Balance Like GSP, RDA, and BJ Penn | ft. Billy Edelen
This post focuses on dynamic nervous integration work. Specifically we're using proprioceptive footwork drills to build balance, coordination, strength, and increased reaction time in the feet.
In this type of work we are teaching the nervous system to fire in an efficient, rapid fashion. Essentially we are training the body's sensory receptors (the feet) to make movements and reactions associated in sport in a quick dynamic fashion.
The goal is to have no force lost and a minimal pause between needing to coordinate a movement and actually making it. These exercises are great at building coordination, balance, and kinesthetic awareness, which is the understanding and feel of where your body is in spacet. Performing these bjj footwork drills will minimize the risk of injury and will allow athletes to make quick decisions without thought.
This type of training is the pioneering work first introduced by Marv Marinovich. It is also used by his disciples, including Nick Curson of Speed of Sport and Gavin MacMillan of Sports Science Labs. Both have worked with elite combat athletes, including BJ Penn, George's St. Pierre, and Rafael dos Anjos. In future installments I will continue to share the training advocated by these gentleman. I feel it is some of the best all around training for direct sports performance and injury prevention/rehab purposes.
Many people, and myself doubly included in my active competitive playing days, have hips that stay in a more externally rotated fashion. This causes the foot to turn out. This leads to other faulty movement mechanics including excessive supination (walking on the outside of the foot). This takes pressure off the midline of the foot and takes weight off the big toe, which is abused in my original sport of basketball.
I essentially lost all of my big toe function by the end of active playing days after a turf toe injury. This then caused the plantar fascia to be locked up on the bottom of my foot. I also relied on arch supports and ankle braces. This kept my foot bound and turned off most of the nervous system integration (neuromuscular connection) into the foot. In essence my feet did not work at all like a foot should.
How Do Footwork Drills Help?
This helps us to develop more stability, balance, and coordination between our feet and the rest of our body system. The more our feet can work well and fire in these challenging movements there will be increased sport performance.
Stand on 2 foam rollers or PVC pipes that are 4 inches in diameter.
Turn your feet outwards to where your toes are pointing away from one another.
Hold onto a two long sticks (think of something like a crutch or a smaller piece of PVC pipe that Crossfitters use for shoulder mobility) to keep your balance. You can also hold your hands on a wall as well if sticks are unavailable.
Weight through all 4 corners of foot
Actively engage shin muscle
Lengthen through crown of head
Glutes engaged to extend hips and stand straight
Shoulders down and away from ears
Elbows in tight
Note: this should feel good or slightly painful on the bottom of your feet. This is your fascia and knots in these muscles breaking up. Your toes will wake up and have more life because the nerve channels are being opened up. This is what plays into the increased coordination, balance, and speed or reaction. Hence the name: dynamic nervous integration.
#1 Feet Angled Out (External Rotation of Hips)
Begin rolling your feet on the pipes in this outward fashion.
If you become comfortable with this challenge yourself by purely balancing on your feet with no external support.
#2 Feet Angled In (Internal Rotation of Hip)
Just as the title says our feet are angled inwards and we're rolling the pipes inward and outward like the last one.
This will feel a little more difficult because the "meat" of your fascia will not be in contact with the pipe. Rather, your toebox and heel will be in contact where you will have to focus on an eccentric (lengthened) contraction of the musculature of the bottom of your feet.
#3 Rolling Pipes Forward and Back In Place
This drill focuses on heel to toe balancing (forward and backwards) whereas the previous 2 drills focused on side to side balancing. These changes in the plane of motion target different muscles. This helps us to develop more stability, balance, and coordination between our feet and the rest of our body system. The more our feet can work well and fire in these challenging movements there will be increased sport performance.
Pipes should be running perpendicular (sure to side) to your body with one in front of the other.