What Are You Doubling Down On?

What Are You Double Downing On?

Gambling has never been my strong point. Whenever I go to a casino, I usually play it safe by hanging out with friends, watching them play craps, roulette, or going off on my own to the penny slots or quarter slots myself.

I’m positive a good chunk of change (read: I’m up about $1200 from slot machines) by knowing to not get sucked in by conventional gambling, because I have an all or nothing personality.  That’s me, I know what kind of mentality I’d get into if I get into a serious game like Texas Hold’ em Poker, or Blackjack, so I choose to stay away from it. I know when to call it during slots, and it is usually after netting my first small victory that I have come away in the positives.

I’ll just relegate my gambling fantasies to movies like Ocean’s 11 or Rounders, both movies that happen to host Matt Damon.

Give That Man His Money
“Give that man his money!”

I’m mentioning how much I don’t believe in gambling because from a strategy point of view, gambling is simply risky. I don’t like the odds, I can’t control the outcomes, and it isn’t fun when you lose.

And I’m a sore loser.

If I lose, I’m going to think I can “outwork” the system, but it isn’t possible because you can’t outwork a system that have the odds against you (or at least, that’s what I believe in).

Now, I look at gambling from this point of view. When you gamble, you place down something that you value (time, energy, money), and hope for a higher return on your investment. This makes sense, right? You earned some paycheck from your job, and then you go to the casino with some buddies.

When you play blackjack, there is a phrase called “double downing” where you receive a set amount of cards, and you have to make a decision on whether or not you’ll bet more (double to be exact), and risk losing, or risk winning more based on the outcome of the pending card.

Double Down Definition Blackjack

Well let’s look at this phrase from a priority point of view, instead of just gambling.

Typically when it comes to deciding your future, the future events is relatively foggy. Doubling down on certain actions can shape what happens in your future. If you’re thirsty, you can drink some water, and be relatively sure your thirst will be quenched. If you drink a handle of Jack Daniel’s and decide to go masquerading into the city, well then you’re in for a series of unknown events, that is for sure.

So barring letting Jesus take the wheel, let’s take away the random accidents, random events, and random things that may can be considered coincidences.

I’ll ask a few simple questions:

What are you double downing on right now?

  • Are you double downing on work?
  • Are you double downing on family?
  • Are you double downing on Happy Hour with buddies?
  • Are you double downing on video games?
  • Are you double downing on Netflix?
  • Are you double downing on your health?

This is another version of going all in, an idiom taken from another card game – poker, that represents a cause and effect response in a better light.


If you are double downing on work right now, then this means you are denying going out sometimes. You are learning a new skillset, maybe learning how to better manage your time so you can have some nights out (but not as much), or creating the back end for a new project that is in the works.

Happy Hour

If you are double downing on Happy Hour or meeting up with friends every Tuesday and Thursday for drinks, you are placing priority on your enjoyment with friends, drinks, and food. While you are out enjoying yourself, you may be missing opportunities on developing skillsets, reading to expand yourself, or improving your network (or maybe you are having drinks with new people every day in order to network, it all depends).

Whether or not you know it, you are placing your time, energy, and money on drinking with friends, sometimes without any real benefit to your immediate future.

Video Games

If you’re double downing on Call of Duty, Diablo III, and the newest video game system out there, you’re enjoying yourself, having fun with friends, or by yourself. At the same time, you are prioritizing an escapism, but what is being prioritized for your future?

Keep in mind I played tons of video games myself growing up, and I can still hang with some of the best, but I don’t play video games anymore. At all. I stopped cold turkey.

The Good And Bad

There is both a good and bad here. If you have work you need to do, then do it. I’m not judging. But you might be missing out on being with your family. You might be missing out on seeing your child’s first steps – that is something that might happen because you’re in a 16 hour work day with an hour up and hour back commute, making it an 18 hour day.

If you plan on playing video games professionally, which is certainly possible for some, then you NEED to double down on playing video games, and A LOT of them. You need to get good in order to be the best, so play more.

However, I’m not sure 8 hour marathons of Call of Duty, or watching Netflix, can be justified because you “need a break” from work for the weekend. If you’re still living at home with your parents and you’re complaining about not finding a career or passion, but you can go on multiple online dates over the course of a weekend, there is a misunderstanding between what is prioritized and what really matters to you.

Your Health

If you’re double downing on going out to the bars with your buddies, having cake, ice cream, and all desserts every weekend, what is being prioritized? You’re double downing Ben & Jerry’s, instead of double downing chicken salads, and complaining about aesthetics not being where you want them to be. Are you double downing on sleep?

  • What matters to you?
  • Where are your actions being visibly placed on?

Double down on your health. If you don’t have your health, you can’t prioritize anything else that you enjoy doing – Netflix, video games, drinking (in moderation) with buddies. You get the picture.

As always,

Keep it funky.


Warm-Up – Is It Really Worth It?

Warming up has been something that has been up for debate for quite some time. I’m pretty sure Bruce Lee was always altering his methods for warming up, and even further back we can look at how martial artists warmed up, and if there are is any written history, I’d love to see how gladiators, warriors, etc warmed up.

Bruce Lee - Warmup

Perhaps the reasoning for this is due to the immense amount of “creativity” that individuals within the industry can impose upon their idea of a warm-up in preparation. There is, like everything we do, almost no standardization for what is right or wrong.

However, respecting the actual anatomy and physiology, along with respecting what an individual believes (which speaks to the psychological aspects, self-beliefs, etc), can lead us to a more correct identity of what plans of action to take.

(Side Note: I mention what an individual believes, because sometimes a coach or trainer believes some players need to get “lower”, when in fact getting “lower” will compromise the acetabular-femoral joint going into hip flexion. Further, after identifying the anatomy of an individual, perhaps some persuasion will allow you – the more informed individual – to create a better plan of action, thus “the more correct” version displayed above.)

Hip Pelvis

My Own Experiments Warming Up

My own personal background with “warming up” has consisted of anything and everything. I’ve done the following versions in my own warm-ups:

Version 1

  • Foam Rolling
  • Positional Breathing Drills/Resets
  • Dynamic Warm-Up (various movement drills, crawling, skips, lunges, etc)
  • Movement Rehearsal (with empty barbell for example before benching/squatting/deadlifting)

Version 2

  • Foam Rolling
  • Positional Breathing Drills/Resets

Version 3

  • Positional Breathing Drills

Version 4

  • Dynamic Warm-Up
  • Movement Rehearsal

Version 5

  • Movement Rehearsal (with empty barbell)

These are all methods employed for many various reasons: lack of time, excess of time, priority of a training session (to place myself in a better psychological position),

Further, I’ve explicitly done these items for weeks, sometimes months at a time, just to prove a point – that if I truly believe in something, I also have to see a thought process that I believe is incorrect or wrong, and see how I fare. I learned a few things.

For those that are rigidly sticking to your foam rollers, lacrosse balls, and bands, I encourage and challenge you to step away from what the “industry” has imposed as a necessity, and discover what is truly important for yourself.

Let me say this first:

  • I’ve had great training sessions without any foam rolling.
  • I’ve had great training sessions without doing any quadruped extension rotations, or glute bridges, or dead bugs.
  • I’ve had great training sessions with only open loop drills such as skipping, 15 yard sprints, cariocas, marches, etc.

And on the other end:

  • I’ve also had time crunched training sessions where I’ve had to omit a full on 20 minute foam rolling session, and just do 30 seconds of foam rolling.
  • I’ve had sub-par training session where I’ve only done movement drills, and dynamic warm-ups.
  • I’ve had bad training sessions where I’ve even included foam rolling, movement drills, dynamic warm-ups, etc.

So is it safe to align myself with the thought that you absolutely need to prelude a training session with one of the “Version 1” warm-ups listed above in order to elicit an appropriate physiological training effect?

Again, I’d argue that this point is not as necessary, as I’ve seen great training sessions performed with as little movement preparation other than taking an empty barbell, and furthering the physiological quality of strength (with respect to powerlifting, for example).

For what it is worth, I have to bring into question…

What is the purpose of the warm-up?


1. It can be introduced as a marketing effort to distinguish from services and other businesses.

This is not a bad thing. Many may associate marketing with a negative connotation, and I’m here to say that I’ve seen and heard of bad training methodologies with an amazing marketing team.

I’ve seen amazing training methodologies with zero to little marketing strategies employed, and the featuring a different warm-up is simply another way to distinguish between competitors.

It simply is what it is.

Opening Windows of Adaptation

2. Introduce a window of physiological opportunity to help introduce further physiological training effects.

Now this is where I get excited. I’ve used various technologies, both real pieces of tech (OmegaWave, HRV tech) and cheap tech (tracking heart rate with first two digits on the side of the wrist, plus sleep tracking, plus checking grip strength).

The purpose of these technology items is to track physiological readiness (Am I ready to train a specific quality today?). Now, the warm-up can alter, change, or perhaps if done incorrectly, degrade those qualities of readiness.

Would someone like Allen Iverson do better or worse without doing foam rolling, hip flexor stretches, etc.? Or does he just want to go and practice?

The 4 Components of a Warm-Up

Separating myself from the marketing aspect of how a warm-up can vary from trainer to trainer, and philosophy to philosophy, I believe that there are real physiological qualities that can be enhanced, ignored, or maintained as far as a warm-up is involved.

This leads to the next question of, “what are the components of a warm-up?”

One of my mentors from afar, Charlie Weingroff, succinctly put these items into separate categories, and I believe even he mentioned he had borrowed these themes from Mark Verstegen. And I decided to make an awesome image of these in a more digestible format, based off of what he had discussed in this article: Warm-Up and Motor Concepts


Increase Tissue Temperature

There is so much benefit towards improving both the superficial and deep core temperature. Likewise, there is a lot of literature towards identification of how tissue temperature can influence O2 consumption, expenditure, nervous system conduction, blood flow dilation towards the working muscle groups.

Read: Warm-Up: Potential Mechanisms and the Effects of Passive Warm-Up on Exercise Performance

Priming Active Mobility

This is one concept that will need a better requisite of contemporary literature, namely identification of regional interdependence, the concept of passive versus active mobility, along with understanding a scope of practice that many trainers may not adhere towards when providing neurological changes to clients and athletes.


I still believe in the Joint by Joint Approach (JBJA).

Many of my colleagues may feel as if they have moved on for whatever reason. I’d like to argue that while the JBJA may seem like a black and white approach (for a lack of better phrasing), it is in fact simply a guideline that will allow better clinical decisions to be made. In fact, the JBJA still adheres to the qualitative effects of end feel, neurological tone, regional interdependence, and how gait works.

If the ankle does not dorsiflex as you push off, you will get a collapse of the medial arch and overpronation may occur. This speaks to a possible limitation at the talocrural joint, neurological tone that may prevent movement from the ankle-on-up towards the hip, and can even limit trunk rotation.

3 Way Ankle Mobility
Prepare your joints at multiple angles!

If you do have appropriate ankle dorsiflexion in a passive versus active manner, but you cannot control your given range of motion in an active manner, then you will need to do something in order to provide a motoric strategy that displays a greater control over that range of motion.

Total Hip ROM

If my active hip range of motion is [x], and my passive range of motion is greater than [x], well then I may have a lack of ability to control this range of motion.

Seek a method that will activate, and thus prime, your mobility.

Prep Central Nervous System

This is the portion of a warm-up that can be identified with these pieces of equipment/methods:

  • [Low-Level] Plyometrics (Skips, Marches, Hops, Bounds)
  • Medicine Ball Circuits
  • Kettlebell Circuits (Swings, Snatches, High Pulls)
  • Technical Work with Olympic Lifting
  • Jump Rope
  • Open Loop Drills (Reaction Drills)
  • Plyometric Push Ups

Action Plan

Do these if you are attempting to improve upon force production within your training session.

On that train of thought, you can improve upon this thought by categorizing these items into upper and lower CNS prep.

Lower Body CNS Prep

  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Jump Rope
  • Open Loop Drills (Reaction Drills)
  • Olympic Lifts (Squat Cleans, Hang Cleans, Snatches)

Upper Body CNS Prep

  • Olympic Lifts (Snatches, High Pulls)
  • Medicine Ball Circuits (Stomps, Slams, Scoops, Shotputs)
  • Plyometric Push Ups
  • Empty Barbell Throws (Smith Machine)

If you want to move weight, move it fast. So, simply, train fast.

[Specific] Movement Rehearsal


Rehearsal of specific movements is something that has been within my wheelhouse for years on end. When you’re getting ready to dance, you simply just start dancing (toprocking), or grooving to get your body warm.

If you identify with numbers 1 through 3, but don’t practice this last bulletpoint, well then I have to ask, “what you are doing?”

If you go straight to movement rehearsal, are you performing your warm-up incorrectly? I’d have to argue no, because you are still improving blood flow by performing low level movements, but may miss the boat when it comes to CNS activation, or priming the active mobility of a given joint.

Action Plan

If you have time, perform 1 through 3 in order to open certain windows of adaptation towards whatever physiological effect you are attempting to improve upon.

Rehearsing specific movements is important because, well, you need to do those prescribed movements later on at a higher velocity, intensity, or with more precision (technically speaking) in order to elicit whatever physiological goals you are attempting to maintain/improve upon.

Warming Up Prior to Competitions

Let’s go back 10, maybe even just 5 years ago.

Let’s visit a powerlifting meet.

  1. Do people have foam rollers? Only a few.
  2. Are people performing stretches and mobility drills? Only a few.
  3. Are people wearing hoodies, sweats, etc in order to “stay warm?” Many, so yes.
  4. Are people getting under an empty barbell for reps? Yes.

Okay, let’s visit a powerlifting meet nowadays.

  1. Do people have foam rollers? Almost everyone.
  2. Are people performing stretches and mobility drills? Almost everyone.
  3. Are people wearing hoodies, sweats, etc in order to “stay warm?” Many, so yes.
  4. Are people getting under an empty barbell for reps? Yes.

The reasoning for these items being introduced to powerlifting meets now involves understanding further education, the advent of information being introduced within the internet, and simply smart training.

However, let’s visit something I’m more familiar with, such as a [bboy] jam.

  1. Do people have foam rollers? Rarely.
  2. Are people performing stretches and mobility drills? Yes.
  3. Are people wearing hoodies, sweats, etc in order to “stay warm?” Many, so yes.
  4. Are people dancing? Yes. 

This is not to point out that foam rollers are necessary.

Rather, sometimes the acute preparation that the mentality of bringing a foam roller with you may be an erroneous decision in the presence of mentally preparing to compete.

If a tight muscle group is presenting difficulty, it should have been taken care of prior to competition, for example. Dependence on a foam roller means something else in the training process needs to be addressed.

Does this also point out a lack of education on what an appropriate warm-up can elicit to help open up various windows of movement qualities? As my Minnesota-minded interns at CSP would say, “you betcha.”

So… What Have You Learned So Far?

These are thoughts that have been in my head, but better worded through various linguistics and technical language that Charlie has allowed for me to explain.

I’ve always been a fan of performing mobility drills, and then quickly jumping into a specific movement (such as toprocking, and practicing footwork to help amp up the nervous system and increase blood flow).

The introduction of foam rolling allows some windows to be opened up, but only if this lack of mobility was not even critical mass to begin with, as I believe foam rolling is simply one other way to improve upon a neurological awareness of whether a given musculature is tight or not.

In fact, I’ve personally been introducing open loop drills such as throwing a tennis ball and reactively catching with both hands (left hand is a little more difficult), sprinting drills, and medicine ball circuits without foam rolling or movement preparation drills and I’m not noticing any difference in my movement quality.

You can always do whatever you want to do.

I’m simply looking for the most efficacious method towards achieving a goal.

As always,

Keep it funky.


The Assessment Experiments: Installment 3 – Squats and Saline Solution

The below is approximately a 2700 word article on experiments, structures in your skull, and how to practically apply all this new information. The first portion is the “Too Long, Didn’t Read” version!


Note: The below video shows me performing a nasal saline solution that requires pressurized solution into, well, my nose. I show it on the video, so if you are squeamish, turn your head away around the 1:35 minute mark!


1. What is a nasal saline solution?

Nasal saline solution has been a home remedy for aiding in the process of cleansing the nasal airways. This method is often utilized in conjunction with allergies, and just being stuffy in general.

2. What was the hypothesis?

After consulting with others, and doing my own research, I hypothesized that performing a nasal saline rinse would improve movement quality via inhibition of specific movement pathways, regardless of previous inputs/sympathetic drivers (in this case, performing a one repetition max back squat).

The act of performing a true maximal repetition back squat will aim to recruit an extension based strategy – one that calls upon various musculature that can be aptly described through “Janda’s Upper and Lower Cross syndromes.”


3. What occurred?

Movement capacity of varying screens, assessments, and tests were checked before squatting, after squatting, and post-nasal saline solution rinsing. I also recorded everything in one take!

4. What improved or decreased in measures?

Fitness qualities of strength and power seem to not be affected directly (speed and endurance were not measured) because, well I did this video twice – so strength was not negatively affected. This video was the 2nd filming because my phone did not have enough space to record the whole thing – so filming stopped initially on the first ride through.

Biomechanical measurements of various philosophies seem to be affected, which speaks about movement quality and motoric control of specific muscle groups – both before squatting, after squatting, and post-nasal saline solution application.

For a specific example…

Nasal Saline Solution Experiment

Before Squatting…
Top Left: Left GH IR = 42°, Pre-Squat
Top Right: Right GH IR = 36°, Pre-Squat

… Glenohumeral (GH) internal rotation (and shoulder mobility) was assessed to identify whether or not shoulder internal rotators were activated (prior to squatting).

(My total GH range of motion is 160°+, so if GH IR is approximately 40°… external rotators are about 120°!)

After Squatting…
Mid-Left: Left GH IR = 35°, Post-Squat
Mid-Right: Right GH IR = 34°, Post-Squat

… These measurements were reduced – that is the glenohumeral internal rotators were not activated, and the measurements were less than before squatting.

Instead, the (GH) external rotators had to likewise be activated, representative of an extension based strategy needed when you are holding the barbell in the back squat position (especially in a low bar position).

Post-Nasal Saline Solution
Bottom Left: Left GH IR = 69°, Post-Nasal Saline Solution
Bottom Right: Right GH IR = 63°, Post-Nasal Saline Solution

The measurements of the upper body improved dramatically – the GH internal rotators were facilitated (activated), and inhibition of the extension based strategy was observed.

It is likely that airways were opened via nasal saline solution, and the nasal pathways allowed more air to flow through my lungs, which allowed me to inhibit specific musculature, along with other patterns associated with an extension based posture.

It can be observed that GH internal rotation (bilaterally) improved significantly with no other intervention other than the nasal saline solution. Likewise, other movement patterns improved significantly as well, both officially on camera, and off camera (which had

5. What is the application to sports?

Respecting the structures found within the skull are important and should not be underrated. By influencing something as simple and local as the nasal airway, you can have a cascade of effects that seem to reach out into other systems on a global level, outside of just the muscular and skeletal system.


Influencing the cardiovascular system and central nervous system in a positive manner can hopefully influence recovery strategies for athletes who are looking to maximize what they have at their disposal.

6. What is the application in day to day living?

The general population (and myself) can often be found increasing stimulation to the sympathetic nervous system in order to improve capacities for everyday living. By learning to turn down the knob on the sympathetic nervous system and instead turn up the parasympathetic nervous system, hopefully more efficient rest and recovery can be acquired in order to improve quality of life. This is merely another attempt at performing the above.


What a Time to Be Alive: The Assessment Era

When it comes to understanding assessments, the whole process of understanding joint position is merely one item that is to be understood. The bigger, overarching, yet very simple question of “Why are you even assessing?” must be asked to achieve true understanding of the assessment process.

Sometimes, assessments are not necessary.

If you have upwards to 100s of individuals to coach on a day to day basis, you are a one man show, and you cannot concisely view detailed movement patterns from person to person, it will be very difficult to gather important information.

If you are attempting to improve fitness levels of strength, power, speed, and endurance, perhaps an individualized biomechanical assessment may not be necessary for hundreds of individuals at one time. Keep these thoughts in mind before divulging the rest of this mini-essay.

Logistics aside, I would like to dive deeper into a topic that I believe very strongly about, which is manipulating inhibitory methods in order to produce maximal activation within a movement capacity. Long story very short – I want to inhibit a pattern very quickly, in order to ramp up and accelerate just as fast!

The ideas of regional interdependence, along with a salient stimulus, both build upon the idea that the body self-regulates on a much more complex medium than just bones articulating here, and muscles acting on the bones.

There are nerves that innervate muscles, that are weaving in and out of fascial lines, that arrive from the peripheral nervous system, that originate from the central nervous system!

Peripheral Nerves

The essential idea that I’d like to promote is that the act of lifting weights in a progressive manner is aiming to shift homeostasis towards a state of being that can handle progressively heavier loads, more force absorption (and thus, possibly more force production as well), on top of improving ability to mobilize and utilize energy stores found within our bodies!

Photo Credit: PsychloPedia.Wikispaces.com
Photo Credit: PsychloPedia.Wikispaces.com

Now, there are multiple factors that lead to increased and specific adaptations to an imposed demand, such as lifting heavier weights and getting faster:

  • Just enough of a stressor, and you can meet those demands.
  • Not enough of a stressor, and you won’t improve because your body simply isn’t stimulated to grow.
    • Think of doing 3 sets of 10 reps for literally ever – your body will get used to doing only those sets and reps.
  • Too much of a stressor, and your body will be overstimulated and will not have enough ability to recover from the given demands.

However, there are also other ways to inhibit these overstimulated demands through the manipulation of specific reflexes and movement pathways.

Many times, the fitness industry seeks these methods out by foam rolling, stretching, and performing self-myofascial release type of methods (lacrosse ball work, massage/manual therapy, etc.) in order to inhibit a pattern or muscle group. That is fine, but if it doesn’t work, or if you have to keep on doing it in order to achieve the same effect – then what?

Spock - Logic

Essentially, there is more than one way to provide an inhibitory response. Seek out multiple methods, and perhaps you can improve your ability to recover.

Case Study – Me, Squats, and Nasal Saline Solution

So, lifting weights is a sort of “perceived threat” to the body. Not in the sense of this is going to be painful, but rather there is a stimulus (adaptations to lifting weights), and there is an adaptation (body improving bone mass density, cross sectional area of muscles, etc.).

However, if you were to keep on lifting weights without the appropriate amount of rest/recovery, what happens? Or what happens if you lift a weight that is too much load for you to handle?

I’d venture a guess and say that this is a lot of stress to the body, and you may lose stability of a specific system. Now, to use the neuromuscular movement patterns we are all hopefully familiar with, these patterns may be shifted negatively – all because of a lack of ability to adapt!

More specifically, what occurs when you attempt to “fix” your movement patterns, but there is no ability for you to get into that range of motion?

Well, then we can assume a few things:

  • There may be a bony adaptation that is limiting you.
  • You don’t know how to perform a squat (or insert pattern) (either due to lack of prior knowledge, or perceived neurological threat).
  • Soft tissue structures are limiting you from achieving that range of motion (often due to neurological threat, and/or increases from localized stress)

Well, just like how there can be harder structures within the hip and head of the femur, there are also ideas of interconnectedness within the skull.

Skull - Structures
Photo Credit: Wikipedia.com

There are structures involving the bite, nasal cavities, orbital structures, and obviously the brain as well, that can allow better or worse movement to occur, at least, from an exercise point of view.

Zac Cupples elaborates a lot more here on why this particular inhibitory method works. Essentially, it comes down to understanding that if you cannot inhale through a specific nostril, your ability to inhale/exhale will be altered throughout your lungs.

If you cannot inhale through your lungs, perhaps you may be overinflated with attempts at constant inhalation – inhibition of the accessory respiratory musculature is necessary (along with simultaneous activation of the main musculature for breathing).

Just imagine the last time you had a stuffy nose – it probably made for an awful time for singing, running, or just general well-being. All of these things need air in order to perform well – can you imagine squatting the house with both nostrils clogged with snot and mucus? Sounds like an awful time.

In fact, the practice of yoga considers these items relatively well. Following the process of jali neti can lead you to understand that cleansing the nostrils is actually a method for cleansing of the airways.

From my time in undergrad (I took a Yoga class for a solid 5 months as a graded course), I can recall a technique utilized also aimed at nostril breathing named pranayama – which has claims of improving stress levels (by decreasing negative stressors), improving distances in six-minute walk times (find article HERE), along with improving brain function (find article HERE) because nostril breathing is correlated with performances in various tasks!

It’s All About the Reflexes Baby

So if I lost you with the above talk about yoga, fear not! There can be more than one explanation for the sudden change in movement patterns seen in my squatting and saline solution video, and other functions of movement patterns.

A lot of the things that are successfully performed on an exercise level can be attributed to reflexes. There are tons of them (find reflex list HERE) and I am here to elaborate on a few of them, and identify how these few reflexes are being stimulated in order to provide an inhibitory effect!

Nasal Reflexes – It’s Not All Just Sneezing

The nasalcardiac reflex has a mechanism that involves a specific structure (called turbinates or the nasal concha) that many people should be familiar with if they eat ice cream way too fast. The structure that is stimulated is the nasal concha, and it is stimulated when you experience brain freeze.

Your new recovery method
Your new recovery method

Turbinates can be synonymous with the nasal concha, and these structures coincide with really cool nerves, specifically the trigeminal nerve, for starters.

Long story short, if you stimulate the turbinates, you can induce a type of bradycardia, or rapid lowering of the heart rate. This could be good reason to not try this experiment if you have an already very low heart rate and/or blood pressure.

When stimulation of any branch of the trigeminal nerve occurs, stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system is recruited – and thus, the inhibition of the sympathetic nervous system must occur as well. This is referred to as the trigemino-cardiac reflex!

The trigeminocardiac reflex (TCR) is defined as the sudden onset of parasympathetic dysrhythmia, sympathetic hypotension, apnea, or gastric hyper-motility during stimulation of any of the sensory branches of the trigeminal nerve.

Practical Application

The practical portion of this information essentially allows us to identify whether or not specific structures within the skull may be limiting movement capacity or not. Essentially, how does identifying structures within your skull help us from a movement perspective? What can we derive from this information?

Well, I would like to believe that this leads us to improve the questions we ask in an initial assessment. Whether you are working with athletes, or general population, these items could lead you to improving your ability to deliver a high quality service for your clients and patients!

I also believe that by identifying other possible sources of stress, albeit a constantly and subtly turned on stressor (think dimmer switch that is slightly turned on for years on end), will allow you (the professional) to provide better solutions that could be very easily managed from an expectations point of view.


Have you ever had braces (or are you currently wearing braces)?

  • Braces can cause tightness on your teeth (obviously), but more importantly the constant (and perhaps inaccurate) reference that your teeth are getting may impede neck movement, which can cause a cascade of information down the kinetic chain that something is always tight (from the teeth/neck on down the body!).
  • Anecdotally I had braces for 5 years of my life, and this was right around when I was growing up and being surrounded by more formal sporting organizations (high school, league teams, etc).
  • Did having braces contribute to my lack of coordination? Well, I can’t go back in time to do an experiment on myself, but tell you what – I started dancing after I got my braces off, and I was moving a lot better. Very n=1 of course, so take that with a grain of salt.

Action Plan

  • Make sure you are comfortable with your braces (as best as you can). Use wax on the sides if you are brushing on your cheeks, and make sure to always clean out your teeth. If you feel tight with braces on, make sure you are in the correct position by asking your orthodontist if it should feel like “this” (if they feel too tight or wound up) in order to live with higher quality of life!

Have you been sick (cold, flu, etc.) recently?

  • Being sick can cause a cascade of residual and systemic threat to the body. Lifting or moving may not be the best idea, as attempting to increase stress to the body may be disadvantageous to the goal at hand (improved resilience to stress).

Action Plan

  • Get some sleep, and get over your cold! Also, doesn’t help that your nose getting stuffy will decrease your ability to breath.
  • Perhaps improving symptoms via over the counter medications could be the resolution you need in order to move better.

Do you wear glasses/contacts?

  • Reading things on a phone, constantly looking for the floor in many movements, and watching your step every time you walk (for fear of tripping, losing footing), can cause, yes another, cascade of lack of appropriate adaptability to stressors. If you are constantly “on” then you won’t be able to ever turn “off” – much less so if you are wearing the incorrect glasses/corrective vision.

Action Plan

  • Make sure you have updated vision, or at least, stay away from deleterious things involving straining your eyes (surprise surprise, your eyes have muscles that can become tired as well!).
Extraocular Muscles
Photo Credit: Wikipedia.com

Imagine holding a purse for 24 hours – your arm would get pretty tired! Similar things can happen if you play video games for a day straight!

Any surgeries to the face? Any concussions?

  • Let’s face it – injuries happen. Concussions are a normal part of household lingo, along with the concept that contact can occur directly to the face. When this happens, structures in the face, and in the brain, can be affected.
  • By asking this question, you are more equipped with providing a better screening service, or even referring out if symptoms are not resolved.

Action Plan

  • The two things that come to mind with respect to trauma to the face and/or brain involve vision and vestibular issues. When it comes to understanding how vision plays a role in exercise, I can defer to this article by Kevin Neeld where he discusses proprioception, the vestibular system, and the visual system’s interaction.
  • If you have issues with vertigo, balance, or visual issues tracking specific items (something that is very important during competition scenarios), then the action plan seems to be aimed at improving these items by any means necessary with the appropriate referral source.

How do I connect snorting saline solution to asking better questions for our athletes and clients?

Well, by understanding, even on an anecdotal level, the effects of multiple systems, inputs, and outputs, and how I can influence my own personal systems, I can have a wider array of experience to draw from in order to provide a better platform for my clients and athletes.

I can confidently draw lines from one system to the next, instead of isolating them in a textbook. Ideally, a combination of pragmatic and practical application combined with book smarts will allow myself to increase results for the individuals I work with.


Well feel free to bookmark and/or read this page. There is a lot to absorb!

As always,

Keep it funky.