My new DVD set Optimizing Movement was released several months ago and I continue to get outstanding feedback from a wide range of professionals throughout the training and rehabilitation spectrum.

Optimizing Movement DVD Package
Today I wanted to share a review that Kevin Miller, Fitness Coach for the Philadelphia Union Major League Soccer Team, recently sent me. This is a neat review because it shows how this information not only impacts his athletes, but also his own health/performance. It also highlights the fact that there are underlying patterns that affect all movement, regardless of sport, and that these need to be addressed in order to get the most out of more sport-specific work. Enjoy!

Kevin Miller
“I recently purchased a copy of Optimizing Movement by Kevin Neeld. As a coach I am always looking for ways to reduce injuries as well as improve the performance of the athletes and clients that I work with. As an athlete myself I want to make sure that I am staying up with the latest research to improve my performance as well.

When I heard that Kevin was coming out with a product I had no doubt that what he was planning to offer would be a quality product. With new products coming out every day it’s hard to decide what products will actually offer value. I have followed Kevin over the past few years so I was confident that this product would offer tremendous value.

One of the main reasons I purchased the DVD was I wanted to see how Kevin and his staff set up their training system and specially their assessment and corrective exercise philosophy. Having taken a PRI course, I wanted to know what is the best way to implement these strategies into a group training environment.  The DVD is broken down into three parts, which I’ve described below with a few of my own thoughts.

Part 1 Key Topics

  1. Goals of training
  2. Movement is a big piece of reducing injuries
  3. Athletic Performance Pyramid
  4. Foundations of Optimal Movement
  5. Explains joint neutrality and basic overview of PRI
  6. Importance  of the diaphragm in performance
  7. Provides excellent pictures of athletes that present with problems
  8. Overview of FAI
  9. Provides his assessment for FAI
  10. Discusses regional interdependence
  11. Joint by Joint

Part 2 Key Topics

  1. Talks about his assessments
  2. Does a really good job of explaining some of the PRI tests
  3. This section was really good because he has videos for all of his assessments and does a really good job of explaining each test

Part 3 Key Topics

  1. Talks about how to manage movement and how he sets up his corrective exercise strategy
  2. Provides the four places he puts corrective exercise
  3. Provides video for LAIC problems and solutions for people that present with this pattern

Overall this product is excellent. Having taken a Myokinematic Restoration course from PRI this product has really helped my understand how to implement what I was able to learn in the two day course and integrate it into a team setting.  The information that I was able to learn in this DVD will help me tremendously with the professional soccer players as well as the weekend warriors that I work with on a daily basis.

From a personal standpoint I am a classic LAIC pattern in the PRI world. So for me I took a lot of the information that I was able to learn in this product and I have started to implement these strategies into my own training and I can honestly say that I feel better. Over the years I have suffered several nagging injuries on my left side and I really had no solution as to why this was happening. Foam rolling and stretching was not cutting it. With the addition of some  simple changes and a better understanding of why I may have had these injuries I expect to reduce the number of injuries in the future while improving my performance in the weight room as well as on the track.

In summary, I would definitely recommend this product. I have spent much more on products that were not worth the shipping costs. This product is high quality and Kevin provides valuable information to the coaches in the sports performance field.”

Kevin Miller
Philadelphia Union Fitness Coach

 Optimizing Movement Cover-Small

Get your copy now! >> Optimizing Movement

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

Please enter your first name and email below to sign up for my FREE Athletic Development and Hockey Training Newsletter!

Being a strength coach and a manual therapist has given me a different perspective on how important it truly is to assess athletes for structural and functional limitations and address them before they become serious injuries and surgeries. Exercises that revolve around optimizing breathing patterns have become a big piece of that equation for me over the last few years. Despite being a “soft” training modality, these strategies can have a significant impact on sport performance. Below are 5 major ways that breathing can affect sport.

1) Improving Joint Range of Motion
Different activities require different ranges of motion (obviously), and different sports have different joints that tend to get looked at more than others. For example, the idea of a shoulder internal rotation deficit in baseball pitchers has received a lot of attention over the last decade, which lead to the popularization of the “sleeper stretch” to help improve IR. Interestingly, you can lay the athlete down on the floor, teach them to engage their left abdominal wall to help pull their ribs down while they cycle a few breaths in through their nose and out their mouth and right shoulder IR will improve tremendously (often times 15-30 degrees). A similar approach can be used to restore hip adduction and symmetry in hip rotation range of motion. The question then becomes “do these athletes need to stretch?” Simply, if you can get the desirable range of motion in 30s of breathing, then you probably don’t need to stretch. The range of motion was limited because of the position of the pelvis and thorax, NOT because of a limitation in the shoulder. Using specific breathing exercises can restore neutrality to the pelvis and thorax allowing the expression of the available range of motion.

This is a breathing exercise from the Postural Restoration Institute that I use a lot to elicit rapid changes in shoulder and hip range of motion.
2) More optimal movement patterns
When an athlete starts in a non-neutral position, their range of motion will be limited in predictable ways. This is an idea I’ve talked about a lot in the past (See: Managing Structural and Functional Asymmetries in Ice Hockey: Part 1 and Part 2). Attempting to perform any sporting movement that passes through the positional end range limit will lead to a compensatory pattern. It’s interesting to work with athletes that are aware of these compensations. For example, I recently spoke to a pro baseball pitcher who said he felt like his hips hit a certain point during his delivery where they’d shift to the side, which was limiting his power. Not surprisingly, our assessment found he lacked IR on that front leg, meaning he would hit end range and then shift laterally as a strategy to still deliver the ball to the plate. Using breathing-driven exercises to help restore neutrality frees up range of motion (as mentioned above), which can then be incorporated into functional movements. This is one of the reasons I often tell skill coaches that my job is to make their life easier!

3) Decreased injury risk
Injuries are a tricky thing. There is a lot that goes into what predisposes an athlete to specific injuries and what strategies should be targeted to help decrease his or her risk. That said, muscles that are poorly positioned to do their job, fatigue, and poor recovery are three factors that are hard to ignore. The latter two will be discussed next, so I’ll just address the first. As I’ve alluded to above, positional breathing can help restore the pelvis to a neutral position and therefore unlock range of motion and restore the surrounding muscles to a more optimal position to do their jobs. By tying in specific exercises with respiration, you’re able to groove a better motor pattern and help reinforce more optimal function. As an example, a lot of athletes suffer from left groin pain secondary to being in a position of  flexion/abduction/external rotation and either attempting to push further into abduction/external rotation and/or attempting to use a long, neurologically weak adductor group. This position also leads to a descending anterior pelvic floor and ascended posterior pelvic floor. In other words, the anterior pelvic floor is in an “inhalation” position, and the posterior pelvic floor is in an “exhalation” position. Using an exercise like the Right Side Lying Left Adductor Pulback below allows the athlete to restore their pelvis to a neutral position, and engage their left adductors in a shorted position to help restore motor control in this range. By pulling the femur back on the inhale, the athlete can also “open up” their posterior hip capsule, helping to shift this into more of an inhalation state. By pulling the left knee down into the right leg upon exhalation, the athlete can “close down” their anterior pelvic floor, helping to shift this into more of an exhalation state, ultimately improving the ability of the pelvis to move reciprocally from a neutral position during the various phases of respiration.

4) Delaying fatigue through changes in pH
pH is a significant factor in dictating the efficacy of muscle contraction. During high intensity activity, when the demands of the activity cannot be fully met by aerobic metabolism, pH levels lower as hydrogen ions accumulate as a byproduct of glycolytic metabolism. With this in mind, utilizing optimal breathing patterns, while still activity appropriate (as I mentioned here: Chest Breathing vs. Belly Breathing), can help maximize air exchange and therefore either delay the point at which metabolism changes to primary anaerobic processes and/or help facilitate a more rapid restoration following a high intensity effort.

Admittedly, making the leap that stationary breathing exercises will improve sport conditioning is confounded by a lot of factors. That said, I always come back to the idea that if an athlete does not possess the positioning, mobility, core control, and diaphragm power to hit a few sets of quality breaths in a somewhat static, relatively quiet environment, it’s extremely unlikely they’ll be able to do so while in competition. In other words, by removing the confounding factors we have a more realistic window to assess and train a pattern, as we do with all aspects of human performance that is then available to the individual to utilize in their sport.

5) Shifting into a parasympathetic state quickly following activity
I get a lot of questions about how I incorporate PRI or breathing exercises into a team setting. One of the methods that we use breathing for is to help elicit a shift toward a more parasympathetic state following training sessions and sometimes following practices if I’m at the rink.  Hyperinflation is associated with a more sympathetic state, so providing an opportunity for the athletes to lay down, exhale fully, and inhale calmly can quickly shift them more parasympathetically. This also highlights why optimizing breathing patterns can have a profound impact on everyday life; if we’re living life in a constant state of unwarranted sympathetic tone because of the breathing stereotype we use, we’re tapping into a lot of “fight or flight” resources that could be better utilized when we actually need them. This idea of facilitating a faster recovery is one of the main selling points I use in a team setting. More specifically, I let our athletes know that it will help them fall asleep faster at night. In hockey, as I suspect in many sports, a lot of games finish fairly late and players are amped up afterward. Despite getting home at 10-11pm, many won’t fall asleep until after 1. Using this strategy has helped a lot of our players “dim the lights”, so to speak, both physically and mentally and fall asleep faster.

Despite these concepts being presented separately, they are all very interrelated. All of the body’s systems influence one another. Simply, breathing exercises can be used to improve range of motion, joint stability, air exchange, and recovery from training. As a strength and conditioning coach, these are all things that can positively influence the athletes and clients we work with, which is why breathing exercises have become a mainstay in our programs.

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. If you’re interested in understanding how position can influence respiration, range of motion, injury patterns, and the training process, check out my new DVD set Optimizing Movement, which has received rave reviews from professionals in rehabilitation and training settings!

Optimizing Movement DVD Package

Please enter your first name and email below to sign up for my FREE Athletic Development and Hockey Training Newsletter!

When I first started learning about breathing, it was within the context of “chest breathing is bad, belly breathing is good.” The short explanation for this thought process is that belly breathing is driven by the diaphragm, whereas chest breathing is driven by “accessory” respiration muscles and ultimately leads to dysfunction and/or pain. This explanation seemed to make sense and was simple enough to observe with our athletes, so I didn’t feel a strong pull to dig deeper into this relationship.

Around this time, I came across a book titled “Anatomy of Breathing” by Blandine Calais-Germain, which was recommended as a simple, but comprehensive description of breathing anatomy. This was my first introduction to the concept that there are different zones within the thorax that need to expand with inhalation and a limitation in any of them would warrant specific breathing strategies to correct it.

 Anatomy of Breathing

I really enjoyed this book: Anatomy of Breathing

For example, you can imagine that, with the degree of extension this gentleman presents with, it will be difficult for him to get any posterior expansion upon inhalation on either side. This would be a “zone” to concentrate progressively feeding more air into to drive a more optimal breathing pattern.

 PEC Posture

This outlook of finding and addressing restricted zones immediately conflicts with “chest breathing bad, belly breathing good” thought process. 5 years and 144 hours of PRI courses later, it is more clear than ever that there is a lot more to the story than desiring chest or belly breathing. The reality is that we want diaphragm driven breathing with the opportunity for reciprocal chest wall expansion, which ultimately stems from appropriate pelvic and thorax/rib positioning and mobility, and surrounding muscular control. To help illustrate this point, consider the following example.

An individual in an extended state (as in the picture above) has two primary options to get air in upon inhalation. He/she can lift the rib cage vertically using “accessory” respiratory muscles, such as the scalenes, upper traps, and pec minor, or pull further into extension and allow the abdominal contents to bulge forward. This latter scenario is the outcome of many people attempting belly breathing and is as dysfunctional as any “chest breathing” pattern.

Belly Breathing

A quick search with google images uncovered this guy from This may be a useful strategy in raising the individual’s awareness regarding where their air is going, but this is NOT an optimal breathing strategy.

While symptoms can arise in a number of places from a dysfunctional breathing pattern, it’s easy to imagine how using muscles around the neck and shoulders to elevate a stiff rib cage could lead to neck/shoulder pain, and how driving from excessive extension to even more extension could result in back pain, especially with the abdominals becoming dystonic as a result of being attached to an anteriorly tipped pelvis and anteriorly flared rib cage, and having to bulge further outward.

 PEC-Side View

Can you envision how driving a “belly breath” from this position would pull him further into extension?

I think the people that understand breathing the best understand what an optimal “belly breath” looks like, but what has trickled down to the layperson is that “more belly expansion is better”, which is a far cry from optimal respiration. Lurking in the background of this discussion is the idea that the pattern should fit the need for respiration. On one end of the spectrum, during times of complete inactivity (think sleeping), quiet breathing may result in a mild circumferential expansion of the lower ribs and abdomen (different than the abdominal wall just protruding forward) with very little chest expansion. In contrast, during high intensity activity, using accessory respiratory muscles is desirable to maximize air exchange. There’s a reason why they’re accessory! Naturally, the goal is always to train to create an environment where this “emergency” point is delayed as long as possible. The areas in between these two extremes should be characterized by a synchronous expansion of the abdominal and chest cavities. The greater the need for air exchange, the greater the degree of expansion in both areas. One at the expense of the other can be viewed as dysfunctional.

Hopefully this discussion helps shed some light on the limitations of the belly breathing vs. chest breathing thought process. Because the overwhelming majority of the athletes and clients we see present in an over-extended state, lying down in this extended state and driving air through their belly will, in fact, be counterproductive and further lock in their dysfunctional pattern. It’s important that we first correct POSITION before addressing the respiratory pattern, as the diaphragm (the target respiration muscle) cannot function optimally unless it is positioned to do so. If you’re interested in this topic, I’d encourage you to read the two articles below, which dig a little deeper into how to achieve more optimal diaphragmatic positioning and how it influences function.

  1. Zone of Apposition
  2. The Value of Blowing Up A Balloon

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. If you’re interested in understanding how position can influence respiration, range of motion, injury patterns, and the training process, check out my new DVD set Optimizing Movement, which has received rave reviews from professionals in rehabilitation and training settings!

Optimizing Movement DVD Package

Please enter your first name and email below to sign up for my FREE Athletic Development and Hockey Training Newsletter!

Hopefully you were able to grab a copy of Eric Cressey’s The High Performance Handbook already and grab all of the great bonuses Eric offered the first day. After reading through the book, I asked Eric if he’d write a post discussing the importance of individualization, which he humbly agreed to. This is a cool post because in addition to discussing individualization, it provides a very simple assessment that provides some valuable information about your structure and how it should impact programming. This is something we see a good amount in baseball players, a little less in hockey players, and A LOT in gymnasts and figured skaters. Check out the article below!

Individualization: How Results Go from Good to Outstanding by Eric Cressey

I’m no statistician, but I can say without wavering that the standard bell curve absolutely applies to fitness programs – just as it does to many other aspects of our daily lives.  For those of you who need a quick refresher, the standard bell curve represents a normal distribution of data points – meaning values are equally likely to wind up above or below the mean.  It looks like this:

As you can see, 68.2% of the data points in question fall within one standard deviation above or below the mean.  To get directly to my point, these are the people in the fitness world who do pretty well (above the mean) or reasonably well (below the mean) to cookie cutter programs.

The folks in the 13.6% zones (between one and two standard deviations) are a bit more extreme.  Maybe they are dissatisfied with the results (below the mean), or really happy with the results (above the mean).

Finally, the remaining 4.2% of people can go in one of two directions. On the bottom side (2-3 standard deviations below the mean) are the 2.1% who wind up royally jacked up.  Maybe they start off with structural issues like femoroacetabular impingement (bony overgrowth at the hip) that make squatting incredibly injurious.  Maybe they’re beginners who simply aren’t prepared for heavy loading right away. Or, on the other hand, they might be powerlifters who aren’t given sufficient loading to maintain strength.  Regardless, they get hurt – or just make absolutely no progress.

The top 2.1% (2-3 standard deviations above the mean) make absurdly good progress and tell all their friends about the program. They’re like the crazy participant in every spin class that sits in the front row and yells, “Give it to me!” at the instructor for the entire hour.

Finally, there is the remaining 0.1%.  At the bottom, they’re the ones who’ll badmouth a program to anyone and everyone because their results were so terrible that they can’t wait to rid the Earth of it.  Conversely, at the top, there is 1 person in every 1,000 who’ll sing the program’s praises to anyone who’ll listen. It’s his mission in life – because his results were so awesome.

We’d all love to say that all our programs deliver the top 2.2% of experiences, but the truth is, that’s not possible.  However, our goal in programming for athletes and clients is to reduce the number of extreme data points on the bottom side. In the process, we shift the entire curve to the right on the client satisfaction continuum – and we keep the lows from being “too low.”  It’s a novel concept, but how do we do it?

Very simply, we assess and individualize accordingly.

There are loads of different assessments we can utilize with folks to improve the quality of our programming, but I’ll highlight one here: the Beighton Hypermobility test. This assessment is a means of screening for joint hypermobility.  If someone scores high on a Beighton test, then we wouldn’t want to be stretching them – and certainly not to extreme ranges of motion.

The screen consists of five tests (four of which are unilateral), and is scored out of 9:

  1. Elbow hyperextension > 10° (left and right sides)
  2. Knee hyperextension > 10° (left and right sides)
  3. Flex the thumb to contact with the forearm (left and right sides)
  4. Extend the pinky to >90° angle with the rest of the hand (left and right sides)
  5. Place both palms flat on the floor without flexing the knees

Now, many programs – particularly in the hockey and football realms, it seems – assume all athletes are incredibly tight and need to stretch until the cows come home.  With that in mind, here’s a great example of an athlete who – at 6-4, 240 pounds – wouldn’t appear to be hypermobile to the naked eye.  However, when you run a Beighton score, you quickly see that he’s actually got a lot of laxity, and his programs need to focus on building stability first and foremost.

If you stretch him a ton, he would potentially wind up in the bottom 2.2% who’d hate you.  Conversely, if you trained him for stability, he might wind up in the top 2.2%.  And, you could say that this is exactly what happened with his training at Cressey Performance.  We’ve never stretched him, and he’s gone from pitching at 80-82mph to being consistently 88-90mph.  Individualization works.

Now, with that said, individualization often comes at an inconveniences.  It’s pricier, more time-consuming, and not necessarily accessible.  That’s why I went out of my way to make individualizing a program easier to do when I created my new resource, The High Performance Handbook.  Before you start the program, you go through a few quick, but important assessments – and then embark on a program that’s suited to your needs, goals, and schedule.

For more information, click here >> The High Performance Handbook

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

Please enter your first name and email below to sign up for my FREE Athletic Development and Hockey Training Newsletter!

In anticipation of the release of his new training system The High Performance Handbook, Eric Cressey released three great videos last week that I hope you had an opportunity to check out. In addition to watching the videos, I spent the last week digging through the High Performance Handbook and am really impressed with the resource Eric put together (and the nutrition piece that Brian St. Pierre put together…UNbelievable).

The High Performance Handbook

As you may know, I’m a firm believer in individualization. There are a lot of different ways to individualize a program, but 3 major ones are:

  1. Intended physiological response
  2. Training frequency, duration, load, volume, etc.
  3. Exercise selection and performance of prescribed exercises

There are times when individualizing these factors are easier than others, but as an individual training on your own, you really have the freedom to alter variables to best suit your needs. Naturally,  there is also a benefit to having a structured training plan. The cool thing about The High Performance Handbook is that it provides sufficient structure to ensure your progress, but also enough options for individualization for it to best suit your needs. The accompanying video database also allows you to hear how Eric teaches ALL of the exercises in the program, meaning it’s the closest thing to actually training with Eric you can get without relocating to Hudson, MA.

Even better, if you buy the High Performance Handbook TODAY, you may actually get a chance to train in Hudson! Eric has a nice list of free prizes he’s giving away to customers that buy today (think first come first serve giveaways). Check out what he’s offering:

  1. Be entered to win an all-expenses-paid trip to train at Cressey Performance for two days.
  2. Be entered to win one of three pairs of New Balance Minimus sneakers, which Eric refers to as “the most-badass minimalist sneaker on the market”
  3. Be entered to win one of five Cressey Performance t-shirts
  4. Receive access to Eric’s 25-minute video, 7 Ways to Progress a Push-up

Getting access to a great new program, having an opportunity to go train at CP or getting some free swag…Not a bad deal! I don’t promote many training programs like this because I think it’s hard to really replicate quality training without actually getting coaching. That said, I completely understand that it’s not feasible for everyone to train at a great facility. The High Performance Handbook is unique in that it doesn’t just offer great programming from a coach that actually trains people (extremely rare in the internet world), it offers multiple avenues of individualization and a video database where a coach is walking you through how to do the exercises correctly. This would be worth the price of admission in itself, as one of the big reasons people don’t succeed with a program is they don’t know how to do perform the exercises correctly. Whether you’re a competitive athlete or just looking to make a change in lifestyle, following a quality training program designed to meet your needs can have a profound impact on your results. And since Eric backs all of his programs with a 100% Money Back Guarantee, you have nothing to lose to give it a try!

Get your copy now! >> The High Performance Handbook

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

P.S. I highly recommend you pick up the Gold Package of The High Performance Handbook, as it includes an awesome nutrition and lifestyle guide from Brian St. Pierre of Precision Nutrition.  There is some really eye-opening and useful stuff in there.

Please enter your first name and email below to sign up for my FREE Athletic Development and Hockey Training Newsletter!