“Symptoms make it hard, systems make it easy”

facts opinions

“Symptoms make it hard, systems make it easy”


I think Gray Cook said this (title), and if it’s not his quote, I heard him say it during a lecture at the 2018 TPI Summit in Orlando, FL.

When we work with special populations and people who experienced some sort of injury, even benign and a long time ago, that is manifesting itself acutely (from neglect), we can’t always rely on what our clients or patients are telling us.

That is the crux of the assignment of proper corrective exercises Otherwise we’re just rubbing mud of a car’s bumper (metaphorically, by trying to bring a fitness solution to a health problem). It will remain clean until you drive that car right through that mud patch and go right back to where you came from (muddied movement!).

Mobility. Strength. Stability.

What’s the proper order?

ARE YOU “CONNECTED”? (tuned-in, dialed-in)

Oftentimes, the issue is not a strength problem, but an awareness problem (hence the “connected” question. When we evaluate a problem, we don’t always like the answers, or better yet, the answers don’t help us move the needle in the direction of improvement.

What should we do? We need to ask better questions!

How do we ask better questions?


Any time we assess a situation, we run it through two sets of filters: facts, and opinions. If you draw a Venn diagram of intersecting circles (one for facts, one for opinions), the intersection of the two circles I where we promote our confirmation bias with over-valued information.

We have as an industry created complex solutions for simple problems in something that’s referred to as “complexity for profit”.

How can this simple little ProBar help fix issues so simply? 

Screens show problems before the appearance of symptoms. Much like when you go get a physical you’re not just going there to find out how healthy you are, you’re there to predict failure. That’s why your MD runs you through a battery of tests.

Ever heard the expression “if you can’t deadlift, you’re injured but asymptomatic”? We’re not talking about weight/load, we’re talking about a basic hip hinge pattern.

In the absence of a screen, there are many alternatives you can choose from. We’ve covered Chops/Lifts, single leg deadlifts in a previous blog. Another option, to keep things fresh without creating too much paralysis by analyst and not knowing what to choose from, are squats and planks: If you have a good squatting pattern and can hold a plank, you’re doing great (and better than most people). The good news is, take care of those two, you can go far.

Basic drill (if you use the ProBar, use it as you would a dowel, PVC pipe or broomstick: no activation). Pick a comfortable, shoulder-width squatting stance, feet parallel. Place the bar atop your head and choose a grip width that has your elbows bent at 90º. Extend your arms overhead, lock your elbows and squat, without adjusting your feet. Can you:

  1. Squat below parallel? (thighs parallel to the ground)?
  2. Keep the arms vertical, not pitched forward, a bar in line with your ankles (center of the mass line, if you run a vertical line from ankles all the way up to the bar)?

If either or both are an issue, the FMS has in its system a way to adjust your score and improve that squat. With the ProBar, opening it up and activating it usually allows the individual to improve one or both of the above 2 points. Simple corrective exercise indicative of a tight chest and shoulders. And we can many times see improvements in other parts of the body by improving shoulder mobility.

Prior to activating the bar, the chest was pulling the shoulders forward (the pitch). With the ProBar activated, through what’s called reciprocal inhibition, we turn off the tight muscles, turn on the otherwise underactive scapula-thoracic muscles (rear deltoids and upper traps), also freeing the neck for better mobility (we often see people’s head pitch forward as well as the arms, or looking down).

Next up, a solid plank for core stability. One drill to strengthen and stabilize the core is the hollow rocking abs. We demonstrate it with the ProBar in line with the body, but you can also bring it forward almost adopting a supine (on your back) version of a standard plank. Keeping your elbows tight and in line can replicate the activation of the lats, with the ProBar around eye or forehead level, elbows bent 90º. Why do that and not a standard plank? Maybe shoulder impingement or inability to bear one’s bodyweight. This is an alternative and teaches you also to dial in to how to activate the lats and push yourself away from the ground.

In part 2, we explore the fundamental movements of the human operating system.