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How To Get Faster Fast, The Best Shortcuts To Power, Why Conventional Speed Training Sucks & More With Nick Curson.

Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

My guest on today's podcast is Coach Nick Curson, owner of Speed of Sport. He has produced multiple World, National, International, and Collegiate Champions. He is the head strength and conditioning coach for the famous ALA Boxing Gym in Cebu, Philippines and his primary areas of study are Eastern Bloc Strength & Conditioning, Plyometrics, Biomechanics, Exercise Physiology, and Rehabilitative Exercise.

Speed of Sport is owned and operated by Nick Curson. With over 18 years of experience in nearly every type of strength training modality, Nick has studied extensively with top scientists, sports trainers, strength coaches, Olympic lifters, physical therapists, bio mechanical engineers, professional boxing trainers, martial artists, and more to develop the unique system of training for speed that we discuss on today's show.

During our discussion, you'll discover:

-Why Nick is so into training the nervous system when it comes to full body performance (vs., say, the cardiovascular or muscular system)…[10:50]

-The training components Nick emphasizes that most other coaches and personal trainers don't…[14:40]

-Why heavy strength training is something that you shouldn't do very often vs. power and speed training…[24:30]

-How to strike a balance between muscle hypertrophy and muscle speed…[34:30]

-The best way to measure the speed of your muscles and rate of force development…[38:45]

-Why Nick always starts by training an athlete's feet and proprioception…[46:40]

-How this type of training can be used by endurance athletes like triathletes, marathoners and obstacle course racers…[54:32]

-How new “biohacking” headsets like tDCS can increase rate of force development, power and explosiveness…[58:45]

-Nick's top body weight exercises for developing speed…[61:40]

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

SpeedOfSport.com – use coupon BEN

Halo Neuroscience headset for transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS)

Shuttle Systems plyometric machines

My interview with Jon Bruney on Neuromass training

The Bjornsen study Ben discusses (from Paul Jaminet's website)

The mPower device for measuring rate of force development

Do you have questions, thoughts or feedback for Nick or me? Leave your comments below and one of us will reply!

Six Time-Hacking Fitness Tips.

It's that time of week again – the day when I give you a sneak peek at practical, quick and dirty fitness tips from this week's Get-Fit Guy article.

See, each week, over at the Quick & Dirty Tips Network, I produce a free, easy-to-read article, accompanied by a short 5-10 minute audio version of that article. Everything there is focused on the latest fitness research, exercise news, and quick and highly practical muscle gain, fat loss and physical performance tips. It’s called “The Get-Fit Guy’s Quick & Dirty Tips To Slim Down & Shape Up”.

Here's your sneak peek from this week's article,“Six Time-Hacking Fitness Tips”.

“I recently tweeted the results of a recent study that indicated “…no difference in increased fitness with swimming 50's vs. swimming 100's”. In this study, twenty-four swimmers were equally divided into a short-interval training group that performed eight weeks of workouts that consisted of 12-16 × 50m with 15 seconds rest or a long-interval training group that performed 6-8 × 100m with 30 seconds rest, and finally, a control group. The researchers then measured predictors of aerobic performance such as lactic acid threshold and heart rate recovery, and also measured overall swim performance.

It turns out that, after eight weeks of training. the short-interval (50m) and long-interval (100m) protocols conferred very similar improvements in swimming performance and aerobic adaptations. Problem is, once you match the workouts for distance and time, they’re actually pretty similar. At first glance, there really isn’t much of a time-hacking exercise takeaway, but rather just an indication that doing short, hard repeats is just as effective as doing slightly longer repeats.”

Want to take a deeper dive? Read the whole article? Grab the audio version? Click here to go check it out now or bookmark for later.

Finally, if you have your own ideas for future fitness articles you'd like to see me write, leave your ideas in the comments section below.

Four Healthy Coffee Alternatives For Workout Energy.

It's that time of week again – the day when I give you a sneak peek at practical, quick and dirty fitness tips from this week's Get-Fit Guy article.

See, each week, over at the Quick & Dirty Tips Network, I produce a free, easy-to-read article, accompanied by a short 5-10 minute audio version of that article. Everything there is focused on the latest fitness research, exercise news, and quick and highly practical muscle gain, fat loss and physical performance tips. It’s called “The Get-Fit Guy’s Quick & Dirty Tips To Slim Down & Shape Up”.

Here's your sneak peek from this week's article, Four Healthy Coffee Alternatives For Workout Energy.

“It’s no secret that I’m mildly obsessed with my morning cup of coffee. From fretting over the coarseness of the grind, to dialing in the absolutely perfect water temperature to using stainless steel filters, pourover method and, of course, my very lucky, customized “Man In The Arena” Theodore Roosevelt coffee mug, there’s just something I can’t resist about a piping hot morning cup of flavorful joe.

But when it comes to my pre-workout supplementation strategy, things get a bit different. I’m really not a fan of dumping a host of sympathetic nervous system, “fight-and-flight” triggering compounds – including caffeine – into my body before I go pound the pavement or hit the gym. Why? I just don’t like the jittery, “fake energy”, overstimulated feeling I get from using central nervous system stimulants pre-workout, and would rather not mask fatigue, push through an overtrained body when I’m tired and should perhaps instead be taking a nap or doing yoga, or just overstimulate my adrenal glands with excessive caffeine…”

Want to take a deeper dive? Read the whole article? Grab the audio version? Click here to go check it out now or bookmark for later.

Finally, if you have your own ideas for future fitness articles you'd like to see me write, leave your ideas in the comments section below.

Do Training Masks Really Work?

It's that time of week again – the day when I give you a sneak peek at practical, quick and dirty fitness tips from this week's Get-Fit Guy article.

See, each week, over at the Quick & Dirty Tips Network, I produce a free, easy-to-read article, accompanied by a short 5-10 minute audio version of that article. Everything there is focused on the latest fitness research, exercise news, and quick and highly practical muscle gain, fat loss and physical performance tips. It’s called “The Get-Fit Guy’s Quick & Dirty Tips To Slim Down & Shape Up”.

Here's your sneak peek from this week's article,“Do Training Masks Really Work?”.

“You’ve no doubt seen them: those sleek, tight-fitting masks worn by UFC fighters like Diego Sanchez, Tyrone Woodley and Carlos Condit, celebrity actors like Michael Jordan in the recent movie Creed and even extreme workout enthusiasts at your local gym who appear to be the exercising equivalent of the villain Bane from Batman’s “Dark Knight Rises”. Indeed, from the looks of NFL players, Ironman triathletes, BJJ champions, MMA fighters, boxers, Crossfitters and beyond, these masks, which come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes, seem to be taking the fitness world by storm.

But do training masks really work? In today’s article, you’ll discover the answer, and find out whether these trendy face-gadgets are waste of your money or a breakthrough device that will give you the lungs of a freak mutant.”

Want to take a deeper dive? Read the whole article? Grab the audio version? Click here to go check it out now or bookmark for later.

Finally, if you have your own ideas for future fitness articles you'd like to see me write, leave your ideas in the comments section below.

The Weekly Roundup: Your Go-To Guide For Everything You May Have Missed This Week & More!

Welcome to my brand new Weekly Roundup!

In one convenient post, you're about to discover the most important things I've noticed this week, including the latest news from the fronts of fitness, nutrition, health, wellness, biohacking and anti-aging research, the top photos, videos and stories from this week, upcoming events and speaking appearances, giveaways, specials and a host of other things you may have missed.

Let's do this!


Podcasts I Recorded This Week:

Why ADD And ADHD Are Good For You (And Supplements, Foods & Lifestyle Strategies To Help With ADD & ADHD).

peter-s-landscape

What Your Poop Can Tell You About Your Health, How To Heal Tendons & Ligaments Faster, Natural Ways To Decrease Cortisol & More!

360-image

Popular Podcasts I Was On This Week:

I discussed my personal life with Hayden Wilson…

We explored my life journey, how I got to this point, what a ‘regular' day looks like, some of the experiments I've taken ‘too far', my podcasting journey of over 10 years, the 3 structured habits I live by, and much more.

Articles I Published This Week:

The Ultimate Guide To Biohacking Your Testosterone: 17 Ways To Maximize Muscle-Building, Libido & Anti-Aging.

Should You Use This Controversial Hormone Marketed As A Natural “Fountain Of Youth”?

This Week's Inner Circle News:

Inside the Ben Greenfield Fitness Inner Circle, my private forum for personal interaction with me and my family, my amazing wife, Jessa Greenfield, released her October Inner Circle Healthy Home Workshop this week. Check out the cover below to see the topics, and click here to learn how to live a more creative, natural, and simplified life!oct-2016-hhw

Upcoming Events:

I was at the Spartan Ultra Beast in Tahoe and the National Endurance Sports Summit in New Jersey, and, for those of you who couldn't make Tahoe or New Jersey, you can click here to RSVP and join me on October 29th For The Las Vegas Tough Mudder.

“… the hellish 24-hour endurance race, Tough Mudder Las Vegas features a challenging mix of desert mountains, lakefront scenery, and rocky terrain.”

You can click here to view the full Ben Greenfield Fitness calendar and all the events I will be at, and where you can join me for fun meetups, future events and conferences, races and more!

This Week's Most Popular Instagram Pic:

Jessa and I got a little romantic in Kauai…

This Week's Most Popular Tweet:

This Week's Most Popular Facebook Post:

A little Throwback Thursday…

This Week's Most Popular Snapchat Story:

I got a little crazy with ketones…

…but, as you may know, snapchat deletes stories after 24 hours of going live – you will have to follow me on Snapchat to find out why I drank $3000 of ketone esters and logged the whole experiment for you.

This Week's Most Popular Pin from Pinterest:

We were running wild with OCR – no wonder our top pin was all about my buddy Hunter McIntyre, pro endurance athlete, Broken Skull winner, BoundlessTV co-host, obstacle course racing champion and self-described macho man.

Cool New Products:

The world's top obstacle course racer, Hunter McIntyre, and me launched our new Obstacle Dominator – Obstacle Racing and Spartan Race Training Plan 2.0 (Full Digital Package).

“This is the groundbreaking, done-for-you obstacle training program designed by Greenfield Fitness Systems head coach Ben Greenfield and top Spartan athlete Hunter McIntyre. You can click here to go to the official page for this training package, or you can simply keep reading below to get details on all nine components of this complete obstacle racing and Spartan race training plan!”

…and, we're running a $20 discount – the $97 Full Digital Package is only $77 until Oct 31st.

Obstacle Dominator 2.0

Click here for everything else I have created, including supplements, books, gear, and more.

And…This Week's Big Giveaway:

We're giving away a sauna. Yep, a full-on, giant infrared sauna…

…and you can click here to enter to win a Clearlight Saunctuary Full Spectrum Infrared Sauna!

Only Clearlight Saunas have no EMF or ELF exposure, a 100% Lifetime Warranty and 500w Full Spectrum heaters with near, mid and far infrared.

Free shipping to the Grand Prize Winner is included! (total value $5995) Winner will be announced on Ben's mid-November upcoming sauna podcast.

Leave any questions, comments, or feedback below – or any news of the week that you think I should have added – and I will be sure to reply.  

Cheers,

Ben

Should You Lose Fat and Build Muscle At The Same Time?

It's that time of week again – the day when I give you a sneak peek at practical, quick and dirty fitness tips from this week's Get-Fit Guy article.

See, each week, over at the Quick & Dirty Tips Network, I produce a free, easy-to-read article, accompanied by a short 5-10 minute audio version of that article. Everything there is focused on the latest fitness research, exercise news, and quick and highly practical muscle gain, fat loss and physical performance tips. It’s called “The Get-Fit Guy’s Quick & Dirty Tips To Slim Down & Shape Up”.

Here's your sneak peek from this week's article, “Should You Lose Fat and Build Muscle At The Same Time?”

“…Back when I was a bodybuilder, it was common knowledge that one of the best ways to get a nice body – especially if the goal was the ultimate combination of lean muscle mass and low body fat – was to do a “bulking” phase of muscle gain, followed by a “stripping” or “cutting” phase of fat loss leading up to the show (in which one basically poses on stage in scant clothing while performing a highly entertaining “flex-off” against fellow competitors).

But new exercise science research suggests that my approach (and the approach of many other professional fitness enthusiasts and workout “gurus”) could be flawed when it comes to building muscle and losing fat. In this episode, you’re about to discover exactly what that new research says, and get practical tips based on this new science that will help you build muscle and lose fat, whether you’re pursuing bodybuilder-esque bulk or just want to get a lean body.”

Want to take a deeper dive? Read the whole article? Grab the audio version? Click here to go check it out now or bookmark for later.

Finally, if you have your own ideas for future fitness articles you'd like to see me write, leave your ideas in the comments section below.

3 Quick & Dirty Tips To Be A Fitness Freak When Traveling.

It's that time of week again – the day when I give you a sneak peek at practical, quick and dirty fitness tips from this week's Get-Fit Guy article.

See, each week, over at the Quick & Dirty Tips Network, I produce a free, easy-to-read article, accompanied by a short 5-10 minute audio version of that article. Everything there is focused on the latest fitness research, exercise news, and quick and highly practical muscle gain, fat loss and physical performance tips. It’s called “The Get-Fit Guy’s Quick & Dirty Tips To Slim Down & Shape Up”.

Here's your sneak peek from this week's article, “3 Quick & Dirty Tips To Be A Fitness Freak When Traveling: Discover exactly how you can stay fit and workout when on the road, in a hotel, in an airport or anywhere else where maintaining fitness can be hard.”

“…I just returned from a three day conference.

While there, I was shocked at the number of conversations I overheard and number of people who mentioned to me (perhaps knowing I am a fitness “guru”) how much fitness they lose while traveling, participating in multi-day conferences, and jetting to and fro in planes, trains and automobiles without access to their normal daily workout routine or health club.

But I beg to differ. I’m not saying the following to brag, but rather to give you a personal example. As a guy who is on the road for an average of two weeks out of every month, I manage to:

-Maintain 3% body fat at 180 pounds of mostly muscle

-Compete in some of the most difficult races on the face of the planet

-Get sick an average of once every 3 years

-Squeeze 60-90 minutes of exercise and movement into every busy day

-Return from many days of travel across multiple time zones with zero jet-lag…”

Want to take a deeper dive? Read the whole article? Grab the audio version? Click here to go check it out now or bookmark for later.

Finally, if you have your own ideas for future fitness articles you’d like to see me write, leave your ideas in the comments section below.

A New Way To Get Unstoppable Conditioning, Maximum Strength, Speed, Power & Muscle…In 3 Hours Per Week (Or Less).

Click here for the full written transcript of this podcast episode.

On several recent podcasts, I've mentioned that (especially when I've been traveling and have limited equipment), one of my key, go-to workouts is a program known as “Neuro-Mass“, which I now consider to be one of fastest methods for developing power and strength with little more than your own bodyweight and, optionally, a kettlebell or two, adding slabs of functional muscle to a lean frame quickly, and building muscle recruitment and explosiveness in a smart, systematic way. 

Neuro-Mass gives you the exact protocols you need to create an impressive, functional, athletic physique, combining the best kettlebell resistance and bodyweight exercises with a new cutting edge training method called “Neuro-Sets“.

These Neuro-Sets, comprised of grinds, isometrics and explosive movements, create rapid physique transformation. While most training programs only focus on one approach to create growth or lean muscle or power or strength, Neuro-Mass uses multiple stressors in a single workout to create a better and smarter body, developing pure power combined with amazing capacity for sustained and continual strength output.

The entire program was designed by this episode's podcast guest: Jon Bruney.

Jon's exploits as Guinness World Record-holding strongman have been immortalized in Ripley’s Believe it or Not and seen on NBC’s: America’s Got Talent, The Today Show and TruTv’s Guinness World Records Unleashed.

A true renaissance man in the realm of strength-development, Jon is a best-selling author, world-class trainer, coach, motivational speaker, strongman, and pastor. Jon’s work with competitive athletes includes Olympians and NFL players. He is the author of the best-seller “Neuro-Mass – The Ultimate System for Spectacular Strength”. He also writes a training series called “Foundations” which is featured in MILO, widely considered the world’s most prestigious strength training journal. As co-owner of Submit Strength Equipment, Jon has been responsible for the design of numerous pieces of cutting-edge training equipment now in use around the world. Jon is also a veteran of numerous trainer certification courses.

During our discussion, you'll discover:

-Why one of Jon's favorite tricks is to attach two Harley-Davidson motorcycles to his body…[11:15]

-How to start each set that you do with something called a “grind” to stimulate maximum muscle recruitment…[17:40]

-The best way to breathe if you are lifting a weight to maximize muscle tension…[21:45]

-Why Jon is such a fan of the Powerlung, and also putting a paper bag over his face…[24:10]

-A surprising training trick you can do with a yoga block while you are sprinting…[33:45]

-Why you should create “controlled trauma” in a muscle during an exercise…[36:40]

-The reason most people do isometric exercises like a wall squat the wrong way, and how you should actually do it…[43:00]

-How to exhaust a muscle completely with nothing more than a bath towel…[44:25]

-And much more!

Resources from this episode:

-Book: Neuro-Mass – The Ultimate System for Spectacular Strength

-Magazine: MILO

The Powerlung

Neurogrips

Compex

Captain Of Crush hand grip strengthener

Do you have questions, comments or feedback for Jon or me? Leave your thoughts below and one of us will reply!

3 Chilling Ways To Get More Benefits Of Exercise By Using Cold Thermogenesis.

It's that time of week again – the day when I give you a sneak peek at practical, quick and dirty fitness tips from this week's Get-Fit Guy article.

See, each week, over at the Quick & Dirty Tips Network, I produce a free, easy-to-read article, accompanied by a short 5-10 minute audio version of that article. Everything there is focused on the latest fitness research, exercise news, and quick and highly practical muscle gain, fat loss and physical performance tips. It’s called “The Get-Fit Guy’s Quick & Dirty Tips To Slim Down & Shape Up”.

Here's your sneak peek from this week's article, “3 Chilling Ways To Get More Benefits Of Exercise By Using Cold Thermogenesis”.

“…I was recently reading a study called Running performance in the heat is improved by similar magnitude with pre-exercise cold-water immersion and mid-exercise facial water spray”. In the study, researchers compared the effects of pre-cooling  on running time trial performance and the physiological response to running. In this case, trained male runners completed a total of three 5 km running time trials on a non-motorized treadmill in relatively hot conditions (a nice balmy temperature of 91.4F!). Each trial included pre-cooling by cold-water immersion, which is basically sitting in a cold bath, mid-exercise cooling with a cold facial water spray, and a control group that (poor fellas) received no cooling at all…Running performance time was significantly faster following cold water immersion and also when getting sprayed with cold water during exercise…”

Want to take a deeper dive? Read the whole article? Grab the audio version? Click here to go check it out now or bookmark for later.

Finally, if you have your own ideas for future fitness articles you’d like to see me write, leave your ideas in the comments section below.

What Big Pharma Doesn’t Want You To Know About An Ancient Oil Invented By Four Robbers (And 10 Modern Ways To Use It).

Essential Oils

Check out this clip from a new film about essential oils…

The film, called “Ancient Secrets of Essential Oils“, delves into the world of essential oils and the fascinating history of where they come from, from ancient Egypt to the times of Christ to how they were used during the World Wars and how their resurgence is changing the way people view healthcare.

You learn how peppermint oil can be used to increase tolerance to lactic acid, to how frankincense can destroy cancer cells to why essential oils can never be classified as a drug by the FDA to why big pharma is definitely not a fan of these natural oils and much more.

As a matter of fact, even before this film came out, I myself have become a bit of an essential oil freak. Each day, without fail, I use at least three different essential oils (usually relaxing lavender, rose or bergamot in my bedroom and awakening peppermint, pine or rosemary in my office) and I always (and I mean always) have one particular “blend” of essentials oil in my travel bag which I'll talk about later in this article.

When it comes to essential oils, I consider Dr. Sarah LoBisco – a naturopathic medical practitioner certified in functional medicine – to be my go-to source for all things essential oil related. When she was on my podcast episode “Everything You Need To Know About Essential Oils For Fat Loss, Performance, Smart Drugs, Scar Healing, Detoxing And More” she discussed the scientific principles and research behind the anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties that specific essential oils have, and how these oils can be used to treat various conditions such as inflammation and immune system disorders, and also improve physical and cognitive performance.

Dr. Sarah knows more about how to intelligently use essential oils than any other person I know. And because of this ability to tap into natural plant-based extracts, she's able to pull off healing for patients, huge improvements in immune function, and even a competitive edge in athletes without turning to big pharma drugs.

In her practice, she uses specific essential oil blends to balance the body and mind of all her clients and patients. From Sarah’s point of view, every person (extreme athlete to soccer mom to CEO) who wants to dial-in focus, amp the mind up for competitive edge, or even experience the crazy phenomenon that happens with something as simple as sniffing peppermint oil should be using essential oils as part of their daily routine.

During our last conversation, Dr. Sarah explained to me 10 ways I could practically use one specific essential oils blends and gave me the entire how-to guide on everything related to this oil – from the science (and what the heck essential oils are), to the ancient history of this one particular oil, to why I should always keep it around the house, in my car and travel with to keep me from being susceptible to any viruses, bugs, or funky airport flus – whether used orally, topically or diffused into the air.

In this article, you're going to learn exactly what Dr. Sarah has to say on the matter. Enjoy, leave your questions, comments and feedback in the comments section below and either Dr. Sarah or I will reply. If you click here, you can take a look at the actual brand and type of essential oils I use every day (there are many good brands out there, but I use one called “Young Living”).

———————–

What Are Essential Oils?

What if you were a science-geek aspiring to become a medical practitioner or pharmacist and got side-tracked by what you initially thought was “airy-fairy snack oil?” Not soon after, you found yourself in naturopathic medical school and becoming certified in functional medicine. You’d need to swallow a little bit of humble pie, right? Welcome to my world.

I started using essential oils over fifteen years ago. Even with my skepticism, these volatile constituents surprisingly produced results. I was impressed, I waived my acceptance letters into the conventional healthcare world and headed to the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine. I wanted to learn the science beyond natural medicine while still embracing the strengths of mainstream medicine. In other words, I wanted to feed my brain all there was to know about the pharmacology and phytochemistry of herbal plants as therapeutic agents.

Since graduating, essential oils have been one of my most powerful health tools in my practice to balance the body, mind, and spirit. They also offer a competitive edge in athletes, not just in their ability to enhance focus and performance, but because they can keep someone in peak health.

Ben and I have been working together with essential oils for a few years. He’s asked me to share about one of our favorite essential oils blends to demonstrate the power and versatility that can be found in one 15ml bottle. So, let’s get to it…

After reading this article, you will have a better understanding of:

  • The science of essential oils
  • Their ancient history- turned modern vindication
  • 10 powerful ways one essential oils blend can become your best biohacking tool

A little disclaimer before I get started. The FDA has not smiled about correlating specific brands to independent research on individual oils. To keep the Feds happy, this overview will describe a formulation Ben and I use based on ancient tradition, references found in peer-reviewed journal, and my clinical experience.

——————————-

The Science: Introduction to Essential Oils and Their Biochemistry

So what exactly are essential oils?

Essential oils are volatile secondary plant metabolites extracted from aromatic plant material by steam distillation or mechanical expression.1-10 Oils which are produced with the use of chemical solvents are not considered true essential oils due to the resulting alteration of chemical constituents from the solvent residues.1,10

These powerful compounds are produced by plants in order to provide defense from infestations, modulate immune function, and to stimulate various molecular pathways need for thriving.1-10 Their constituents can interact with cellular pathways to alter biochemical responses and optimize physiological function.1-14 Essential oils have been demonstrated to: inhibit microbe growth,3-5, 8-10 act as antioxidants,4-5, 8,10,13 support hormones,8,10 and calm inflammation. 2-6, 8,10,14

These plant substances not only exert modulation of molecular pathways and cellular receptor interaction,1-14 but also provide a profound impact on our bodies and mind through their aromatic qualities alone.15-24 For example, it has been demonstrated that odor can act as a stimulus producing changes in physiology independent of, and in connection to, psychological and memory-based associations of the smell.15-18, 21-25 These effects include modulation of skin conduction, heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and regional cerebral blood flow.20-24 Furthermore, the psychological and memory-enhanced associations with odor can impact mood, stress, and emotional state.15-25

Essential oils are absorbed easily into our system through skin application, inhalation, or ingestion and excreted quickly, mostly through the kidneys.8,10,26-29 They have a low toxicity profile, when used in their proper, pure form.8,10

Finally, let's delive into a bit of essential oils biochemistry 101, shall we? As Ben would say, “get your propeller hats on.” Here goes…

The major chemical constituents of essential oils include terpenes, esters, aldehydes, ketones, alcohols, phenols, and oxides. 2,10,14 These secondary metabolites can be classified on the basis of their structure (terpenes, terpenoids, phenylpropenes, or degradation products), solubility, or synthesis. One common way to group the volatile components is to organize them as either terpenoids or phenylpropanoids, or alternatively, into hydrocarbons and oxygenated compounds. 10

Different plants exhibit varying amounts of each of these compounds providing a unique fragrance and physical signature of each species. Furthermore, the secondary metabolites produced within each species will vary based on raw materials, harvesting methods, location and climate, manufacturing, and distillation techniques.1,10,30-32 (I did a pretty comprehensive review of standardization and quality in previous blogs if you want to learn more details.)

Alrighty, now that your propeller hats are all warmed up as far as the science of essential oils, let’s get to the history of essential oils in general and regarding the formulation of this little known ancient remedy.

 —————————–

History of Aromatherapy and Essential Oils

Let’s start at the beginning…

The history of the use of aromatics dates back thousands of years. A search through the literature, desk references, and the internet details various applications of the use of volatile plant medicines across cultures all throughout ancient times. The general consensus of the birth of aromatherapy is estimated to be between 6,000-3,500 years ago. According to some of the more cited websites, references, and authorities, essential oils used for various treatments has been recorded in early civilizations of Mesopotamia, China, India, Persia and ancient Egypt.10, 30-45 China may have been the first to use odorants for well-being.33 I have found several references stating their applications are found in translations of The Yellow Emperor’s Book of Internal Medicine.35-37 Still, other texts and blogs believe that usage began with Egypt civilizations.10,41,43

The modern technological advances that allow us to enjoy the more concentrated and precise distillation of essential oil’s medicinal and therapeutic constituents obviously did not exist in these times; however elemental techniques for isolating the fragrant and volatile components were employed. For instance, ancient Egypt is credited for extracting oils by infusion using rudimentary distillation techniques. Others believe distillation originates within Persia and India’s earliest history. Later on the Greeks, Romans, and Islamic extraction and distillation techniques refined crude methods.10,33 10, 30-42 The “Smell Report” from the Social Issues Research Centre states:

The process by which a flower’s scent is extracted and preserved using alcohol distillation is believed to have been discovered by Avicenna, the 11th century Arabian alchemist and physician, who stumbled on it while trying to isolate for Islam the soul of its holy rose. Before this, perfumes consisted only of thick resins and gums and gooey unguents.37

Perhaps the most quoted use of ancient times is during the Roman Empire within the New Testament. Hundreds of citations exist in the Holy Text of frankincense, cedarwood, hyssop, fir, and spikenard to heal physical ailments and enhance spiritual communion. The gifts to the Christ Child of gold, frankincense, and myrrh highlight the prized value of fragrance at the time.38-40

During the Renaissance period, Europeans continued the task.30-45 Recently, science has been able to study and document the composition of natural plants with the resurgence of modern usage dating to 1910 by Dr. Rene-Maurice Gattefosse, a French chemist. He discovered lavender's skin-regenerating properties when his severely-burned arm healed without a scar after he immersed it in a pure lavender oil, thinking it was water. As a result of his lab discovery, lavender is still listed in the British Pharmacopoeia for its healing properties in the skin.44-45

Now, onto the story beyond this specific Thieves blend

——————————-

It Starts with Ancient Wisdom: The Story Behind Thieves

“Four thieves” remedy is based on an ancient herbal formulation originating somewhere-in Europe with time spanning from 1413-1722. Due to its touted protective benefits, herbalists have passed along its recipe for hundreds of years.46-49

The legend states that a combination of various herbs, most often cinnamon, eucalyptus, rosemary, clove, and lemon as protecting four robbers from contracting the plague in France while rummaging through the houses of the infected sufferers. Their freedom was won by revealing to the King that the herbal vinegar, which they drank and sprinkled on themselves every two hours, had been their saving grace.46,49

There have been several variations of this formulation passed down through the years. Thomas Jefferson was said to have fancied a version that consisted of vinegar spiked with lavender, rosemary, sage, wormwood, rue, mint, garlic to keep his Presidential body infection free.47

The Scientific American Encyclopedia of Formulas: partly based upon the 28th ed. of Scientific American cyclopedia of receipts, notes and queries cites the formula of this herbal preparation as follows:

  • 4 oz dried rosemary tops
  • 4 oz dried sage
  • 2 oz dried lavender
  • 5 oz fresh rue
  • 1 oz camphor dissolved in vinegar
  • ¼ oz sliced garlic
  • 1 dr bruised cloves
  • 1 gallon strongly distilled wine vinegar

“Digest for 7 or 8 days, with occasional agitation: pour off liquor: press out the remainder, and filter the mixed liquids.”48

As stated in the Smell Report, the value of a wide range of aromatics for keeping the body healthy was widely utilized:

The plague was not the only malady to be treated with fragrances. In the 17th, 18th and even into the 19th century, perfumes were widely used as remedies for almost any physical or mental disorder – including hysteria, amenorrhea, melancholia, hypochondria, headaches and the common cold-37

I don’t know about you, but I like the ease of one bottle, pre-blended, and easily packed for on-the-go. Furthermore, I love the science beyond the individual essential oils and the synergism.

So, now, it’s time for the main event…the unveiling of the power of a blend of some of the most common aromatics found in “Four Thieves Vinegar.”

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10 Modern Day Applications of Ancient Wisdom

  1. Diffusing- Cleaning the Air of Germs and Molds

An experiment was done to see if the aerosol use of essential oils could alleviate some of the microbial causes of sick-building syndrome. The researchers used the actual proprietary blend that Ben and I use of clove, lemon, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus radiata, and rosemary. The method employed for measurement was deposition sampling. It was found that this blend did exhibit inhibition of certain microbes at various percentages. Reductions in critters initially increased with time of diffusion, though after certain time frames for specific bugs, the decreased level remained constant. The abstract states:

Thieves, a commercial blend of five essential oils, was tested for its antibacterial activity against Micrococcus luteus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus bioaerosols. An aerosol suspension of each bacterial culture was sprayed into a 0.4 m3 enclosed fume hood previously sterilized by ultraviolet light. Thieves essential oil blend was then diffused into the hood for a given time. Depositional sampling results showed a significant reduction (P<0.0001) in the aerosol-borne bacterial load after diffusion of the oil blend. Controls showed no inhibitory effect of oil that may have settled on the exposed plate surfaces during bacterial depositional sampling. Inhibition levels appear to be organism specific. There was an 82% reduction in M. luteus bioaerosol, a 96% reduction in the P. aeruginosa bioaerosol, and a 44% reduction in the S. aureus bioaerosol following 10 min of exposure. Results for the time exposure threshold of diffused oil showed that after only six min a 90% reduction in M. luteus viability occurred. Diffusion of the oil blend, Thieves, can significantly reduce the number of aerosol-borne bacteria and may have application in treating air for enclosed environments and preventing transmission of aerosol-borne bacterial pathogens.50

Here’s a link to the full study that explains the three parts of the experiment, the results, and the conclusion.50 This is a link to explain deposition sampling, which as mentioned, was used to measure results.51

A 2005 field study was with Dr. Close also found diffusing this same blend of essential oils decreased “black mold.”52  (If you’re interested in learning how essential oils can affect mold exposure, I wrote a blog about it here with scientific references.)

Though not found in this Thieves blend essential oil, another study with thyme oil demonstrated its use against moulds formation in damp dwellings. The authors concluded:

The thyme essential oil possesses a wide range spectrum of fungicidal activity. The vaporous phase of the oil exhibited long-lasting suppressive activity on moulds from damp dwellings.53

Bottom line: This blend can help to inhibit microbes in your surrounding environment.

  1. Respiratory Support

You’ve got to get oxygen to perform, right?

A key ingredient in Thieves, Eucalyptus Oil (EO), is well known for its respiratory support via inhalation or oral route. A review article in Alternative Medicine Review states:

Application by either vapor inhalation or oral route provides benefit for both purulent and non-purulent respiratory problems, such as bronchitis, asthma, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). There is a long history of folk usage with a good safety record. More recently, the biochemical details behind these effects have been clarified. Although other plant oils may be more microbiologically active, the safety of moderate doses of EO and its broad-spectrum antimicrobial action make it an attractive alternative to pharmaceuticals. 54

In another study, another species of eucalyptus, eucalyptus globulus was tested for cytotoxicity and antibacterial activity against common pathogens linked to respiratory infections. The study demonstrated that that the following bacteria were most susceptible to EO: H. influenza, parinfluenzae, and S. maltophila followed by S. puneumonia. Eucalyptus globulus also had a mild inhibitory activity against a strain of the mumps virus. Researchers used clinical specimens of patients with upper respiratory infections to determine these results:

The activity of Eucalyptus globulus essential oil was determined for 120 isolates of Streptococcus pyogenes, 20 isolates of S. pneumoniae, 40 isolates of S. agalactiae, 20 isolates of Staphylococcus aureus, 40 isolates of Haemophilus influenzae, 30 isolates of H. parainfluenzae, 10 isolates of Klebsiella pneumoniae, 10 isolates of Stenotrophomonas maltophilia and two viruses, a strain of adenovirus and a strain of mumps virus, all obtained from clinical specimens of patients with respiratory tract infections. The cytotoxicity was evaluated on VERO cells by the MTT test. The antibacterial activity was evaluated by the Kirby Bauer paper method, minimum inhibitory concentration, and minimum bactericidal concentration. H. influenzae, parainfluenzae, and S. maltophilia were the most susceptible, followed by S. pneumoniae. The antiviral activity, assessed by means of virus yield experiments titered by the end-point dilution method for adenovirus, and by plaque reduction assay for mumps virus, disclosed only a mild activity on mumps virus.55

1,8-cineole, a monoterpene found in EO species56 is known for supporting the respiratory tract. This recent abstract reported on its potential use in those with respiratory issues beyond even killing bugs- through inhibiting inflammation and due to its antioxidant properties:

1,8-cineole is a natural monoterpene, also known as eucalyptol. It is a major compound of many plant essential oils, mainly extracted from Eucalyptus globulus oil. As an isolated compound, 1,8-cineole is known for its mucolytic and spasmolytic action on the respiratory tract, with proven clinical efficacy. 1,8-cineole has also shown therapeutic benefits in inflammatory airway diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This clinical evidence refers to its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant mode of action, which has been proven in numerous pre-clinical studies. In vitro studies found strong evidence that 1,8-cineole controls inflammatory processes and mediator production of infection- or inflammation-induced mucus hypersecretion by its action as anti-inflammatory modifier rather than a simple mucolytic agent. The aim of this review is to present these preclinical studies performed with the pure monoterpene, and to summarize the current knowledge on the mode of action of 1,8-cineole. The actual understanding of the pure 1,8-cineole compared to mixtures of natural volatile oils containing 1,8-cineole as a major compound and to mixtures of natural terpenes, known as essential oils, will be discussed. Based on the anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory properties, recent clinical trials with 1,8-cineole have shown first evidence for the beneficial use of 1,8-cineole as long-term therapy in the prevention of COPD-exacerbations and to improve asthma control.57

Cinnamon bark oil, has also been shown to inhibit gram positive and gram negative bacteria associated with various infections58-62 as well “fungitoxic” to various fungi related to respiratory tract mycoses. The abstract on cinnamon reads:

 Cinnamic aldehyde has been identified as the active fungitoxic constituent of cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) bark oil. The fungitoxic properties of the vapours of the oil/active constituent against fungi involved in respiratory tract mycoses, i.e., Aspergillus niger, A. fumigatus, A. nidulans A. flavus, Candida albicans, C. tropicalis, C. pseudotropicalis, and Histoplasma capsulatum, were determined in vitro as minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC), minimum lethal concentration (MLC), inoculum density sustained, and exposure duration for fungicidal action at MIC and higher doses, as well as effect of incubation temperatures on fungitoxicity. It is concluded that these inhalable vapours appear to approach the ideal chemotherapy for respiratory tract mycoses.59

Bottom line: This blend contains single oils that support the respiratory system and inhibit unwanted bugs in your own body.

3 and 4. Food Spoilage and Cooking

No one likes it when the power goes out for many reasons. One is the stress that their recent grocery shop trip with its good packed tightly in the warming fridge could become a financial wash. Essential oils, including clove and cinnamon, have been tested for and used to prevent common food spoilage of various pathogens.63-66 The Food and Drug Administration has an exhaustive list of essential oils listed generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for ingestion here. 67 Essential oils can be used in cooking as flavorings with more powerful benefits than herbs due to their concentration.

Still make sure you are using essential oil that safe for ingestion. Many reports of toxicity are due to improper use, overdose, media hype, and nontherapeutic or toxic oils. If the bottle says “do not ingest,” do not ingest. that should not be ingested. Therefore, be sure to be an educated consumer and remember that one drop will do ya.’

Bottom line: A drop of Thieves blend on questionable food or taken internally (with a teaspoon of coconut oil) may help prevent symptoms from contaminated foods. It can also be a great addition to a winter recipe of your favorite warm drink. (Tastes like spicy cinnamon)

  1. Stopping Unwanted Microbes and Superbugs

Probably one of the most famous uses, besides their aromatic applications, are essential oils ability to work against microbes. Essential oils antimicrobial effects are vast.68-74 The Journal of Biological Chemistry explain one mechanism of the toxicity of cyclic hydrocarbons such as aromatics, terpenes, and alicyclics on bugs. The authors report, “The impairment of microbial activity by the cyclic hydrocarbons most likely results from hydrophobic interaction with the membrane, which affects the functioning of the membrane and membrane-embedded proteins.”68

It has been stated that the vast constituents and resultant actions found within one oil, and the synergism of blends, may be key components to why they are effective against multiple “resistant” microorganisms.77-82 In fact, some believe they have the potential to be a welcome alternative to medications which have potential toxic side effects on patients.

In simple terms, essential oils may be able outsmart “resistant” organisms with more than one mechanism of action. For instance, several studies have demonstrated oregano’s potential to prevent resistance by inhibiting biofilms.

For example, one study tested the antimicrobial activity of the essential oils from clove (Syzygium aromaticum (L.) Merr. et Perry) and rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) alone and in combination. The authors reported the results as follows:

Minimum inhibitory concentrations (MIC) against three Gram-positive bacteria, three Gram-negative bacteria and two fungi were determined for the essential oils and their mixtures. Furthermore, time-kill dynamic processes of clove and rosemary essential oils against Staphylococcus epidermidis, Escherichia coli and Candida albicans were tested. Both essential oils possessed significant antimicrobial effects against all microorganisms tested. The MICs of clove oil ranged from 0.062% to 0.500% (v/v), while the MICs of rosemary oil ranged from 0.125% to 1.000% (v/v). The antimicrobial activity of combinations of the two essential oils indicated their additive, synergistic or antagonistic effects against individual microorganism tests. The time-kill curves of clove and rosemary essential oils towards three strains showed clearly bactericidal and fungicidal processes of (1)/(2) x MIC, MIC, MBC and 2 x MIC.83

An another in vitro study that tested the anti-bacterial activity of twenty-one selected essential oils against six bacterial species (Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Proteus vulgaris, Bacillus subtilis, and Staphylococcus aureus), the authors found that 19 of the oils showed antibacterial activity against one or more strains of the microbes tested. They reported:

Cinnamon, clove, geranium, lemon, lime, orange and rosemary oils exhibited significant inhibitory effect. Cinnamon oil showed promising inhibitory activity even at low concentration, whereas aniseed, eucalyptus and camphor oils were least active against the tested bacteria. In general, B. subtilis was the most susceptible. On the other hand, K. pneumoniae exhibited low degree of sensitivity.84

There are a few caveats to this study. The oils were deemed “pure” but methods weren’t given. Furthermore, the authors reported only analyzing cinnamon oil with the GC/MS analysis. Interesting, right? When the quality was verified, that essential oil was deemed one of the most powerful. (Just sayin.’)

Some essential oils may also have an additive effect with certain antibiotics. An in vitro study using Cinnamon and lemon explored their antimicrobial activity against Acinetobacter, which has been linked to serious infections and antimicrobial resistance. The authors found:

Results of combining antibiotics and essential oils had shown us a synergistic effect with both essential oils/amikacin combinations. An additive effect was observed with the combinations of both essential oils and gentamicin. The results of this study suggest that essential oil of C. limon and C. zeylanicum may suppress the growth of Acinetobacter species and could be a source of metabolites with antibacterial modifying activity.85

Bottom Line: Essential oils in this blend are potent microbe inhibitors for a variety of critters. They may also have a synergistic effect when used with other immune support measures. Still, be smart and know there are potential oil-medication interactions.

  1. Antioxidant

Several studies have demonstrated essential oils ability to act as antioxidants. 4-5, 8,10,13,86 Importantly, these secondary metabolites act to stimulate our own endogenous antioxidants. One in vivo study with rats explored how rosemary essential oil (REO) protected their livers from oxidative damage and reported:

In summary, the present results demonstrate that administration of REO, exhibiting free radical scavenging activity determined by DPPH assay, exerts beneficial effects on preventing CCl4-induced hepatotoxicity in rats by limiting the extent of lipid peroxidation and hence cell membranes injuries. Considering the significant impact on activities of examined antioxidant enzymes, it is clear that REO mediates its hepatoprotective effects not only through scavenging of harmful free radicals, but also through activation of physiological defense mechanisms. It should be emphasized that there have been considerable variations in the chemical composition of essential oils obtained from rosemary, and for this reason, the use of REO in preventing and/or treatment of various liver diseases requires the identification of active ingredients and further investigations on their mechanisms of action.86

Here’s a blog I wrote on some studies with the cognitive benefits of antioxidant protection using lavender and rosemary.

Bottom Line: Essential oils can modulate oxidative stress, a big problem with excess exercise. This can be through modulating our own production of antioxidants as well as supplying secondary metabolites that protect cells from injury.

  1. Oral Health

One of the most famous oils for dental health is clove.87-88 I have actually experienced personally an application of straight clove or Thieves oil for preventing cavities. Interestingly, one in vitro study showed clove may in fact prevent decalcification caused by apple juice.88

You can read more about essential oils for applications in dental health here and how they can be used with oil pulling here.

Bottom Line: Due to the downstream and harmful systemic effects of an unbalanced oral microbiome, I instruct most of my clients to put a drop of Thieves oil on their toothbrush a few times a week.

  1. Digestion

This article gives a comprehensive overview of essential oils for digestion. A 2012 review article provided support that essential oils can work in synergism with probiotics to have “complementary antimicrobial effects with practically no side effects.”89

Bottom Line: The oils in the Thieves blend have been shown in many studies to prevent microbial infections of the gut and there is evidence that disturbance of the microbiome is unlikely due to their immune modulating effects.

  1. Discomfort

In a systematic review of essential oils, the authors analyzed ten common essential oils were for their actions, based on their constituents and the whole oils. The following oils were reported by the authors to modulate pain that are found in Thieves:

  • Eucalyptus- regulation of the nervous system relating to neuralgia, headache, and debility, treatment for joint and muscle pains (rheumatoid arthritis), and for muscle and joint pains and aches90-91
  • Lemon- may help with labor pain, nausea, vomiting, and ulcers90-92
  • Rosemary- soothes menstrual cramps, contains the anti-inflammatory constituent 1-8 cineole

In regards to direct pain management, the authors listed the following oils:

  • Eucalyptus smithii (gully gum)
  • Lavandula angustifolia (lavender)
  • Matricaria recutita (German chamomile)
  • Leptospermum scoparium (manuka)
  • Origanum majorana (sweet marjoram)
  • Pinus mugo pumilio (dwarf pine)
  • Rosmarinus officinalis camphor (rosemary)
  • Zingiber officinale (ginger)90 

Bottom line: Well, one to two drops of Thieves applied with a carrier oil on the bottom of your feet or on location of discomfort could produce a cooling, comforting relief.

  1. The Aroma- More Than a Smell

Besides all the powerful benefits above based on essential oils composition, their aroma alone can combine to produce powerful emotional and physiological effects. You can read more about this here.

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Conclusion

Phew, see why this blend, and essential oils in general, are the most underused and ancient biohack around? To get the benefits of this essential oil, you can apply one drop to the bottom of your feet daily with a carrier oil or take a drop internally if you feel the sniffles coming on. The possibilities are endless.

To learn more about applications and uses of essential oils, listen to the podcast Ben and I did a few years back. You can also access my reviews of essential oils single, the science, and clinical uses of these powerful secondary metabolites on my Essential Oils Database here.

Here’s the link to order the Thieves blend Ben and I use.

Happy oiling!

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Summary From Ben

Big pharma tends to patent chemicals and turn them into expensive drugs.

As you've just learned, essential oils – particularly Thieves – can achieve the same effects, but are natural derivates of plants that can't be patented. So they get underplayed by modern medicine, and fly under the radar.

But if you open my bathroom cabinet (or the kitchen and bathroom cabinets of some of the smartest physicians, healers and athletes I know), the shelves are not lined with drugs and prescriptions. They're lined with herbs, natural supplements and – you guessed it – essential oils.

To learn more about the applications and uses of essential oils, listen to this podcast I recorded with Dr. Sarah. You can also access her reviews of essential oils, the science, and clinical uses of these powerful secondary metabolites on her Essential Oils Database by clicking here.

Finally, because you are now a relative master of all things essential oils, start using them. Grab a few and play around. On this page, you can find the top oils that I personally use and recommend. Unlike many other “science-y” wellness tools or biohacks, essential oils are easy to apply to your routine and are relatively inexpensive.

I recommend you start by getting your hands on a few bottles of Four Thieves. Click here to get the Young Living Thieves blend that I personally use, and stash a few bottles around the house, in the car, and in your travel bag. You can use Thieves orally (especially when diluted with coconut oil), use it topically, or just diffuse in your house in whichever room you want. If you were to start with just one oil, Thieves would be the one I'd recommend.

Do you have questions, comments or feedback for Dr. Sarah or me about any of these essential oil tips and tricks? Leave your thoughts below and one of us will reply!

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A Simple Method To Trick Your Body Into Flawless Barefoot Running Form (Even If You’ve Never Run Barefoot).

Our ancestors ran in bare feet or very thin shoes with little padding. It's undeniable, it's been proven over and over again in historical research, and probably the best guy on the face of the planet to give insight into this fact is Dr. Daniel Lieberman from Harvard (with whom I had the pleasure of running 8 miles barefoot through Boston a couple years ago).

In today's article, you're going to learn why you need to learn to run barefoot or in minimalist shoes (if you're not already), how train your feet to withstand the rigors of barefoot running, and a simple method to trick your body into flawless barefoot running form, even if you've never run barefoot.


What The Research Says About Barefoot or Minimalist Shoe Running

It wasn’t until the 1970’s when conventional running shoes with thick cushioning soles became widely available.  It was thought that the cushioning effect of the padded heel would decrease loading on the legs and therefore prevent injury while at the same time increasing efficiency. But since then, there has been a big shift in thinking for many runners, and many are now removing their shoes in order to return to what they believe is a more natural gait.

Why?

Cushioned running shoes promote a rear-foot strike (RFS) running pattern in which the heel touches down first, then the foot rolls forward for toe off.   Habitually barefoot runners, on the other hand, tend to land on the forefoot or mid-foot.  These differences in stride mechanics drastically affect injuries, as well as running efficiency.

For the purposes of this article – and to make me sound much smarter than I am – when I refer to running in cushioned shoes, I will use the term “shod” (this is also a great word to impress any runners at cocktail parties). Furthermore, when I refer to barefoot running, this would also include running in shoes such as Vibrams or extremely minimalist, relatively uncushioned shoes. 

Oh yeah, one other thing: if your eyes glaze over from research and nitty-gritty science, or if reading time is tight for you, feel free to skip this section and scroll down to the next section. 

There are many mechanical differences seen during barefoot running when compared to shod running – the most obvious being foot strike position.  When shod, runners tend to land on their heel in a rear-foot strike (RFS).  Without shoes, the foot is in a much different environment and this same heel landing can be painful and damaging to the foot and leg. For this reason, barefoot runners often adopt a forefoot strike (FFS), in which the front of the foot contacts the ground first and the supporting soft tissue of the foot and lower leg absorb some of the impact force before the heel even touches down.  A mid-foot strike is also seen in many barefoot runners, in which the foot lands relatively flat on the ground.  This change in foot strike pattern is absolutely correlated with a lower impact force upon foot strike.

In the article “Foot strike patterns and collision forces in habitually barefoot versus shod runners“, Daniel Lieberman studied impact forces and stride mechanics of habitually barefoot and shod runners running in both bare feet and shoes.  The purpose was to see how the shoe directly affected impact forces and stride, and also to see how habitual shoe use changes running patterns and get an idea of how man ran before the advent of the cushioned shoe.

There were five test groups in this study:

(1) Kenyan competitive runners who grew up barefoot and recently started wearing running shoes.

(2) habitually shod American adults.

(3) American adults who grew up wearing shoes but are now habitually barefoot runners.

(4) habitually shod Kenyan children.

(5) barefoot Kenyan children. 

Foot strike kinematics were assessed using video analysis as test subjects ran at an endurance running pace (4-6 m/s) on a short track.  All the adults sampled ran at least 20 km per week.  It was found that American habitually shod runners ran exclusively with a rear foot strike while wearing shoes and nearly all (87%) ran with a rear foot strike when barefoot.

During the barefoot test, the subjects in this group, while still landing with a RFS, had less dorsiflexion (7-10%) upon ground contact (meaning their forefoot was closer to the ground).  The recently shod Kenyan competitive runners (1) had a 91% rate of FFS when running barefoot and 54% while wearing shoes, many who didn’t FFS were landing with a MFS.

The last group of adults tested was Americans, who grew up shod but switched to and are now habitually barefoot runners (3) in which 75% FFS when barefoot, but when shod 50% ran with a RFS.  They also tested Kenyan children who were habitually shod (4) and who have never worn shoes (5).  The children’s running habits were consistent with what was found for adults, mainly that the use of running shoes significantly changes the gait pattern both immediately and also habitually.

The study also analyzed strike force characteristics, comparing habitually barefoot and shod adults from the US in both shoes and bare feet.  It was shown that RFS causes a large impact force transient upon ground contact in both the shod and barefoot condition, but it was even larger when barefoot.  FFS on the other hand showed a steady force loading with no impact transient.  The barefoot FFS runners had a lower vertical force magnitude during impact, as well as a lower loading rate – which was very significant when compared with barefoot RFS runners.

In sum…wearing cushioned running shoes automatically causes you (even if you're used to running barefoot) to engage in a high impact heel strike. 

There are a few reasons why running shoes promote this type of RFS.  First, they have a thick heel padding that orients the sole of the foot to have about 5o less dorsiflexion than the outsole of the shoe, encouraging RFS.  This means that in order to FFS while wearing a thick heeled shoe, you would have to plantar flex (point) the foot significantly. The shoe also affects foot strike, due to the cushioning properties which help absorb the impact force from running. Finally, shoes actually decrease neural sensory stimulation that promote a softer FFS.

The study above shows that habitual running patterns are influenced by footwear use, but just how these adaptations occur and their effect on injuries is unclear from the study.  However, the article “Running Related Injury Prevention through Barefoot Adaption” looks into the foot musculature and how it responds to barefoot conditions.  The authors of the article state that many people believe the high injury rates involved with running are because the foot is fragile and cannot take the strain that activities such as running puts on it without injury, and therefore that foot needs protective support.

Problem is, this theory not only goes against natural selection, but also has been proven wrong based on the lower running injury rate seen among barefoot populations.

In countries where both barefoot and shod population live, such as Haiti, high rates of lower extremity injuries are only seen in the shod population. Likewise, in countries where people go barefoot part or all of the year, such as the West Indies, and sections of Europe and Asia, there is shockingly little report or evidence of impact related lower leg injuries.

Because of this, Robbins and Hanna, authors of the article above, hypothesize that the weak arch and foot musculature seen in habitually shod feet can be strengthened given the right conditions.  The human foot has a large arch in the middle that can act as a spring which absorbs and restitutes mechanical energy.  The arch is supported by the plantar fascia and several ligaments and muscles.  The arch works almost like a bowstring, and if it is shorter in the longitudinal length of the foot, it will be higher and able to absorb more energy.  These muscles controlling the arch are not stimulated properly in shoes, but can be strengthened by barefoot activity, therefore increasing the arch height.

To test this hypothesis, Robbins and Hanna recruited recreational runners and examined the length of their medial longitudinal arch with x-ray analysis and a foot imprint during weight bearing, monthly over the four month test period. Subjects gave a detailed running history that included footwear, injuries, and previous barefoot weight bearing activities. During the experiment, subjects kept a detailed training log that recorded all barefoot weight bearing activity – including running, walking, and standing, as well as the surface it was performed on –  and they were instructed to perform as much barefoot activity as possible.

The study reported a positive change as a 1mm shortening of the medial longitudinal arch length.  It was found that of the 18 subjects in the barefoot group, 13 had a positive result, 2 had no change, and 3 had a negative result, with an average arch shortening (meaning a stronger arch) of 4.7mm.  In the control group that continued normal activity, 1 changed positively and 10 negatively with an average arch lengthening (meaning a weaker arch) of 4.9mm.  The results had no correlation with the starting height of the arch. The positive result on the arch of the barefoot group can be explained by an increase in the supporting musculature, which clearly shows that adaptive abilities of the foot to change and strengthen to accompany its environment.  Strengthening of the arch and shortening of its length could also reduce injuries like plantar fasciitis, which is common in shod populations. This is because the plantar fascia would be stretched and therefore stressed less, as some of the load would be diverted to the musculature.

It was found that the best arch change results happened with high total weight bearing activity (i.e. standing), walking outside barefoot, and running outside barefoot. It makes sense for results to show this with an increase in total load bearing activity because the muscles simply got more use.  The reason outdoor (compared to indoor) barefoot activity had a positive effect is because of the irregular surface, which would increase plantar sensory feedback.  Interestingly, the skin on the top of the arch has a much lower pain threshold than that of the heel or toe area and if this area is stimulated, the arch muscles could contract to make barefoot running (or other activity) more comfortable, while at the same time activating the foot’s shock absorbing system.

The skin on the plantar surface of the foot has one of the highest density of neuroreceptors in the body.  The receptors respond to small discrete displacements, shear forces, and vibrations, all of which are reduced by footwear, specifically running shoes.  Running shoes block the transition of sensory information to the foot which tells the runner to lower ground impact forces by flexing the arch muscles and changing stride mechanics.  This would not be a problem if the shoe reduced the injury producing ground impact forces as much as it reduced plantar sensation, but that is not the case as shown by the Lieberman, and the increased running injuries seen in the shod populations compared to barefoot.

So far, we've seen that research shows barefoot or minimalist shoe running causes some pretty useful adaptations in terms of foot strike pattern, “feel for the ground”, and reduced risk of lower extremity injuries.

And there's plenty more…especially when it comes to reduced injury risk from the avoidance of cushioned shoes. study called “The effect of running shoe on lower extremity joint torque” examined the effects that shoes have on the leg joints when compared to running barefoot.  The subjects in this study were 68 young healthy adults who ran at least 15 miles per week.  Markers were placed on various spots on the subjects' legs, and data was collect by 3 dimensional video analyses, as well as a force place on the treadmill they were asked to run on.

For shod running, there was a 54% increase in hip internal rotation torque, 36% increase in knee flexion torque (which acts on the main bending motion of the knee), and a 38% increase in knee varus torque (which is a lateral bending force at the knee). The relevance of this data is how it relates to joint degeneration and osteoarthritis risk, as well as overuse.  Osteoarthritis is joint cartilage degeneration and ossification and is correlated with long term excessive loading.  It has been shown that competitive running may increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis in the hip, therefore producing over 50% more load on the joint with each stride.  The increase in knee flexion torque would increase the load on the quadriceps, thus increasing strain on the patellar tendon and pressure on the patellofemoral joint, which can lead to overuse injuries of all these structures.  The increase in varus torque on the knee would increase the compressive force on the medial tibiofemoral compartment, which is more prone to degeneration than the lateral compartment.  Similar yet less dramatic increase in knee loading were seen when comparing women’s dress high heeled shoes when walking with barefoot walking.  Because of the higher rate of knee osteoarthritis in women and the fact that loading is much higher during running than walking, this increase in knee force could easily lead to osteoarthritis.  The increased loads were thought to be due to the elevated heel and material under the medial aspect of the foot, which changed running mechanics.  These increases in loading seen in shod running could all over time contribute to the onset of osteoarthritis.

Yep, as ironic as it may seem, wearing giant pillows around your feet actually increases your risk of things like arthritis later in life.

Along with reducing injuries, barefoot running is also thought to be a more metabolically efficient way to run, and the very recent study “Barefoot Running Reduces the Submaximal Oxygen Cost in Female Distance Runners” definitely backs this up. It has also been shown that an increase in of 100g of mass per foot increase metabolic cost by 1%.  This mass effect can be an especially big factor in racing, because if a typical 250g shoe was worn, it would add 5% to the metabolic cost, therefore slowing a runner by 5%.  This means a 4 hour marathon could see a change of around 12 minutes just from the weight of footwear.  It is clear that mass has a large effect on energy use while running, but it is theorized that the elastic properties of the arch and lower leg musculature also have an effect.

The article “Barefoot-Shod Running Differences: Shoe or Mass Effect?”  looked to determine if it was just the weight of wearing a shoe that made it less efficient, or if it was the shoe itself and the effects on stride mechanics. In this article, 12 healthy adult males with competitive running experience ran on a treadmill barefoot, in 50g, 150g, and 350g socks, as well as 150g and 350g shoes for 4 minutes at 13 km/h.  The mass on the sock was distributed in the same manner as that of the comparable weight shoe.  It was found that the bare sock (50g) produced no significant difference in running pattern compared to fully barefoot, showing that the results will not be altered by the effect of the material of the sock.  The treadmill had a force plate to measure vertical and anterior-posterior ground reaction force.  During the trials, the subjects exhaled gas was collected to determine the volume of oxygen (VO2) consumption relative to total mass, which tells how hard their body was working to maintain their running pace.

While un-shod, 9 of the 12 runners switched to a forefoot strike pattern.  It was found that VO2 consumption increased as shoe mass increased, but was not affected by the mechanical properties of the shoe.  It was also shown that total work increased in the barefoot condition.  As a result of the increased work, but no increase in VO2 consumption, it was concluded that the net mechanical efficiency of barefoot running was greater than shod running.  This agrees with the hypothesis that barefoot running, and subsequent FFS, allows the foot and leg to use their natural elastic properties to absorb and restitute mechanical energy from ground contact.

The previous study had two variables – shoe padding and foot strike – which made it difficult to interpret the results.  To account for this, the study “Metabolic cost of running barefoot versus shod: Is lighter better?”  was similar, but it controlled foot strike pattern as well as weight, so that the cushioned shoe was the only variable.  The test subjects were 12 runners with extensive barefoot experience who had a mid-foot strike not only when running barefoot, but also when shod.  The subjects all ran at least 25 km/week, with at least 8km barefoot or in minimalist footwear.  The participants ran on a treadmill with a force plate at 3.35 m/s.  Oxygen consumption (VO2) data was collected.  The shoes used only added cushioning and had no arch support.

It was found that in both shod and barefoot conditions, oxygen consumption increased by 1% per 100g added per foot.  Also, on average a 3-4% increase in VO2 consumption was found during barefoot running compared to shod running of equal weight and foot strike pattern.  This shows that factors other than shoe mass play an important role in the metabolic power used during barefoot versus shod running.  This difference can be due to shock absorbing characteristics of the shoe and a difference in stride length, which was found to be 3.3% greater during shod running.  It was estimated that the 3.3% increase in stride length would only account for less than 0.4% increase in metabolic savings. Because of this, the researchers concluded that of equal mass, the cushioning properties of the shoe account for the majority of difference in VO2 consumption.  This is because during barefoot running, all the cushioning is done by the action of the leg, which is accomplished through muscle contraction, thus expending energy.  By wearing a cushioned shoe but not changing general stride mechanics, the runner was essentially running on a softer surface while keeping the beneficial forefoot stride, which turned out to easier on the leg muscles and more efficient for the body.  The study also found that a light weight (about 130g) cushioned shoe is equally as efficient as fully barefoot running when stride is constant, which means minimalist running shoes could be a good alternative for barefoot runner while running on very hard surfaces or during a long race.

Yeah, that's a mouthful, but basically it means that a minimalist shoe, or some other method of causing one to engage in a front foot strike, could be just as good as running barefoot when it comes to running efficiency and economy.

Overall, it's very obvious that barefoot running seems to be beneficial in many aspects of running. The majority of benefits of barefoot running come with adopting a better running stride, which is characterized by a forefoot strike.  This reduces the load and loading rate during foot impact, which can lead to many running injuries, including plantar fasciitis, patellofemoral joint pain syndrome and osteoarthritis.  But the benefits of switching to barefoot running are not all immediate.  The muscles of the foot and lower leg become very weak from underuse when constantly shod, and it takes time for them to regain their strength, as well as for the body to change running technique.

However, once the transition is made, the stride will become more efficient with a reduced risk of injury. With regards to running efficiency, the cushioning from the shoe is beneficial, as well as the elastic properties of the forefoot strike. For best efficiency, a runner would want to become proficient with barefoot running, which will improve forefoot strike and cause a strengthened arch, and then wear a very lightweight moderately cushioned shoe for a race.

Although barefoot running has been shown to reduce injuries, injuries are also very common among new barefoot runners.  People hear about the benefits of barefoot running, then jump into barefoot or minimalist running much too quickly, without proper adaption.  As shown from the studies above, the muscles and soft tissue take months to strengthen, so increasing volume too fast is very likely to cause a problem.  Also, even though the loading is lower during barefoot running, metatarsal stress fractures are common. Because the bones in the foot don’t get the same loading pattern during shod rear-foot strike, they will take time to adapt to this new running style as well.

Finally, there are reports of injuries from barefoot and minimalist runner who do not adopt a forefoot strike.  As discussed above, rear-foot strike without a cushioned shoe causes very high force loading rates of the foot and leg, which could quickly result in injury.  In conclusion, more research still need to be done on the topic, but it seems clear that there are a multitude of benefits to barefoot running, and they should not be ignored.

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Heel Striking Isn't Always Bad

Even though an RFS (remember, that's a “rear foot strike) and a heel striking motion is associated with higher risk of injury, if you're landing softly (as barefoot running trains you to do) even heel striking motion that isn't necessarily always a bad thing.

A New York Times article from a couple months ago entitled “Why We Get Running Injuries (and How to Prevent Them)” delves into this idea in greater detail. Among other clues that the human body was meant to run minimalist, the article states that…

“…The never-injured runners, as a group, landed far more lightly than those who had been seriously hurt, the scientists found, even when the researchers controlled for running mileage, body weight and other variables. That finding refutes the widely held belief that a runner cannot land lightly on her heels.”

The article goes on to describe one of the runners studied, a woman who has run multiple marathons and never been hurt, showing some of the lowest rates of foot loading the researchers had ever seen, pounding far less than many runners who land near the front of their feet, with a beautiful running motion that was like seeing “an insect running across water”.

It's important to note that this woman was running with a heel strike but she was running softly even with that heel strike, which she was able to do because she had trained minimalist and trained barefoot, which teaches your body how to (even if you're not engaged in a mid to front foot strike) run with far less impact to any part of the foot that hits the ground.

In other words, once you swear off the cushioned shoes, you run more softly and with reduced risk of injury, even if a fancy high-speed video camera shows your running form doesn't significantly change with regards to a front vs. mid vs. rear foot strike.

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How To Train Your Body To Run Barefoot

Convinced that you may want to start moving away from cushioned shoes and ready to start training to run barefoot?

In the article, “How To Start Running Barefoot“, I get into the nitty-gritty details of how both my wife and I transitioned to minimalist shoes and barefoot running. Some of the biggest takeaways from that article – aside from not simply rushing out and beginning to run oodles of miles in a brand new set of Vibrams – include the following five tips:

  1. Do Drills. As part of the short runs that you start doing barefoot, also train your body how to run with good form by including running form drills, such as playground style skipping, the toe-up drill or the lean drill. These drills will help ensure that you’re running efficiently and striking the ground properly as you learn barefoot running, and are a good idea to incorporate whether or not you’re running barefoot. Here is an overview of even more drills from my friend and Australian running guru Graeme Turner.
  2. Feel The Ground. If you’ve been wearing big, bulky, protective shoes for a long time, then your foot may have difficulty properly sensing the ground when you run barefoot. So try incorporating “feel-for-the-ground” activities like standing on one leg when you’re brushing your teeth, standing on one leg while on a balance disc or balance pillow at the gym, standing on one leg for exercises like overhead presses, or even bouncing on one leg on a mini-trampoline a few times a week.
  3. Get Flexible. One of the most common complaints among people who transition to barefoot or minimalist running is that their calf muscles and Achilles tendon feel tight or painful, and that was certainly the case when I made the transition to barefoot running. So as you make the transition to barefoot running, also work on the flexibility of the back of your legs by doing calf stretches and foam rolling for the back of your legs.
  4. Get Strong Feet. If you’re worn shoes your whole life, it’s likely that you have weak feet muscles, since one of the primary functions of a shoe is to provide your foot with extra “muscle”, or support. While some of the balance activities mentioned earlier will help to strengthen your foot, I also recommend standing on one leg and practicing rolling your entire body weight from the outside of your foot to the inside of the foot and back, until your foot is tired. When at the gym, it can also be helpful to do cable kick forwards and cable kick back exercises while standing on one foot. If your tiny foot muscles start to burn and fatigue with these movements, you’ll know you’re conditioning your foot muscles.
  5. Include Plyometrics. Your feet need to be conditioned to withstand the impact of the ground, since the cushioning of a normal shoe provides significant impact reduction benefits. Plyometrics are explosive exercises in which hop, bound or skip with one leg or two legs, and good choices for barefoot running preparation are side-to-side hops and single leg jumps onto a box.

For more details, you can click here to read that article in full.

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The Best Barefoot Running Orthotic & A Simple Method To Teach Yourself How To Have Flawless Barefoot Running Form

Lately, I've been using a new method to get “the best of both worlds”: meaning getting the front to mid foot strike that I automatically shift to when barefoot running, while still getting the protection afforded by actually wearing shoes, which comes in handy when I'm doing Spartan races, TrainToHunt competitions, triathlons or other events where I actually do need protection for my feet.

The method is something called a “ShoeCue”.

The Cue inserts into your shoe just like an orthotic, and it uses a textured, thermoplastic heel-plate that reconnects your feet to the ground. With vibration and texture, it “wakes up” the soles of your feet and reconnects them to your brain. Closing this neural loop allows for enhanced control and understanding of how you are connected to the world, and in real-time it improve self awareness and proprioception, whether you're walking or running.

Here are a couple videos that show how the ShoeCue works (and yeah, that's Brian Mackenzie in the first video, the guy I interviewed here about advanced breathing techniques):

 

Basically, the Cue restores sensory feedback to your foot, which you've learned is usually diminished when you wear your shoes. The soles of your feet are one of the most sensitive areas in your body, and your brain relies on the sensory perception to control everything about about the way you move. By increasing sensation to your feet with these Cues in your shoes you will:

-Be more aware of your running technique and run with a softer foot-strike.
-Have greater positional awareness while lifting and exercising.
-Walk and stand with better posture.

The nerve receptors in skin on the soles of the feet pick up sensation in three main ways:

-Indentation
-Shearing force
-Vibration

All of these mechanics your body relies on to feel the ground are blocked by a traditional shoe when compared to being barefoot, but ShoeCue is able to restore this sensation, in virtually any shoe.

So what should you expect to feel when wearing these things?

You will certainly notice the Cue, but it is in no way painful. It feels like a gentle massage on the bottom of your foot. The goal is not to create pain when you are moving poorly. The goal of the Cue is to simply increase your bodies positional awareness and subtly encourage better biomechanics over time. When you put them in your shoes, you'll notice an immediate reduction in over-striding and heavy heel strike (which you now know are major contributors to running injury and joint wear). Every time I run in these, my stride feels softer, smoother, and more efficient. Also, as fatigue sets in on a hard run, I'm a bit more aware of any breakdown in running form and able to self correct in real-time.

And these are definitely a bit different than traditional arch support orthotics. Arch support works to lift your arch and hold it in a static position. This may be better than walking around with collapsed arches and flat feet, but it does not address the underlying strength and motor control issues, which are the root cause of the problem. By increasing sensation to your feet, ShoeCue encourages the small muscles in your feet and ankles to be active, just like when you run barefoot, and when your arch does collapse, you will feel it and be able to consciously turn on those muscles and move better.

I'll warn you that ShoeCue encourages you to favor the ball of your foot as opposed to the heel. When this happens, you will be stressing muscles and tissues in the lower leg that have been underused, and you may experience soreness after your first few runs – so start with shorter runs, give it time, and progress slowly, but in my opinion, it's well worth it to add these to your running, walking and standing repertoire as a very cool biohack to get you to begin running with the same flawless form you'd develop from barefoot running, but with the actual protection of shoes.

You can try these new running orthotics here, and use 10% discount code Greenfield10. I've got a set in all my own running shoes now, and it's a perfect way to start running “barefoot”, without actually running barefoot.


Summary

So what do you think?

Do you run barefoot or in minimalist shoes, or do you have yet to be convinced of the benefits?

Do you have questions about “barefoot running orthotics” like the ShoeCue?

Do you think I'm completely wrong and that big, built up cushioned shoes are the way to go?

Leave your comments, thoughts and feedback below and I'll reply! Finally, you can click here to get yourself a set of ShoeCues, and use 10% discount code “Greenfield10”.

shoecue

 

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

Ben Greenfield core training

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

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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.

Underground Strength Training Secrets: How To Get Strong And Stay Strong Using Training Secrets Of The Athletic Elite.

lifting rocks

Zach Even-Esh – author of the new book the “Encyclopedia of Underground Strength and Conditioning” – is one of my friends, and one of the few guys who I truly consider to be an absolute beast when it comes to physical strength.

But he wasn't always so strong. As a kid, Zach was crippled by self-doubt, low self-esteem, depression and career-ending injuries.

Later in life, he got sidetracked by false prophets trumpeting bodybuilding lies that weakened him and had him beaten down over and over again by stronger, more agile, tougher opponents.

Faced by all these failures he could easily have thrown in the towel and contented himself with a comfortable, average role as a so-so athlete and so-so personal trainer. But Zach had a dream and a vision that was more powerful than the army of setbacks and the bouts of despair.

So he never quit in his relentless quest for athletic supremacy, and continued to persevere and struggle, through multiple odds and continued setback.

Things finally changed when he was told that he was put on earth to make people strong.

And that's what Zach and I talk about on today's podcast – not just his backstory, but also how he's discovered a ton of secret, underground training methods that build strength fast in both men and women.

zach even-esh book

During our discussion, you'll learn:

-Zach's amazing story of how he got into underground style strength training…

-Zach's favorite body weight training exercises that you rarely see people doing…

-How to get fit with nothing more than a picnic table…

-How you can make our own sandbag, and the #1 sandbag move that Zach recommends…

-The hardest workout Zach has ever done with a rock…

-The shocking ways you can get fit by just using a tire (and it goes way beyond tire flippin'!)…

-How you can get a keg and how you can use a keg for a workout…

And much more!

Some of the world’s toughest—and most successful—men have endorsed Zach Even-Esh’s Encyclopedia of Underground Strength and Conditioning as a must-have, go-to resource for developing the supreme athletic durability, multi-functional strength and spiritual fortitude they most prize.

Men like Joe De Sena, founder of The Spartan Race, who says:

“At Spartan, we have always said the world needs a thorough encyclopedia on strength and conditioning. Whether it is our own athletes attending our races, moms, or even the elite special forces we speak to, everyone is looking for an edge. Zach's Encyclopedia of Underground Strength and Conditioning is exactly what today's society needs to build a stronger mind, body and life, just as we encourage here at Spartan. The inspirational life lessons shared in this book along with these training methods are what make this book powerful and timeless. You owe it to yourself to read this book if you want to change your life.”

And men like the warrior-athlete Mark Divine, founder of SEALFIT and Unbeatable Mind, NYT bestselling author of 8 Weeks to SEALFIT and The Way of the SEAL, says:

“When it comes to functional strength and conditioning—old school style—Zach Even-Esh has been there, done that. Zach is a master at developing young athletes who not only become world class at their sport, but also develop the strength of character to be successful at whatever they choose in life. I highly recommend this book, as it will open your eyes to reality-based training.”

So in the comments section below, feel free to let Zach and I know which of his methods you've tried, be sure to grab his new “Encyclopedia of Underground Strength and Conditioning“, and leave any other feedback and thoughts!

How To Increase Your VO2 Max Anytime, Anywhere – Without Actually Exercising.

how to increase vo2max

In the article “Underground Training Tactics For Enhancing Endurance – Part 1“, I introduce you to the concept of using things like resisted, restricted and hypoxic breathing to significantly increase your oxygen utilization, your lung power, your VO2 max, and your inspiratory and expiratory muscle strength and endurance.

In that article, I mention a “PowerLung“, which is a special portable restricted breathing device that I personally use when I'm driving around in my car, watching a movie, or waiting in line at the airport as a way to squeeze in a quick lung workout. I keep the Powerlung in my bag and just pull it out whenever I know I have a chance to boost my VO2max. It seems like cheating, but I can actually exercise my lungs just about anytime, anyplace.

But how does the PowerLung thing actually work, is it proven, and can you actually increase your VO2 max without exercising?

In today's audio podcast, I interview Greg Wells, Ph.D., the Assistant Professor of the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education at the University of Toronto and Associate Scientist of Physiology and Experimental Medicine at The Hospital for Sick Children.

During our interview, you'll learn:

-Which hidden muscles use over 15% of your energy needs during exercise…

-The 2 best ways to do resisted breath training…

-How your body pulls precious blood away from your arms and legs if you have weak breathing muscles…

-Why breathing in and out of a straw isn't a good idea…

-The sets and reps you should use for potent resisted breath training workout…

-How resisted breathing is different than hypoxic training…

-Why doing breath training the wrong way can increase body acidity…

-What kind of resisted breath devices to use if you have asthma or other lung issues…

-How resisted training could actually give you a six-pack abs…

-And much more!

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powerlungResources:

The PowerLung

-Study: Respiratory Muscle Power Before and After Training

-White Paper: The Importance of Respiratory Muscle Training Inspiratory and Expiratory Muscles.

The Sick Kids Foundation.

PowerLung.com


Questions, comments or feedback about the Powerlung? Leave you thoughts below!

Tim Ferriss Cold Thermogenesis Special Episode

For the past 4 days, I've been living in the Rocky Mountain National Park – at above 9000 feet altitude in the depths of the Colorado wilderness. During each of those days, I took a 15-30 minute icy cold plunge into the big mountain lake…

…and there's a very specific reason why – something called “cold thermogenesis” (also known as “CT”).

If you don't know what CT is – or why it can help you get massively tougher, burn fat faster, decrease inflammation, boost performance and build cardiovascular endurance, then today's Tim Ferriss Cold Thermogenesis Special Episode is for you. In this interview, I talk more about the topic of cold and fat loss with Tim Ferriss, and NASA materials engineer Ray Cronise.

In this episode, we discuss:

-Why weight loss experts are wrong when they say that “calories in=calories out” is the weight loss equation….

-What type of self-experiments Tim conducted to see whether changes in body temperature can result in weight loss…

-Exactly how your biology responds to cold, and what it means for your rapid fat loss…

-What to eat before cold exposure to make you lose even more fat, faster…

-Practical ways to get instant cold exposure for weight loss…   

-The future of research and experimentation in cold exposure and fat loss…

Due to the fact that I'm off to London this week to speak at the Global Triathlon Conference and do a Primality workshop with Darryl Edwards, we dug this extremely popular podcast episode out of our archives.

If you want more resources on cold thermogenesis, then you're in luck. In addition to today's podcast, I'd highly recommend you check out the following:

-The DeSoto Arm Coolers I'll be sporting during Ironman Hawaii this year

Tim's 4 Hour Body book

What Is A Body Cooling Device, and Does It Actually Work?

How You Can Use Cold Thermogenesis To Perform Like Lance Armstrong And Michael Phelps

Tips For Burning More Fat With Cold Thermogenesis (And Why Icing Really Does Work)

The BenGreenfieldFitness Premium content, which features an absolutely mind-blowing 1 hour cold thermogenesis lecture and slides by Ray Cronise

Question, comments or feedback about cold thermogenesis? Have you tried cold thermogenesis? If so, what have you found successful? Leave your thoughts below.

What An Extreme Motocross Athlete Can Teach You About Fitness (And A Free Extreme Fitness Routine).

will hahn

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Wil Hahn (pictured above), a professional motocross racer, broke his hand in practice at the last round of the Supercross series, raced the main event with a broken hand, got 3rd place, then went on to won the overall title by a couple points. 

Motocross is an extreme sport…

…outdoor motocross races occur in the heat of the day at for 30 minutes plus 2 laps, riding in full gear at lactate threshold for the entire time…

…”armpump” can be a serious, painful problem when racing…

…dangerous levels of dehydration are extremely common…

…and in this BenGreenfieldFitness phone app insider interview with Wil, you'll find out what kind of fitness and nutrition plan is necessary to succeed in one of the toughest sports on the face of the planet. Wil and I compare Ironman triathlon to motocross, talk about Wil's motocross fitness routine, what Wil eats and drinks for motocross, tracking heart rates, racing with an injury, and more!

Don't believe that motocross is an extreme sport that  just might beat up your body more than any other sport? Then watch this crazy crash sequence video with Wil Hahn, and then keep reading for a motocross fitness routine…

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Top 10 Lessons Learned at Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof Biohacking Conference

“Biohack Your Life”.

That is the promising theme of Dave Asprey's Bulletproof Biohacking Conference – where I'm currently at in San Francisco (and yes, that photo above is me getting the hell shocked out of my abs on Day 1 of the the event).

Dave is perhaps most famous for his Bulletproof Coffee brand, which has mushroomed (mold-free of course) into an entire Upgraded Self website that features supplements, tech gear, and biohacks that all promise to make one “bulletproof”.

And from speeding up fat loss to enhancing triathlon training and strength, there were definitely some new biohacking lessons learned in the past two days.

So without further ado, here are the top 10 lessons learned at Dave Asprey's Bulletproof Biohacking Conference, with another shameless photo of my abs thrown in.

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