengthening,soft tissue work and repatterning movements. All focused on the seven functional primal patterns ( squatting,lunging,pushing, pulling ,bending twisting and gait).

I knew that with a knee that would only bend 90 degrees and a sport( powerlifting squatting) that required one bend the hip below 90 degrees that this could cause some orhtopedic problems. I didnt really know how badly I was screwing myself til I saw those tapes. And yet I still ignored it trying hard to fix the imbalances while still loading my badly bent frame waaaay past what any reasonable person would do. Passion is not reason and I have always had more of the former than the latter.

And then in 2000 there was no ignoring it and what Chek had fortold in the tapes had come true for me. My aggregious length tension imbalances torqued my spine until it could stand it no longer and it broke. Years and years of compensations, imbalances, scar tissue and inflammation would all be required to be addressed; full time now and heavy lifting was OUT. Probably forever but definitely for the immeditate present. That's when I discovered that as much as I loved squatting with a barbell I loved walking and working MUCH more. Oh yeah, and NOT being in ridiculous amount of searing pain.

And Chek's methods gave me the blueprint, showed me exactly what I needed to do to square and plumb myself. Which muscles I needed to stretch, which ones I needed to strengthen and how to go about it. Which I did, like I do everything, in total earnest.I watched and read and studied that series until I had it mastered and then I took his High Performance Core conditioning series and his Advanced Swiss Ball Methods for rehab course. All excellent but none so much as that first Scientfic Back training course. ANd an approach I still use to this day and one that is paying off big time for me.

Had I used my brain and stopped squatting and deadlifting so heavy earlier it would have been much better but hey, what can I say ;0))

They informed my methods and my approach with my clients and are very much responsible for me getting so many people's backs, shoulders and knees better and avoiding surgery.Or being able to come bask ASAP after surgery. Also, being able to trouble shoot potential problem areas ahead of time with his basic CROM assesments and using the same length/tension balancing approach to keep people as square and plumb as possible.

Watching him speak so articulately and deeply about his subject impressed me as it did in 1998. The guy is sharp.And the info holds up very well.I know his soft tissue approach has made a world of difference for me and my clients. The idea of using soft tissue modalities to releive trigger points which would postively affect length /tension force couples in the body is very cool.
more than one way to open up a tight flexor or faciliated muscle.

The introduction of the kb as the exercise tool of choice to utilize all those primal patterns(almost all at once) was the next step in my physical evolution and healing. THe more i used the single kettlebell movements as the cornerstone of my movement patterns the more the body 'reorganized itself' in a natural way that doing isolated movements,with bodybuilding type methods never could.

Not to say that they weren't ( aren't ) needed. One needs isolation sometime,especially post injury or surgery. But isolation ( as Chek states too) need to transition into integration or it stagnates ones progress. IMO the KB is a superior tool for the average person( or the previously injured person) to transition to as opposed to barbells or dbs. They would be next after kb work ,imo.

Back to the video series, I still have a lot of remembering to do.


Christine Petty said...

I can't claim that I understand a lot of Chek's stuff -- but I do try. :)

My workouts are definitely more balanced in my "off season". And I do understand that it can't be slow grind all the time, and to love my chiropractor and massage therapist... because if you're going to demand a lot from your body-- you should expect to give a lot back to it.

Mark Reifkind said...

yes,having a great support team of good chiros and bodywork people can sav eyou a lot of wear and tear over the long run.

fawn friday said...

Thanks for posting this link, Mark. Most everything Chek says, I have heard of before from other excellent sources... a sign that he has done his research. Good stuff... Aaron ordered his book.

Mark Reifkind said...

which book fawn?

Howie said...

Hi Mark,
This is my first posting, I came across your blog a few weeks ago and now have become hooked. You and Tracy are an inspiration! My wife and I are now awaiting delivery of our first kettlebells. (Mine should be arriving today!!) After reading this posting, I am concerned that I might be heading in the wrong direction as I have patterned my gym workouts to be more functional and powerlifting-centric. I am a 38 years old, have incurred injuries to both shoulders and neck, and am continually trying to keep them healthy and strong. I would love some more insight if possible.

Franz Snideman said...

Interesting interview. Paul was one the main reasons I even got into the industry back in 1996. I must say that Paul Chek is and has been by far the biggest influence on my training career and direction of my business. I have studied all of Paul's material and have taken his level 1 internship 3 times and his level 2 intership two times. Fantastic stuff.

Do I agree with all of his teaching? No. But the ones that work well are rock solid. His postrual information is great and is backed up by credible sourses that he learned from like Kendall and Vladmiar Janda. Spiritually he seems to be starting his reiligion which obviously is his right as an American. I find it ironic how he bashes on organized religion yet tells people how they should include his version of spirituality into their lives.

Mark Reifkind said...


you are NOT on the wrong path.developing good stability and basic strength in the primal patterns: squatting lunging pushing pulling bending twisting and gait are vital.
a stability componenet, a barbell/db/kb based strength program and a kb ballistics componenet make up probably the best mix of real world training you could do! the powerlifts and kb make an incredibly strong combination.
I do not like the bench press though as I feel it is an unatural motion,especially under heavy loads and messes almost everybody's shoulders up eventually.

The key thing for EVERYBODY is that your program has to be YOUR program. If its not individualized, and your background and indiosyncrocies taking into account progress will be slow if at all.

assesing and maintaining a solid neutral postural base and length tension relationships is also vital or no matter what you do you wont recove as fast or as well and injuries will be right around the corner.

Mark Reifkind said...


I agree that once he went on this spiritual path things got too 'wiggy',even for me, which is saying alot.

But,especially after re seeing his course his material is excellent and, most importantly, it works.

Guarden said...

Hi Mark.
Fantastic BLOG.
I got a question which I hope you have the answer for. I have a friend who is a Chek practicioner, and we talked about the woodchop in cables. He said that the head should look forward all the time, while doing a rotation in the lower spine while shifting the weight from one leg to the other. My opinion is, that I would keep the head, torso and pelvis as one, and mimic a real woodchop and therefore twist the entire body. His explanation was, that his version (Chek) included more primal patterns than mine. I just think that beginners needs to learn to make the body as one before doing complicated twisting maneuvers.. What do you think..

Regards Jacob, Denmark.

Mark Reifkind said...


first thanks for the kind words they are appreciated. I agree with you, I think the head should stay with the body and mimic the full movement.

who said each movement had to include maximum number of primal patterns anyway? especially if what you are doing IS a primal pattern,lol.

I have to get back to using more chopping and reverse chopping motions with my clients. I usually use dyna bands for the downward motion and med balls for the reverse.great move.
take care

( my sons middle name is Jacob!)

Aaron Friday said...

I have no certificates, but keeping the body aligned to one purpose seems natural and empowering.

Looking straight ahead while forcefully twisting the body to one side seems disconnected and unnatural.

Maybe this stuff is not for me to know in this life.

Mark Reifkind said...


your instincts seem to be better than most certifications.I agree.

Guarden said...

Hi Mark.
Thank you for your comment.
I just talked to my friend again. He mentioned that one good thing about looking straight ahead is, that a lot of athletes look straight ahead while the body does other. But I would still keep the focus on looking the direction the body does. But who want to do cables, when you can do the real deal.
Last year I bought a sledgehammer which I practiced some with. Throwing it as far as possible and doing other circus drills is very impowering and fun to do.
BTW, just talked to Kenneth Jay, I should say hi from him. He told me about all the stuff you have been competing in. You are truely an amazing athlete. Hope to see you at the RKC next year. I will be there to teach.
Best regards,

Mark Reifkind said...


one good thing is that one can it both ways, depending on the need of the situation. Thanks for the kind words its been a long career for me and it just keeps getting more interesting!lol.
I am definitely going to be teaching at the Danish RKC next year so we will meet for sure!

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poppet said...

I'm just trying to figure out the anatomy, reverse woodchop, does that contract internal or external oblique on the rotation (ie turning to the R from lo to hi)