The Best Training You Aren't Doing: An Interview With Dr. Eric Cobb - Part 2!

The hardest aspect of implementing these drills is the discipline it takes to get the most out of them...but you will have improved in every performance aspect you strive to achieve!

[ Q ] How does Z-Health compare to current methods such as dynamic flexibility training and PNF?

    EC: In most instances I try not to make comparisons between Z and other programs, because invariably someone will take it as a challenge. That having been said, let me briefly explain the differences here and why they exist.

    Dynamic flexibility training (DFT) is a great concept. To really perform well and prevent injury, the body has to be trained in motion, and eventually at sport-specific speed. DFT is an excellent tool in this arena. Z differs from DFT in two important ways.

    First, Z is a total system that is designed to not only enhance functional mobility and resultant flexibility, but also to reintegrate posture and breathing with movement. Also, Z is a very deep system that moves from basic rehabilitation through our version of advanced weight training, plyometrics, visual pattern training and a wide variety of other subjects.

    In essence, DFT is a tool and Z is a system. Secondly, from a purely anatomic perspective, DFT is a muscle/tendon/fascia oriented process, while Z focuses on the joints and proprioceptive enhancement. We use DFT in Z-Health, but only after joint mobility and precise body-control have been established.

Stretching Basics!
In this article I will try to shed some light on some of the reasons for incorporating stretching into your exercise routine (and life), plus give you some insight as to how to stretch correctly (and incorrectly).
[ Click here to learn more. ]

    As far as PNF goes, while in chiropractic college I studied PNF extensively via Koss' original textbook, and had some hands-on training with a PNF therapist. Additionally, PNF concepts have been a part of many courses I have taken. Because I am not a licensed PNF practitioner, my comparison ability only goes so far, however. On the surface, I believe that Z and PNF share many similarities.

    I also believe, on the whole, PNF is a more limited approach to certain components of movement efficiency and integration than is Z. This likely comes from that fact that PNF is more grounded in traditional orthopedic concerns. All that having been said, if I were choosing a new discipline to delve into, PNF would be high on the list.

    I think its concepts have tremendous value, and in the hands of a creative person would likely lead to conclusions in many areas similar to Z-Health.

[ Q ] Dr. Cobb, because we are so fixated on numbers, how does something as simple as breathing help in our movement? I know some systems complicate little details far too much, don't we naturally breathe correctly?

    EC: Let me answer by stating unequivocally that breathing is one of the key cornerstones of movement efficiency. If you don't believe me, try a simple experiment. Imagine that you are about to hit a baseball. Get in your stance and prepare to swing. Now, take a deep breath in and hold it. Try to swing - just make sure you don't break or tear anything in the process!

    How did that feel? Pretty bad right? Now try it again, only this time blow ALL of your air out and hold it out before you swing. How did that feel? If you are like most people, it probably still felt pretty bad, but a bit better than before. Try it one last time, only now, exhale and relax through the swing. Notice the difference?

    If you did this correctly, you'll never have to wonder again if breathing is integral to good movement skills! In Z, we pay attention to the details, and breathing is one of the big ones. Breathing can have a huge impact on your lifting and training if you understand how it works and how to really integrate breathing with motion and posture.

Breath Before Emotion!
You will accelerate your training and performance in general if you orient your approach to reflect the actual science behind breathing, rather than upon urban myths. What do you see when an individual attempts to relax?
[ Click here to learn more. ]

    As for your second question, I absolutely agree. It's entirely possible to get lost in complicated little details. We work very hard to not let this happen in Z. Breathing, however, is not what I consider a little detail! As it relates to the oxygen/carbon dioxide balance in your body, breathing either adds fuel to your engine or it siphons it off.

    And, believe it or not, MANY people do not breathe correctly due to poor coordination habits, bad posture and improper training. When you learn to really work with your respiration, not only will your movement efficiency skyrocket, but your energy reserves and overall work capacity will dramatically increase.

[ Q ] You work with a wide array of people, ranging from those that have had extreme surgeries to elite athletes. What do you think some of the most common mistakes people make in training?

    EC: This is one of my pet topics so let me just throw out my personal favorites.

    1. Too fast.
    2. Too much.
    3. Too soon.
    4. Too scattered.

    #1. Too Fast

    If I start with #1, I usually sum it up this way… "Speed is the athletic ego's greatest friend." None of us like to be wrong, none of us like to make mistakes and none of us like to fail. Additionally, we are such a results and numbers-oriented culture, we often sacrifice our bodies and health for a number that means nothing to anyone other than us.

    To "achieve" higher numbers, people generally go way too fast in training. I like to tell our trainer's to only perform exercises at a tempo in which they can pay conscious attention to the details. In movements that are too explosive to follow this advice, like the dumbbell snatch, I have athletes choose one aspect of the lift to work on at a time.

    In training, like in life, success is most often in the small details. You have to practice slowly enough to notice what you are doing wrong and fix it.

    #2. Too Much

    #2 is closely related to #1. Most people train with too much intensity at first - higher weights, more reps, more mileage, etc. As a result, when it comes to technique, we like to think that "close enough" is "good enough".

    Nothing could be further from the truth! Remember the SAID principle. If you train to do something slightly wrong, you'll only get better at doing it slightly wrong! This will hinder your efficiency and set you up for injury in the long run. Work on the perfect rep - every time.

The Mind/Muscle Relationship!
The brain is responsible for the processes underpinning many of our day to day actions, from completing a set bench presses to planning ones training program. It is important, to keep our brain in great shape to get the most out of our training.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

    #3. Too Soon

    #3 - Poor rest habits are the bane of many athletes. Unfortunately rest cannot be solely determined by your schedule weeks in advance. You have to take into account your diet, stress level, immune system function and a host of other factors that change day-to-day. I believe that anyone who trains needs to find a personal system that allows them to notice very early on when they are slipping into overtraining.

    There are lots of ways to do this, but priority #1 is to learn how your body speaks to you personally. For me, one of the greatest indicators of overtraining is an inability to hold form - perfect form.

    #4. Too Scattered

    #4 - We humans are a complicated organism. I believe that we are an integrated mind, body and spirit system, and when we separate these components, we're less than whole. Modern training has taken a turn for the worse, in my opinion, by trying to decrease the "boredom" that people feel in training. We distract ourselves in every possible way.

    Z, on the other hand, is ultimately about integration: getting the brain/body system into the zone. This is hard to make happen unless you bring your full concentration to the task at hand. So when you lift - lift. Be there and experience it. When you train in a Z neck movement - make it your whole world for the 30 seconds you're working. This may sound a little Zen to some, but it's not. It's backed up by education, science and experience.

[ Q ] So really Z-Health's success is up to the individual right? If that is the case, how do you recommend most people integrate Z-Health with their current training?

    EC: Yes, I believe that when it comes to health and fitness it is always up to the individual. Your friends and training partners can inspire and motivate you, but ultimately it has to come from inside you. One of my favorite quotes is, "There are two kinds of pain: the pain of discipline and the pain of regret. The pain of discipline weighs ounces, the pain of regret weighs tons." I couldn't agree more.

    "There are two kinds of pain: the pain of discipline and the pain of regret. The pain of discipline weighs ounces, the pain of regret weighs tons."

    Integrating Z-Health into your current training is actually a simple process, but it begins with training. Z, especially in our R-Phase Training (Rehabilitation, Restoration, & Re-Education) seems simple, but that doesn't make it easy. Reviewing our manuals and DVD is a great place to start. After you've had some time practicing the basics, getting to a workshop or private training session with a Z Certified trainer is invaluable.

    Additionally, I like to tell people to start small. Pick one or two movements for problem areas and work to master them. Then add a few more. Next, start learning to integrate our postural concepts into your regular training. If you approach it this way, Z will integrate seamlessly into your current program and give you the foundation for dramatic improvements very quickly.

[ Q ] Z-health can actually make a person stronger, faster, or more agile?

    EC: I have two answers to this: yes and no!

    We like to say that the only thing we haven't been able to systematize and build into Z is the discipline to train! Each person has to supply that individually. Can Z make you stronger, faster and more agile? Not unless you're willing to work at it.

Biomechanical Cutting: Improve Your Movement!
To improve movement, each coach and/or athlete must have a firm understanding of the function of the kinetic chain and its relationship and interaction with ground reaction forces and momentum...
[ Click here to learn more. ]

    On the other hand, can Z make you stronger, faster and more agile if you've got what it takes to train properly? Yes. Absolutely.

[ Q ] How fast are some of the results you have seen?

    EC: Unbelievably fast. Literally. I am still astounded at how effective and fast Z can be. With the total focus of the system being movement efficiency, changes in performance often occur in one training session - often within seconds or minutes.

    Here are a few of my favorite examples:

    • 3 inches added to a vertical jump in 3 minutes - from 28" to 31".
    • 19 seconds per mile decrease off a NCAA Division 1 champion runner's 10k time in 2 weeks.
    • 20 pound increase in the barbell snatch in 20 minutes with a professional strength coach.
    • 15 pound increase to a new PR in the shoulder press in 3 minutes with a professional strength trainer.

    We have loads of testimonials on our website that people can take a look at and a growing collection of them that we haven't had time to add. In addition to the above stories, we have innumerable favorites in relation to injury recovery and pain-relief as well.

    While Z is not a panacea for all of your training ills, the system is a missing link for many people. When you supply that missing piece and give the body the right feedback and training, your results may surprise you.

[ Q ] Dr. Cobb, thank you so much giving us great insight to Z-health. If people want to know more what can they do?

    EC: Not a problem, we are currently developing videos and manuals that contain many of our drills and progressions. In the meantime we have www.zhealth.net that offers a great forum and notice of seminars we are performing around the country.

About The Author

Josh Henkin is owner of Innovative Fitness Solutions (www.ifsstrength.com) in Scottsdale, Arizona. Coach Henkin has presented nationally in the field of fitness and sports enhancement. He is also the author of High Octane Sandbag Training manual and DVD (www.sandbagexercises.com). You can reach him at josh@sandbagexercises.com.