Integrating PRI into Performance Training Programs

If you haven’t already, check out these two posts before reading this one:

  1. Postural Restoration Institute Comes to Endeavor
  2. PRI: Home Study vs. Live Course

The Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) teaches courses that are primarily targeted at rehab professionals. Interestingly, over the last few years their courses have been attended by an increasing number of professionals from other disciplines, from optometrists to dentists. Likewise, as I’ve mentioned in the past, there is a TON of value in understanding their principles and methods for the strength and conditioning community.

I’ve heard PRI criticized as being not applicable to strength and conditioning settings. I’ve also been asked on several occasions how I apply their information at Endeavor Sports Performance. With those comments in mind, I thought I’d dive into this very topic: Integrating PRI into Performance Training Programs

PRI Exercises in a Group Setting

Simply, I think applying PRI concepts is analogous to applying the screen and correctives from Functional Movement Systems, or, really, any other corrective approach. I find there are essentially two ways to apply any corrective strategy:

  1. Assess an individual and provide targeted corrective exercises to address their most dysfunctional pattern/limitation. Reassess and progress over time.
  2. Include less-individual-specific exercises into the programs for the entire group based on anticipated or observed common limitations. This approach can be used in the warm-ups (preferable), in between “main lifts” during the training session, and during any cool-down or post-training work

Naturally, the first option is optimal. It ensures that each athlete is doing the exercises most specific to their needs and that the risk of “wasting” valuable training time (read: using training time sub-optimally) is minimized. That said, it’s not always realistic for every coach in every situation to test every athlete, and as is the case with other corrective approaches, a generic approach that helps the group as a whole is better than doing nothing at all. This less targeted approach is similar to how we might recommend that a team of players stretch their hip flexors because we anticipate that the hours players spend sitting, and the flexed, repetitive use nature of skating will shorten or at least stiffen this musculature.

At Endeavor, we’ve utilized a combination of both strategies. With our “elite” hockey players, which I define as any players competing at the USHL, OHL, NCAA, or professional levels, I personally took them through a comprehensive assessment that utilized a number of PRI’s assessments, and several other “non-PRI” assessments. The assessment generally took about 20 minutes per individual. It’s always a chaotic time when players start rolling back in, as I have to balance the schedule between new assessments and running current training groups. It’s not necessarily an easy process, but it’s definitely worthwhile. I then used this information to create a short list of “corrective work” for the players to perform before their dynamic warm-up, after they train, and a few times per day on non-training days. Realistically, Most players were fairly good about doing it before most training days, okay about doing it after, and probably didn’t do it at all on non-training days (with a few exceptions of players dealing with nagging injuries).

I also built in two of the more fundamental PRI exercises into the programs of all the players on their lower body training days, and two different exercises on their upper body training days. These exercises were progressed in complexity (and, ultimately, in integration of the pelvis and thorax) over a few phases and then were phased out of the program almost entirely. In most cases, if corrective work is performed correctly, it should correct, and then only need to be maintained through proper movement.

I haven’t yet put PRI exercises into the dynamic warm-up for everyone to perform, but that’s coming. A project that I started several months ago, and simply haven’t had time to finish, is to laminate a series of FMS and PRI correctives, our various mobility/stability combo warm-up series, and our traditional dynamic warm-up series and use all of these to quickly customize an individual’s warm-up for a given phase. In this way, they will have visual reminders of all the exercises, written instructions for the more complex (FMS and PRI correctives), and we can easily individualize things in a fairly simple manner.

When I’ve used PRI exercises aggressively for an individual, they may spend 15 minutes on a given training day performing them. In most cases, it takes half this time, and in others, even less. How much time you spend really depends on your specific situation, but some is better than none and there are a couple big “bang for your buck” exercises that can be easily integrated into anyone’s program.

As with any exercise, the most teaching is performed up front, giving just enough cues to have them position themselves the right way and get started, and adding cues along the way as needed. It’s important with these exercises not to paralyze the athlete with too much information (which is easy to do here). They don’t need to be PRI experts the first day. Let them memorize the positions, movements, and breathing sequence. Once they have that down, follow up about what they feel while they’re doing it, and then, if they aren’t getting what you’re after, provide some further cues to help activate the targeted musculature.

As soon as I started learning PRI information, my thought process jumped to “How can I incorporate this into my system?” This is very different then “Can I incorporate this into my system?” I think this is what makes it so difficult for me to understand why people question whether the information is applicable to training settings, especially if they’re already bought in to the “corrective” side of things. I think of it this way:

  1. If you’re performing any assessments or screens already, simply add the PRI ones in. They take about 3-5 minutes. If you’re well practiced, you can do a full FMS and PRI screen in 12-15 minutes. In group settings, you can set up stations for different tests. In reality, it’ll take about as long to do almost all of the PRI stuff as it would any one test from the FMS. It’s one extra station.
  2. PRI seeks to position bones, joints, and muscles in a neutral state to allow them to move and perform optimally. Simply, if a joint isn’t in a neutral position, the muscles crossing that joint will not be either. The goal should be to restore neutrality PRIOR to reading too far into any other assessments. One simple example of this involves the active straight leg raise test from the FMS. I’ve often seen a L leg that doesn’t raise as high as a R leg in this test (sometimes creating an asymmetrical score), which I can correct (e.g. restore symmetry) within a minute using a basic breathing exercise every time. The screen, in some ways, gives a false positive. In other words, in an extreme time crunch, I’d PRI before I do anything else, and just be discerning in the quality of movement I accept throughout the training session.
  3. Don’t question whether you have time. Make time. If you’re warming up your athletes, there is time for PRI exercises. If you’re putting front planks, glute bridges, etc. in a program, there is time for PRI exercises. Symmetrical exercise is important, but asymmetrical exercise is equally important in many cases to restore symmetry. Sometimes we just need to dig a little big deeper.

Hopefully this provides some insight into how we’ve been integrating PRI’s methods into our training systems. If you have any other questions, please post them below!

If you’re interested in joining us November 10-11 at Endeavor Sports Performance to take the PRI’s Myokinematic Restoration course, you can register at the link below:

REGISTER HERE: PRI’s Myokinematic Restoration

To your success,

Kevin Neeld

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