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How To Turn On Your Butt, Activate Deep Breathing & Decompress Your Spine (And Why I’ve Completely Changed My Morning Routine).

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It's no secret that I am a fan of intricate, somewhat OCD morning routines. From waking up to take HRV measurements and gratitude journaling to lovingly filtering my coffee through a stainless steel filter, to performing intranasal, in-ear and retinal light therapy to using a squatty potty, an infrared sauna and a touch of Kundalini yoga, my morning routine has continually evolved as the science of beginning one's day with an optimized body and brain gets better and better.

As I highlight in my last article on my morning routine, I used to do a 10-15 minute series of yoga and calisthenic moves as the hot water brewed for my coffee: a seemingly perfect way to get the breath and blood flowing.

But I don't do those moves anymore.

Instead, I now have a far more effective way to “turn on” my butt, decompress my spine, activate deep diaphragmatic breathing and much more, and in this article I'm going to tell you exactly what I've added into my morning routine.


The Problem With Gravity

It all starts with gravity.

Just think about all the different things that happen when gravity hits your body: specifically when it comes to the ability of gravity to adversely affect processes in some or all of the following physiological systems:

Your respiratory system, because a compressed rib cage limits the lungs' ability to expand and diminishes your breathing capacity…

Your digestive system, because squashes organs don't function nearly as well as they should and that burdens the body's ability to gain nourishment from food..

Your circulatory system, because squeezed blood vessels are not as efficient or as effective as they ought to be transporting nutrients, oxygen, carbon dioxide, hormones, and blood cells to where they need to be transported in order for your body to perform or fight disease…

Your nervous system, because a compressed spinal cord and constricted neural pathways slow the progress of all those neurotransmitters trying to communicate from the periphery to the central nervous system – and back again – and can undermine the brain's ability to coordinate and influence all the activities of your body…

Hunching all day at a keyboard, tilting our heads forward over our phones, commuting long hours, and slouching on the couch simply magnify and aggravate these problems, resulting in poor posture that throw our bodies out of balance, causing unnecessary stress and strain that compromises our joints, restricts organ function, and weakens our force output.

So the reasoning goes something like this: if you can wake up in the morning and do something that fights all the effects of gravity and restores your body to a decompressed state that theoretically allows you to feel better and stands taller all day long, with better digestion, no low back pain, and enhance circulation…

…why not try it? 


Enter Dr. Eric Goodman

Enter Dr. Eric Goodman, who you may recognize from the TEDx Talk – The Unexpected Physical Consequences of Technology and from the podcast I recorded with him on Why Your Back Is The Most Important Part Of Your Core Workout, And What You Can Do About It.

Dr. Goodman has spent years studying human physiology and movement, and has helped people of all ages and occupations heal and correct lifelong debilitating pain using something called Foundation Training. His program trains your posterior chain muscles, specifically your shoulders, back, butt, and legs, to shift the burden of supporting your body to where that burden belongs: the large posterior chain muscle groups.

Foundation Training was birthed through necessity when Dr. Goodman began suffering repetitive back problems while in his mid-20’s. He had blown out L4-L5 and L5-S1, and was told at 25 years old, that he needed back surgery. Instead, Dr. Goodman, who was in chiropractic school at the time, because a man obsessed. He used his anatomy knowledge, his deep understanding of exercise and his drive to banish his back pain to figure out how to actually decompress the spine and restore nerve and low back function.

Now, many professional and Olympic athletes use his system every day to enhance performance and force output while maintaining the health of the entire spine, including Chad Reed (motocross and supercross world champion), Lakey Peterson (women's surfing champion), Tour de France cyclists (including Lance Armstrong) and many more.

Foundation Training is all about your core, and, as Dr. Goodman explains in his new book “True To Form“, a book that systematizes his entire approach, your core is anything that connects to your pelvis, whether above or below it, including your hamstrings, glutes, and adductor muscles. Foundation Training teaches all those muscles to work together through specific full body movements and breathing patterns.

Every muscle that directly connects to your pelvis should be considered a piece of your core and your functional movement capacity, your athletic ability, flexibility, balance and strength are all dependent on a powerful core. To accomplish that, in the Foundation Training Program, Dr. Goodman includes moves that target the following muscles:

-Glutes. Properly activated glutes, AKA a “turned on” butt is crucial for correct movement patterns and posture.

-Adductors. Your inner thigh muscles are your built in traction system. When this muscle group remains strong, you have increased hip stability, stronger arches in the feet, and a pelvic brace that protects your back with a couple of the strongest muscles in your body.

-Deep lower back muscles. These facilitate the proper integration of the posterior chain muscles and the “talk” between your glutes and pelvis.

-Abdomen and hip flexors: Think of these front muscles of your body as a window that shows what is happening at the spine and pelvis. If the front is too tight, the back will not work properly.

-Transverse abdominis: These deep ab muscles are your built in bracing system, and when the transverse abdominus is tightened against the other muscles among this core group, the entire system becomes stronger.

Every exercise in Foundation Training is designed to add as many muscles into a given movement as possible, disperse more force throughout your body, and take friction away from your joints by placing that tension into the proper core muscles instead. Every exercise lengthens the front of your body (the over-tightened, over-shortened muscles in your body) and strengthens and lengthens the back of your body, allowing you to stand tall and to move very powerfully, very gracefully, and with a lot of flexibility.

For example, the most popular Foundation exercise is called “The Founder” (as shown in this video). “The Founder” helps reinforce proper movement by strengthening the entire back of your body and dispersing your weight through the posterior chain muscles. As a result, your weight shifts back toward your heels and “untucks” your pelvis, which lengthens your hip flexors, giving you length all along the front of your body.

So what exactly is happening to your body when you implement moves like this?

1. You turn your butt on.

The contract-and-hold nature of Foundation Training is technically a form of “eccentric force dispersion”, especially among the posterior chain muscles such as your glutes and hamstrings. Improved muscular tone, muscle chain integration, and more efficient muscular contractions are all consequences of this type of eccentric training. When you stimulate a muscle's ability to absorb force before you ask that muscle to generate force, it will help it learn efficiency and proper posture throughout the rest of the day. In short, you turn your butt on so that you use your glute muscles well throughout workouts, standing postures, sitting postures, etc. the rest of the day.

2. You breathe more deeply.

When it comes to oxygenation, your mitochondrial health and overall nervous system strength, there is no more important a thing you can do than maintain the ability to inspire well. Your serratus muscles are of key significance to rib cage expansion during inspiration, and during the Decompression Breathing that accompanies every Foundation movement, you train your serratus musculature, particularly during the exhalation of every breath (important note: your lungs are in your rib cage not your abdomen). Considering you breathe 12,000 to 22,000 times per day, it's pretty dang important that you execute this repetitive pattern properly.

3. You open blood and nerve function to your skull.

You have very important neurological and vascular tissue traveling through the area on which the base of your skull rests. To open blood flow to these areas, you must actively lengthen and increase space along the backside of the neck as well as the front side of the chest. The cranial nerves deserve more respect, attention and space than they can receive in the postures associated with anterior head carriage, such as sitting at a desk or driving in a car. Foundation Training lengthens the spaces around these nerves and pulls your head and neck into a more appropriate position.

From improved digestion to increased force output from the powerful glute muscles, there are a host of other benefits to Foundation Training, but you now know everything you need to explain to your loved one or neighbors why you're sticking your butt out and breathing with your hands clamped across your rib cage every morning, right?


My New Morning Routine

So although I've been somewhat familiar with Foundation Training for a few years now, two months ago, Core Foundation trainer Kate Murphy came to my house to give me a quick refresher on the Foundation moves and to ensure I was doing them with laser-like precision and accuracy. Here are a few photos of her correcting my form and putting me through the ringer…

Ben Greenfield

Ben G

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And I'm proud to report that I now have not missed a single morning of Core Foundation training for the past 47 days. Every morning, I simply complete either the Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday or Monday, Wednesday, Friday routine from Dr. Goodman's True To Form book. Here's a screenshot from my phone that show which moves I do on those days:

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As a result, I'm stander taller, I'm breathing deeper, I'm thinking more clearly, and yes, my butt is definitely more “turned on” during all my activities of daily living.

So what do you think?

You game to try?

I dare you. Just give this a go for the next 30 days, assess how your body responds, then report back in the comment section below.

Do you have questions, comments or feedback for Kate Murphy, me, or Dr. Eric Goodman, or your own thoughts about foundation training or the True To Form book? Leave your thoughts below and one of us will reply.

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51 thoughts on “How To Turn On Your Butt, Activate Deep Breathing & Decompress Your Spine (And Why I’ve Completely Changed My Morning Routine).

  1. Hello Ben-A small point of clarification, if you will please be so kind :-)

    Question: Do you CFT 6 or 7 days a week?

    Background: You write: “I now have not missed a single morning of Core Foundation training for the past 47 days. Every morning, I simply complete either the Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday or Monday, Wednesday, Friday routine from Dr. Goodman’s True To Form book”.

    Thank you,

    Eddie

  2. So I just had a session with a foundation trainer, and am a bit confused about the breathing. She said it’s not like diaphramatic (or belly) breathing, but more like chest breathing. Is that correct?

  3. Would you recommend this book if I a dealing with herniated disk causing pinched nerve on L4/5 in lower left leg? I want to incorporate possibly some of the book with my physical therapist? My big on top of that is not activated my glutes/quads and some extent my core. Hamstrings/calves are getting overworked thus leading to the injury?

  4. Hi Ben
    I am a yoga and pilates teacher and have implemented some of the founder
    techniques in my classes
    especially half cobra with the upper legs pressed together to fire the adductors and decompress the spine
    I just ordered the book today
    Werner

  5. Do you still use MELT?
    If so when?
    Started MELT and really love it. I want to try FT also but wondering how to integrate it in my routine.

  6. Are organic foods better for you? A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition appears to indicate so and some media outlets that have covered the study seem to agree uncritically, but independent scientists are raising red flags about the claims.

    The study, “Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses,” is a meta-analysis of 343 previously-published studies that compared the nutritional composition of organic versus conventional foods. The team of scientists led by Carlo Leifert, professor of ecological agriculture at Newcastle University in England, did not conduct any new original laboratory or field work. The study was funded by the European Union and the Sheepdrove Trust, a British charity that funds research in support of organic farming–in other words, it’s in part an organic industry funded study.

    The Los Angeles Times covered the study with a sweeping headline, “Organic foods are more nutritious, according to review of 343 studies.” “Research is first to find wide-ranging differences between organic and conventional fruits, vegetables and cereals,” said an article in the Guardian that broke the embargo on the research last week. Leifert and his team found “substantially” higher levels of antioxidants and lower levels of pesticides in organic fruits, vegetables and grains than in conventional produce, according to the New York Times.

    “It shows very clearly how you grow your food has an impact,” Leifert told the Times. “If you buy organic fruits and vegetables, you can be sure you have, on average, a higher amount of antioxidants at the same calorie level.”

    Image via Flickr user muammerokumus
    Image via Flickr user muammerokumus

    But many in the scientific community are skeptical of the methodology and critical of the broad conclusions drawn in the study, including several researchers quoted in the Guardian and the New York Times. Tom Sanders, professor of nutrition at King’s College London, told the Guardian that the study has been “sexed up.”

    There have been three other similar meta-analyses since 2009, which have all concluded that there are few, if any, differences in the nutritional content of organic and conventionally grown foods. The first, a review of 137 studies by scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2009, concluded:

    On the basis of a systematic review of studies of satisfactory quality, there is no evidence of a difference in nutrient quality between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs.

    Another meta-analysis reviewed 237 studies comparing organic and conventional foods. This study, conducted by a team of Stanford scientists, concluded:

    The published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods.

    The authors of the new study, including Washington State University professor and long-time anti-GMO activist Charles Benbrook, say that the new study is more robust than the previous ones, partially because of the fact that more studies were included in the review.

    But Alan Dangour, food and nutrition scientist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and lead author of the first meta-analysis study, disagrees, saying that weaker studies should have been excluded from the analysis.

    “The quality of the available data varies greatly and it is therefore very surprising that, in their analysis, the authors decided to include all the data that they found, irrespective of their quality,” he said. “Mixing good quality data with bad quality data in this way is highly problematic and significantly weakens confidence in the findings of the current analysis.”

    Hank Campbell, science writer at Science 2.0, explains how such meta-analyses can be massaged to provide desired outcomes when bias is not eliminated:

    In a review, they look at no data, of course, and 343 papers becomes the problem rather than the solution when the methodology is flawed. Meta-analysis, as everyone with statistics knowledge knows, can boost the strength of systematic reviews when done properly but easily suffers from bias unless the researchers are truly interested in controlling eligibility criteria and methodological quality. Without controlled eligibility, it’s easy to find any pattern you want.

    Some have pointed out that the new study is not independently funded, as opposed to the previous three other studies. Marion Nestle, professor of public health, nutrition and food studies at New York University cited in the New York Times on this study, writes in her blog:

    One of the funders is identified as the Sheepdrove Trust, which funds research in support of organic and sustainable farming. … The paper says “the Trust had no influence on the design and management of the research project and the preparation of publications from the project,” but that’s exactly studies funded by Coca-Cola say. It’s an amazing coincidence how the results of sponsored studies almost invariably favor the sponsor’s interests. And that’s true of results I like just as it is of results that I don’t like.

    Others note that the study targets ten groups of chemicals, including conventional pesticide residues, antioxidants and metals, but does not examine other pertinent chemicals such as pesticides commonly used in organic agriculture that are approved by the National Organic Program. While synthetic pesticides are not used in organic agriculture, organic pesticides such as rotenone and pyrethrin are used as these chemicals are produced by plant sources and considered ‘natural,’ even though they might be more toxic to people than some synthetic alternatives.

    Image via OSU Master Gardener
    Image via OSU Master Gardener

    “None of the reviewed studies measured any remnants of so-called ‘organic’ pesticides–that is those that are permitted under the National Organic Program,” said Ruth Kava, senior nutrition fellow from the American Council on Science and Health. “There are many of these, and they are not necessarily safe for human consumption, but the organic foods industry seems to want to keep them secret.”

    Additionally, there has been little to no reference to the undesirable results found in the study. “The paper also reports a decrease in protein, nitrates and fibre in the organically grown crops, which may be undesirable,” Richard Mithen, leader of the food and health program at the Institute of Food Research, noted, “and which are maybe unsurprisingly not referred to by the authors in their advocacy of organically grown produce.”

    “The public health significance of the reported findings have been worryingly overstated,” Dangour added, saying that there has been no good evidence that suggests more antioxidants would have important public health benefits.

    The nutritional composition of fruits and vegetables is affected by a large number of factors, from the soil nutrient levels to the time of harvest to how the produce has been handled and transported, according to Bruce Chassy, professor emeritus of food science and human nutrition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. With so much variation and confluence of factors, it can be very misleading to say that any method of agriculture produces more nutritious foods than another based on research examining compositional differences in produce.

    “The research (as is true for all crop research) is a photo in time of a single crop in a single field in a single growing season. There is an abundance of evidence that the next year or the next field will yield different results,” said Chassy. “There are nutrient differences between peas in the same pod, and tomatoes picked at 4 different times during the day. One should therefore take any composition research with a large grain of salt.”

    There may be many disagreements over whether organic or conventional produce is more nutritious within the scientific community, but one thing is clear: simply encouraging more people to eat more fruits and vegetables, organic or not, will have more far-reaching effects on human health.

    “The additional cost of organic vegetables to the consumer and the likely reduced consumption would easily offset any marginal increase in nutritional properties, even if they did occur, which I doubt,” Mithen said. “To improve public health we need to encourage people to eat more fruit and vegetables, regardless of how they are produced.”

  7. Kathryn,

    All of the exercises in the book (True To Form) are helpful for any type of back pain. But, depending on your own personal needs/issues, some will be much more beneficial than others. If you need help figuring out which may be best for you, please feel free to email me ([email protected]) and I am happy to point you in the right direction. In general, holding each exercise for 3-5 decompression breaths is a great place to start. Best of luck 

  8. Hey recently read True to Form and I’m signed up for a workshop recommended by my physical therapist. I’m also reading and trying to implement some skill sets from the book Deskbound. It seems the 2 books can complement each other, but unless I’m tripping, the two authors suggest very different breathing techniques to follow. Any thoughts?

  9. Ben, I heard you recommend True to Form in a couple of podcasts, so I purchased the book. I’m having trouble with the instructions for the exercises, sussing out how long each pose should last (sometimes it says 3-5 breaths, sometimes no mention of time or breath cycles). Also, when the recommendation is to do 3 reps of each, I am assuming you go through ALL of the exercises for that day once, then repeat two more times? Or is it three reps of the same exercise, then move on to the next one?

    Thanks so much. Having had chronic low back pain for three years now, going through numerous chiropractic, pt, yoga, etc. practices, I am really hoping this works out. I will commit to the 30 challenge happily -just gotta make sure I’m doing it properly. Cheers! Kathryn

  10. AC, I have successfully used FT to address many cases of anterior pelvic tilt. If the exercises are done well, they work very quickly to improve/address this issue. Lunge decompression, in particular, is very helpful. You can learn it via the book or DVD’s. Best of luck!

  11. Jnejah, Yes, the small details make all the difference with FT! The book is very helpful and so are the DVD’s. But, if you can work with a certified instructor and dial in your form- you’ll notice a huge difference. I think Ben would agree ;)!

  12. Hi Ben,

    Absolutely love the routines. I actually have the DVDs that I do 2-3 times a week for about a year now, and now recently on the days I can’t do the DVD, I do those in the book. I like the variety. Any benefit with just sticking to the routines in the book or is switching it up with the DVDs equally effective?

  13. So glad you have endorsed Eric Goodman and his work. I have been doing his 11 minute You Tube video every day for a month and my back is so strong and finally pain free!! Amazing! Just ordered the DVDs when I read you have switched to Foundation exercises in the morning !!

  14. I have an anterior pelvic tilt that I’ve been trying to relax, and this program puts you into anterior pelvic tilt in many of the excercises. Will that be a problem for me? If not, please explain why.

    1. The counter pull to anterior pelvic tilt should come from the adductor muscles, along with other anchoring muscles along the base of your pelvis. Anchoring as we teach it is specifically designed to strengthen the muscles that protect you from hyper extending the base of your spine or the region where the base of rib cage meets the low back. Both areas are best supported with an expansive rib cage and a strong musculature along base of pelvis to feet.

  15. Ben, Thank you for sharing some great new insight into functional movement. I will be ordering the book immediately. I recently have added a few more clients in my age (over 50 and more), as you know their goals center more around functional movement and positive energy. Any exercises that improve ROM and functional movement will enhance anyone’s day.

    1. AC, I have successfully used FT to address many cases of anterior pelvic tilt. If the exercises are done well, they work very quickly to improve/address this issue. Lunge decompression, in particular, is very helpful. You can learn it via the book or DVD’s. Best of luck!

  16. I remember this video from a year ago, but I never followed up on applying the techniques, etc. Now I have ordered the book and contacted a coach in my area. I think this could be a game changer for me personally.

  17. Wow. Thank you sincerely my friend. That’s a nice bump towards legitimacy in the health community. Hope folks get some help with their body from this.

  18. Hi Ben. When the FT trainer provided you with a refresher, could you tell me what things she may have pointed out to make your moves more precise? What did you notice, if anything, that improved due to the newly discovered laser-like precision? Does it really need to be that precise? Were you originally trying to do what was written on the book or have you had prior FT coaching?

    1. Jnejah Yes, the small details make all the difference with FT! The book is very helpful and so are the DVD’s. But, if you can work with a certified instructor and dial in your form- you’ll notice a huge difference. I think Ben would agree ;)!

    2. Before I took the FT certification class last October, I had been doing FT for 10 months, using the FT DVDs and Eric’s first book. I was experiencing good results. At the certification, I learned to do the exercises correctly and that has made a tremendous difference. FT is a skill that you get better at with practice. The more you do it, the harder and more intense it gets, as you add more muscle groups to each exercise.

  19. Interesting about the contract and hold allowing a muscle to operate more efficiently and effectively; is this not the whole thesis behind Evo Sport and their extreme-iso workouts?

  20. I was wondering if this would help if I have overrotation of my right hip and pelvic shift forward. I tried physical therapy but I am not activating very well my glutes/butt/quads/core My hamstrings and calves are getting so overworked/tight that it is so painful to do manual therapy on me. Any suggestions

  21. Yuhuu… glad to see you are addressing your posture as I suggested in another post (perhaps you didn’t see it but still…)

    I find this easy but I know my fitness clients will struggle and, conversely, improve for sure.

  22. I’m in… where are the moves…. incidentally I’ve been following you for about 3 weeks and I’m into Bulletproof Coffee and I have lost 12 pounds maybe 14 pounds in the last 2 weeks and I’m cycling and running almost every day 61 years old and fit as a fiddle thanks for the tip on the organic butter too I listen to your podcast every day

  23. I’m game .

    Will turn 49 in August, Life long soccer /tennis player and physical goofball, with tight butt, tight adductors, tight hips , tight hamstrings etc.

    Have read up on goodman for a few months now.. ordering book and starting today…

    Feedback to follow at 15 days and 30 days.

    Thanks Ben.

    Side note, holy shit do we love our new clear light sauna….about 8 weeks in our house and I have some weird addiction now :-) thanks for that too Ben. And for those not familiar….infra red so very different from regular sauna.

  24. Elements of posture, Yoga and the breath. Simple yet genius. Dr. Goodman nailed it. I’ve been doing and teaching it to my clients. Thanks for sharing Ben. This is a must for everyone.

    1. I purchased TTF, but would like video demonstrations of the techniques. Is there a link for people who own the book to access videos anywhere?

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