It's Like Magic!

Runners often stretch the hamstrings and calves because they feel “tight”. Knowing what we know about functional anatomy, both the hamstring muscles and the calf muscles are influenced by the hip musculature and foot musculature. The best way to address the sensation of tightness in the hamstrings and the calves is to roll the gluteal muscles with a lacrosse ball and the bottoms of the feet (plantar fascia) with a stick. By hitting these “trigger points”, you may influence how your body feels elsewhere.


The Core Fitness Podcast

CF Podcast 3

Trouble Bracing?

If you have trouble bracing (squeezing the abdominals without sucking in or pushing out) then a great regression is learning to belly breathe. Belly breathing helps to retrain the abdominal muscles. If you think about it, many of us suffer from poor posture, and as a result, become chest breathers. Not only does this place stress on the upper body, it weakens the core muscles from lack of use (or misuse).
The first thing you will notice in a chest-breather is that their chest expands rather than their belly. Visually, belly breathing should only illicit movement from the abdominal muscles. The chest/shoulders should not move at all.


Neck Pain and Pectoral Health

We have found a strong correlation between neck tightness and pectoral health. Pectoral health is based on posture and good lifting habits. In the short term, those with a stiff necks seem to benefit from pectoral massaging (in the image below, Mike is rolling his pectoral with a lacrosse ball). A more permanent solution is learning to row perfectly and getting an adjustable height work surface.


Pushing Progressions

Learning to dumbbell press from the floor is our first “pushing” progression. Our second “pushing” progression is learning a pushup.
We almost always teach people with an elevated pushup, because we want them to maintain that perfect lifting technique (shoulders relaxed, big chest, elbows tucked at side, etc.)
This is almost impossible to do from the ground, even in the strongest individuals. A little bit of shrugging and a little bit of elbow flair can lead to big problems.


The Two Ugliest Things in Hollywood

The 2 Ugliest Things In Hollywood
By Jon Messner

Batman V Superman was an epic movie (I must have seen a different movie than the critics). Superman is such a well-written character. He exudes the best that humanity has to offer, and he’s alien (how cool is that!)
But there is a problem; the actor that portrays Superman walks with his feet pointed outwards.

Track Split Pro

phone 5

Track Split Pro is a stopwatch that has been designed specifically for the track coach. Track Split Pro features large buttons so the coach does not have to look at the app while athletes are competing on the track. Track Split Pro also features a quick export button so that the splits can be quickly recorded or sent to the athletes.



Blacklisted Exercise - Rotational Stretch

Back pain can mask itself with different symptoms. Some may feel “pinching”, some may feel “numbness”, and some may feel “tightness”.
Back “tightness” is a symptom of weak gluteal muscles.
The lumbar spine should not be stretched, either through end-range flexion and extension exercises, or through rotational exercises. This is because the lumbar spine was designed to be stabile relative to the hips which which were designed to be mobile. (We see people get the most out of their core exercises when their lower back does not move.)
Even though it may feel good in that moment, forced rotational stretching of the lumbar region can lead to permanent neurological damage.
A good remedy for back “pain” is (a) rolling the glutes, (b) rolling the quads, and (c) doing core exercises (bracing, bridging, etc.)

Rotational Stretch

Jogging, Sprinting, and Running

Running can be broken down into three distinct motor patterns; Jogging, Sprinting and Running.
Jogging is characterized by poor posture, knees caving inwards (valgus collapse), and out-toeing during the backswing.
Sprinting is characterized by a longer arm swing that is more up-and-down (rather than cross-body) and more hip range of motion including a higher knee drive as well as triple extension during the push-off phase.
Running is submaximal sprinting, and the safest type of “cardio” for most individuals. Running looks like sprinting (long arm swing, high knee drive, etc.) but is not as fast. The goal of any distance runner should be that their body “runs” (not “jogs”) over longer distances (a mile or more.)

Inner Thigh Stretching

Over the years, I have tried to incorporate hamstring stretching into my clients programs, usually with mixed results. Some clients would feel good afterwards, some would feel worse.
Keeping in mind that I change my mind about things often, I have to come to realize that I have two different clients. Some of my clients have really great “hamstring flexibility” and some of my clients have really poor “hamstring flexibility”.
My clients who have poor “hamstring flexibility” (such as myself) do not benefit from stretching the hamstring muscles. We benefit from doing a lot of core exercises and squatting type exercises (single leg squats, for example.)
My clients who have great “hamstring flexibility” (such as Katie) also do not benefit from stretching the hamstring muscles. These types of individuals benefit from doing a lot of core exercises, squatting-type exercises, and bending type exercises. HOWEVER, these types of individuals seem to benefit from inner-thigh stretching. When I say they benefit, I say that because they tell me “Jon, it feels really good”, and they don't have any back pain, hip pain, or knee pain.
With ALL OF THAT being said, I'm sure I will dabble in hamstring stretching again.


The Most Important Decision You Make Today

Food is the most important aspect of any wellness program. The decisions you make regarding what you eat and drink is more important than any exercise routine. If you want to lose weight you don’t need to hire a personal trainer. All you need to do is to stop eating sugary-foods (gluten!) and salty-foods. Throw in a daily walk and maybe 5 or 10 minutes of core exercises (if you suffer with back pain) and you are doing all the right things.

Lumbar Stability

Learning to brace and bridge is a vital “first step” in strengthening the core musculature. Learning to contract the abdominals and the gluteals while on hands and knees might be part of that “first step” for some individuals, whereas others may find the exercise much more challenging.
The trick in squeezing the abdominals and the gluteals while on hands and knees is to
NOT move the back. This is best accomplished by slightly arching the back prior to contracting the muscles.
The steps in straight leg hip extension are:
1. Slightly arch the back. Pull the shoulders back. Squeeze the abdominal muscles. Squeeze the gluteal muscles.
2. Slowly extend the leg straight back. “Straighten” the knee. While in that position, again squeeze the abdominal muscles and squeeze the gluteal muscles. Hold for 5-seconds or 10-seconds.


Anterior Hip Pain

Based on our experience, those who have anterior hip pain are unable to contract their rectus abdominis (the muscles around the belly button) and instead contract the muscles of the lower abdominals/hip region during the supine brace exercise. Anterior hip pain sufferers have to learn how to squeeze their stomach muscles appropriately, and this is best performed by either (a) lifting the head (not ideal) and watching the abdominals contract without contracting the lower abdominals/hip musculature or (b) placing a mirror on the ceiling and watching the abdominals contract without contracting the lower abdominals/hip musculature.
Again, I cannot state enough, those with hip pain will try to contract their lower abdominal region. This will in-turn “shut-off” the gluteals muscles which will place stress on the hip joint.

Learning to Bend

Learning to bend (deadlift) is one of the 4 components of a well-rounded strength training program.
Each pushing exercise should be accompanied by a pulling exercise and each squatting exercise should be accompanied by a bending exercise.
If you think about it from a homo sapiens developmental process, it makes sense. Bending (along with squatting, pushing, and pulling) is foundational movement. It lays the groundwork for other movements, such as walking and running.
A good bend is characterized by a straight (or neutral) spine and a "stretching" sensation either in the back(s) of the legs or preferably, the gluteal muscles.


The Book

eBook $4.99
Paperback $14.99

Perfect Running Form

Good running technique (“natural” running technique) equates to faster times and a higher resilience to sports-induced trauma.
This is Drew running eight, 300 meter repeats. This is his fifth or sixth one.
This is an example of near perfect running technique: Chest up, good posture, arm swing through a full range of motion, the knees do NOT buckle inwards and the feet stay pointed straight ahead.
This is Drew’s running technique whether he is racing an 800 or running 60-minutes.
This is not because Drew has great genetics. Drew’s running form is not a gift from the running-gods. Drew has worked hard to achieve this. He has been meticulous with his training the past 5-years and has focussed on quality of running over quantity of running.

Blacklisted Exercise - Child's Pose

I hear the peanut gallery, “But Jon, Child’s Pose feels GOOD!” I don’t know why it feels the way it does, but what I do know is you want to encourage stability in your low back, not mobility. Most people are taught that back pain and back tightness are the same thing. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Back pain is very clever, and can mask itself with different symptoms, “tightness” being one of them. Back pain is caused by too much motion of the lumbar facets during movement which causes stress on the joints and muscles.
The fix? Learn to brace. Learn to bridge. Strengthen your gluteal muscles and your back pain will disappear!

About Black Listed Exercises
These exercises violate The Joint-By-Joint approach. More information on the Joint-By-Joint approach can be found here and here.
2. We’ve had personal experience hurting individuals with these exercises.
3. These “exercises” almost always target areas of pain and do not address the actual injury. Good training programs address the injury-site (e.g. the gluteal muscles). Poor training programs address the pain-site (e.g. the low back). There is a difference. More information can be found here.

Child's Pose


Youth Athletes

Competitive athletes need PATIENCE, which can be difficult because the nature of sport is “the strong survive”. This mindset is great for competition but terrible for daily practice. Too much practice leads to exercise-addiction. Exercise-addiction changes the way in which the brain processes information; what was once logical is now illogical. The body must be allowed to rest, otherwise it will not adapt to training stress, and too little rest will result in physical and/or mental breakdown.
This is even more important in youth athletes, whose personalities and egos are still being shaped. Teaching a youth how to take direction and to remove emotion from training (not necessarily from competition, though) is the primary job of a coach.

The Running Detective

The Running Detective 2
By Jon Messner

I joined the track team in high school because I wanted to meet girls. Apparently, women are attracted to distance runners. I was hit by a car the summer after my junior year. I flipped over the front of the car like an action hero. I hobbled home and my dad took me to the hospital. I was bruised (no broken bones) and ran the next day.

Treadmill Desk Danger!

How many hours a day do you spend seated?
Sitting long periods results in slouching, which places stress on the joints (not to mention poor posture is unattractive). The fix? The adjustable height work surface!!!
SIDEBAR: For some reason, we seem to think that treadmill desks are an improvement over the adjustable height work station. Kill two birds with one stone, right?
Treadmill desks are DANGEROUS and I would argue that work productivity declines while trying to type at a computer and balance on a treadmill at the same time.
Set aside 15-minutes each day to walk with your family, friends, or co-workers! Walking is something that should be shared with others, not crammed into a “convenient time” during the course of the day.


Upper Body Lifting Mechanics

The seated pec stretch is one of the first things we teach after bracing and bridging. Not only does the seated pec stretch help teach good upper body mechanics, it is also a great stretch for the pectorals.
Proper position is key in maximizing the stretch:
1. Place the hands on the legs.
2. Tuck the elbows at the side.
3. Sit upright as much as possible.
4. Spread the chest area without shrugging the shoulders backwards.
It takes time to learn how to do the seated pec stretch properly. Many beginners shrug their shoulders in an effort to elicit a stretch. This is wrong, and may lead to complications down the road.

Bridging and the Glutes

The bridge is the first progression after learning to brace. Bridging should be felt in the gluteals!
A good bridge is characterized by (a) a squeezing of the stomach muscles without sucking in or pushing out, (b) stability at the low back throughout the movement, and (c) the entire back lifting up off the ground while the tops of the shoulders remain in contact with the ground.

Don't Be Stuck!

Knee pain is a result of gluteal weakness. Gluteal weakness is a result of (a) inappropriate footwear, (b) inappropriate exercise, and (c) too much sitting.
Often times, when it comes to pain, we like to compartmentalize the issue. If we have ankle pain, we want to address the ankle joint. If we have back pain, we want to stretch the lumbar region. If we have foot pain we want to get orthotics. If we have knee pain we want to mobilize the knee joint.
I would challenge you to think about things more. How many times have you addressed what consciously hurts but it didn’t get any better? How many times have you address what consciously hurts and the pain moved from one area to another?
You don’t have to be stuck. You don’t have to be in pain. Think outside the box. Address the CAUSE of the pain, and then the pain will vanish!

Posture and Lifting

Upper body lifting should improve posture. Many individuals with poor posture make their posture worse when they workout. Lifting weights with rounded and shrugged shoulders shortens the chest muscles and the abdominal muscles which pulls the individual “down”. This puts the individual at risk for neck, elbow, upper back, and shoulder pain.
Contrast this with someone with good lifting technique and not only will their posture improve, but they will be more resilient to upper body trauma.
The best exercise to teach good lifting technique is the seated row. I am constantly saying to my clients "chest up and relax the shoulders" and I am also putting my hands on my clients shoulder blades to help them get into the right position.
A few notes:
DO NOT SHRUG BACKWARDS!!! This is a big no-no. The only way to relax the shoulders is to stick the chest out AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.

Walking is Great Exercise

Walking is great cardiovascular exercise. It’s great for the cardiac system, it’s great for the muscular system, and it’s great for the digestive system. Walking with friends, family, and/or co-workers is an added bonus.
We have made exercise to be something that it is not. Exercise should be something you do to FEEL better. Walking (with other people!) will help you feel better both physically and emotionally. Let’s be honest with ourselves; walking is EASY. It is EASY to commit to. Walking doesn’t have fatigue-pain or expensive equipment. Walking is something our bodies were DESIGNED to do, and the healthiest individuals are those who walk on a consistent basis.


Question: Do you have knee pain?
Question: Do you have back pain?
Question: Do you have anterior (front side) hip pain?
If you do, I was hoping you could try a little experiment for me. I want you to get a lacrosse ball or firm tennis ball and put it under your butt.
IMPORTANT: You have to position the ball where it is “high and to the side” of the gluteal muscle. Then roll around in tiny circles looking for trigger points.
Let me know how it goes.

Cutting New Technology

The brand new adjustable height work surface from Core Fitness Industries is radical in its design and introspective in its function. For only $9,999 you too can have a modular adjustable height work surface. Make checks payable to Jon Messner.
Seriously though, get an adjustable height work surface and save your back.


Hip Health and Bending

A few weeks ago I posted a video of myself squatting. Here is a video of myself reaching. This “pattern” has been several, several months in the making. I now (finally) feel the exercise either in my glutes or my hamstrings. Furthermore, my hips no longer ache, like they did constantly 8-months ago.
I like doing the exercise facing a mirror because I can see my back foot remained pointed towards the floor (rather than rotating outwards).

Blacklisted Exercise - Traditional Pec Stretch

Pec Stretch

People with shoulder pain seem to love the traditional pectoral stretch because it stretches the area where they have pain. The general misconception is that the anterior shoulder is where the injury is. THIS IS FALSE. Those who suffer with anterior shoulder pain do not have an anterior shoulder injury. Those with shoulder pain most likely have either a posture-related injury or they are doing too much exercise (or inappropriate exercise) in the gym. Stretching out the anterior shoulder capsule destabilizes the shoulder joint.
The solution for those who suffer with anterior shoulder pain is (a) improve posture and (b) learn to do the seated row

About Black Listed Exercises
These exercises violate The Joint-By-Joint approach. More information on the Joint-By-Joint approach can be found here and here.
2. We’ve had personal experience hurting individuals with these exercises.
3. These “exercises” almost always target areas of pain and do not address the actual injury. Good training programs address the injury-site (e.g. the gluteal muscles). Poor training programs address the pain-site (e.g. the low back). There is a difference. More information can be found here.

Should You Crack Your Low Back?

Should You Crack Your Low Back
by Jon Messner

Manually adjusting the spine has been a staple of the chiropractic industry for years. Even though “cracking” the back is popular practice, forced stretching of the spine may be potentially dangerous, especially for back pain sufferers.

Hip Health and Squatting

Here’s an example of why it’s so vitally important for those with anterior (front-side) hip pain to learn to single leg squat. This has been many months in the making. This is not something I jumped right in to. To be honest, I would like to be about six inches lower, but I’m not that confident that I WILL FEEL THE EXERCISE IN MY GLUTES if I go lower. I say this because 2-weeks ago I tried a bit lower and I felt the exercise in my knee and not my gluteal muscles. You will also notice I am wearing Correct Toes. Another important aspect of single leg squatting and hip, back, or knee rehab is big toe placement.

Learning to Brace

Learning to brace properly can be very easy for some and very difficult for others. Regardless, everyone should brace everyday! It is THAT important!
In my experience, some of the characteristics of those who are unable to brace (contract the abdominal muscles and the gluteal muscles at the same time) properly are:
1. Over the age of 45.
2. Have back pain or hip pain.
3. Have a history of working out (specifically who have done a lot of abdominal-type flexion exercises.)
Granted, there are some people over 45 who have no problem bracing and there are some people who have back pain who have no problem bracing (these types of people get “cured” rather quickly), but the large majority of individuals I have come across generally fall into the aforementioned camp(s). Common “cheats” are sucking the stomach muscles in or flattening the back to the ground. THESE ARE RED FLAGS.
What happens if you are unable to squeeze your stomach muscles properly? I think a lot of bad things happen, most noticeably the lumbar-spinal region is “loose” and moves
too much in everyday things (walking, getting up out of a chair, working out, etc.), which puts a lot of stress on the lumbar facets. This can turn into back pain, hip pain, and even knee pain in many individuals.
Again, it is so so SO important to brace everyday. It is impossible to have “good enough” core-strength. You can always have MORE!

Chronic Neck Pain

I will never forget a conversation I had with someone about neck pain. It went something like this:
Them: I have to get my neck adjusted, it hurts today.
Me: Do rows and seated pec stretch. Don’t stretch your neck.
Them: But it’s really tight! I need to get it “cracked”!
Me: Do rows and seated pec stretch. Don’t stretch your neck.
Them: Jon, you don’t understand what it’s like to have a stiff neck! It won’t go away!
Me: Question.
Them: Yes?
Me: When did you first start experiencing neck pain?
Them: After I had my neck adjusted the first time.
Me: Did you have neck pain before you had your neck adjusted.
Them: No.
Me: Do rows and seated pec stretch. Don’t stretch your neck.

Re-Learning the Squat

Re-learning to squat is vital for knee-health, hip-health, and back-health. Squatting should only be done in conjunction with 10 to 20 minutes of core training a day. Squatting should not lead to excessive soreness in the knees, hips, and/or back. Squatting should result in gluteal soreness. The examples below should be taken with a grain of salt, and if an individual is post-surgical, high risk, or an endurance athlete, their training programs might look very different.

Example knee-health program for an individual in their 20s.
Month 1: Core exercises everyday, 10-minutes a day.
Month 2: Core exercises everyday, 10-minutes a day. Bodyweight squatting twice a week, three sets of five repetitions. Bending, pushing and pulling should also be introduced.
Month 3: Core exercises everyday, 10-minutes a day. Bodyweight single leg squatting twice a week, three sets of five repetitions. Bending, pushing and pulling should also be incorporated.

Example knee-health program for an individual in their 50s.
Month 1 & 2: Core exercises everyday, 20-minutes a day.
Month 3 & 4: Core exercises everyday, 20-minutes a day. Bodyweight squatting twice a week, three sets of five repetitions. Bending, pushing and pulling should also be introduced.
Month 5 & 6: Core exercises everyday, 10-minutes a day. Bodyweight single leg squatting once a week, three sets of five repetitions. Bodyweight double leg squatting once a week, three sets of five repetitions. Bending, pushing and pulling should also be incorporated.


Jogging Slave

At what point in this gentleman’s life did he decide he was going to keep jogging despite the fact that BOTH knees hurt?
This is what jogging does. This is what exercise addiction does.
It warps your brain. It changes the way you perceive things. What was once important (being with family, being productive at work) takes a back seat to the addiction. This gentleman is a slave to the addiction.
What’s next? Surgery? Multiple surgeries? Medication? More medication?
It’s not THAT important.
This is what is important:
1. Spending time with people (family).
2. Working hard at your job.
3. Eating natural, wholesome food.
4. Doing core exercises.
5. Wearing shoes that promote strong foot muscles.
6. Running 10-second sprints (if you don’t have pain)!

The Most Important Thing...

The most important thing when it comes to wellness is NOT your gym membership.
The most important thing when it comes to wellness is NOT your morning jog.
The most important thing when it comes to wellness is NOT your yoga class.
The most important thing when it comes to wellness is NOT your spin class.
The most important thing when it comes to wellness is FOOD. What you put in your mouth has more of an impact on the long term health of your body than anything else.
Eat natural foods and live a long, healthy life.

Anterior Hip Capsule

Those who are sedentary and want to start working out who suffer with anterior hip pain have to be extra-careful not to make the symptoms worse by choosing inappropriate exercise.
Sometimes the best remedy is to rest,
as in don’t do anything. But this also means don’t do whatever it was that originally aggravated the hip capsule to begin with. In my experience, the culprit is either too much sitting or too much inappropriate anterior hip stretching. I have seen a lot of people over stretch their hip and then suffer with hip pain for a long time! Then they start doing aggressive treatment for their hip which ends up aggravating their knee or their low back and then they start doing treatment for their knee and their low back. It is a vicious cycle.
Rule #1: DON’T OVERSTRETCH YOUR HIP. In fact, don’t stretch your hip ever again.
Rule #2: Roll the glutes a lot. As in several times a day.
Rule #3: After rolling your glutes several times a day for at least one week (and NOT doing anything else to aggravate the hip), start doing core.


A good strength training program is predicated on balance. Every push should accompany a pull and every squat (knee-dominant exercise) should accompany a bend (hip-dominant exercise).
At Core Fitness, we sometimes break these rules though. If someone has shoulder pain we may not have them press (at least for a short-time). If someone has back pain, we may not have them bend. However, with that being said, it is vitally important to learn out to stick bend and then, single leg reach with those who have back pain (those with back pain should probably learn to one-legged squat before learning to bend).
A good bending pattern (either stick bend or single leg reach) should be characterized by softness in the knees, but no movement at the knees. The hips should continuously move backwards during the bend. This is key, so that the hips do the majority of the work.


Traditional Footwear

Traditional footwear can impede the natural function of the foot.
A thick, rigid sole, or an elevated heel can…
I probably lost you already. Wellness can be a funny thing. We hear what we want to hear. When I talk about core training people’s ears generally perk up, but when I start talking about shoes it’s like I’ve insulted someone’s mother. I don’t quite get it. Is traditional footwear that embedded in our society?
Let me tell you a quick story: We got about 2 feet of snow the other day. I shoveled at both my house and the gym in a pair of
duck shoes (water-proof work boots) because my feet stay bone dry in them. These duck shoes are wide in the toe box (which is good) and they have little if no heel lift (however, my feet are a good 1/4 inch away from the ground). With that being said, after I was done shoveling the bottom of my feet hurt (plantar fasciitus?) Now the thing is, I am a pretty healthy guy. My glutes are sore after working out and I have pretty good posture. If someone like me has foot pain after wearing shoes (shoes that aren’t 100% terrible for you), then how is someone with bad posture and no glutes going to react to wearing narrow shoes with a heel lift and rigid sole?

3 Things You Need To Know If You Want Me As Your Trainer

3 Things to Know if You Want to Hire Me as Your Trainer
by Drew Seaver, NASM

My intention here is not to offend, insult, hurt feelings, but to help you train and exercise better and ultimately feel better. That being said, I have to speak my truth: most people who exercise think they are experts when they usually know next to nothing. Read More...

Psoas Stretching

Being in a seated position for long periods of time may cause the hips to chronically shorten, which can effect gluteal health (the three most important areas to be targeted in an exercise program is (1) posture, (2) feet, and (3) gluteal strength). The interwebs teach us several ways to “stretch out” the hips, and my current favorite is the 1/2 kneeling position (I would argue this is the safest way to stretch the hip capsule).
HOWEVER, this exercise is totally worthless without doing A LOT of core exercises (bracing, bridging, etc.) Gluteal strength is the most important factor when it comes to anterior hip health. I used to suffer with anterior hip pain (
anterior femoral glide syndrome?) and it wasn’t until my glutes started to “work” (they got sore!) that my hip pain vanished.

Jogging Doesn't Do What You Think It Does

Jogging Doesn't Do What You Think It Does
by Jon Messner

You wake up at the crack of dawn to get a jog in. You are proactive about your health and you feel great! …Only your knee has been bugging you and it’s not getting any better. I hate to tell you, but your morning jogging routine may not do what you think it does.

Quadruped Brace

Bracing on the back (supine) is one of the first exercises we teach at Core Fitness. If the client is unable to brace, we digress to belly breathing and the draw-in maneuver.
One of the progressions from bracing is bridging. This is fairly obvious. Another progression is going on hands and knees. It is far more difficult to brace the abs and glutes on hands and knees than on one's back, especially if the individual suffers from poor posture.
The cues on hands and knees are mostly the same as in supine, with some stark differences. "Squeeze the abs without sucking in or pushing out, squeeze the glutes." When on hands and knees we also add "Pull the shoulders back and lock the elbows." This is super important, especially when it comes to upper body health. If the individual is unable to straighten their arms, we then have them perform the exercise on their elbows.


Neck Pain

We talk about the importance of posture a lot because practicing good posture can help alleviate many upper body musculoskeletal symptoms (neck pain, shoulder pain, etc.) and because standing tall is more natural to the human structure than slouching.
The vertebrae are healthiest when each segment has “room to breathe”. Slouching can compress disc space which leads to a whole host of issues.
To visualize; imagine a ten pound weight (the head) on top of a thin pole (the vertebrae). The pole is strongest when it is straight up and down. When the pole starts to flex and bow is when you run into problems.
Neck pain can be attributed to poor posture but also inappropriate exercise in the gym. What we have found is that those who have neck pain have really tight chest muscles (pectorals) and that a good pec massage along with upper body exercises (rows!) that help relax the chest muscles can go a long way in helping the client feel better.

Benefits of Pressing

I think it’s no big secret that one of my favorite exercises is the row. I think when performed properly, it does great things for shoulders, the elbows, the neck, and the upper body in general. The obvious counter to the row is a pushup or dumbbell press. Even though these movements look different than the row, they are surprisingly similar. What’s more is that both the pull and the push should be performed with the same exact technique (big chest and relaxed shoulders). This is key. For the push (dumbbell press or pushups) to work properly (and not injure the user) both the scapula (shoulder blades) and glenohumeral joint (shoulder joint) should be stabile which is only possible if it is performed with a big chest and relaxed shoulders.

Seated Positioning

Sitting too much is bad for you. But, in the unfortunate case where you have to sit for long periods of time and are unable to acquire an adjustable height work surface, there are a few things you can do.
Let’s start by addressing posture. It is great to sit tall, but to think that you can sit tall for hours on end is a farce. (Not to mention that sitting tall for long periods of time while your hips are in a flexed position may not be the best thing for your low back or your hips.) The body will start to slouch, probably after a minute or so (which is why adjustable height work surfaces are so important). The trick when sitting is to set a timer every 30-minutes or so to change the way in which you are sitting. Make the chair a little higher. Make the chair a little lower. Put your feet up on your desk (assuming that is OK with your boss). The point is that you want to keep altering the position you are in because it is the chronic-hunched-over position that is the primary agitator of back pain.
Or, you could just get an adjustable height work surface. Do I sound like a broken record?

Person of Interest - Drew Seaver

Drew has been a friend of mine ever since he reached out to me to help him several years ago.
I get asked about running injuries often, and to be quite honest, rarely do runners heed my advice, which usually is this; stop running and do core exercises until your glutes are sore.
Drew was and still is, very different. He sees the big picture, and he did exactly what I asked him to do. Not only is he currently running competitively injury free, but he is passing on what he knows to others. He is a personal trainer and a high school track coach, and he trains individuals almost exactly the same way in which I train individuals (great minds think alike!)
Drew will soon be the first official hire of the gym, which will be great for me because I need someone to coach me when I do core exercises!


Corporate Wellness in 3 Easy Steps

Corporate Wellness in 3 Easy Steps
By Jon Messner

Corporate wellness is misunderstood. Corporate wellness is not offering employees exercise classes, Yoga classes, Pilates classes, Kickboxing classes or Bootcamp classes because often times these classes lead to back pain, knee pain, and/or shoulder pain. If an employee is unable to work (or work efficiently) because of injury, then this will cost both the employee and employer financially.

Pectoral Stretching

Seated pec stretch might be my favorite stretch.
It should be noted that even if done correctly, it might not be felt in the pecs, but rather the entire front-side of the body.
Correct movement of the exercise is a “lifting” of the chest muscles WITHOUT moving the shoulders. Many people struggle with this; they feel as though they need to backwards shrug and this is incorrect (and I would argue may lead to shoulder/neck/elbow pain). Also, the elbows need to touch the sides of the body. Many people also struggle with this and allow their elbows to slightly drift away from the body.
Learning the seated pec stretch prior to learning to lift with the upper body is paramount because it is this position that should be emulated when pulling and pushing.


Learning to bridge is the next logical progression after learning to brace. Bridging is bracing in an “up” position.
(Rewind) The brace is the first exercise we teach to people and it is is an isometric contraction of the abdominals and gluteals. Even though this might sound simple, you would be surprised by how many people struggle with doing this correctly.
The bridge then takes this learned position and moves it into a “hips-up” position.
Common mistakes are an inability to get the shoulders up off the ground and lifting the hips too high (with subsequent movement from the low back).
The goal is to feel the exercise in the gluteals. This is done by moving from the hips while stabilizing the lumbar spine. This is key to ALL core exercises.

Jon's Rules

Rule #1: Where you hurt and where you are injured are not the same. A good example that illustrates this is knee pain. In most "younger" individuals (under the age of 60 or so), knee pain is largely a result of dysfunction at the hip and the foot. Faulty hip mechanics and faulty feet mechanics cause stress on ALL the joints, and some may happen to feel that pain in the knees (others may feel it in the hips or low back).
Therefore, in order to cure knee pain, one must fix the hips and/or the feet.
How do you fix the hips? Core exercises and adjustable height work surfaces.
How do you fix the feet? Natural-foot-strike shoes and strength training barefoot.
Once the healing process has started, it can take months to start to feel better. This is
Rule #2: Even though pain might still be felt, as long as the mechanism of injury is not repeated, the pain will eventually subside.

To summarize:
Rule #1: Site of the pain and site of they injury are usually different.
Rule #2: Pain may continue after the injury has been remedied.

The Beautiful Seated Row

A strength training program is comprised of squatting, bending, pushing, pulling (and sometimes rotating).
Even though the goal of a strength training program is balance (for every squat there is a bend, for every push there is a pull), pain can change the equation.
For example, if someone has back pain, we probably won’t bend (at least not for a long time). The same thing can be said for shoulder/neck/elbow pain. If someone has pain in the shoulder/neck/elbow area, we probably won’t push for a while. We will try to perfect the pull first.
The most basic “pull” we teach is the seated row, which is coincidentally one of my favorite exercises.
The beauty of doing a seated row is that if done properly, it reinforces good posture (poor posture is the cause of most upper extremity pain) and good scapulo-gleno-humeral mechanics (the way in which the shoulder and the shoulder blade move).
For many of our clients, we teach pulling exercises (seated row, standing row, suspension row) prior to any pushing exercises (pushups, chest press) because it creates a safer training environment for the individual.

Sitting is Bad for Your Back

Sitting for long periods of time is horrendously bad for you.
It’s bad for your back.
It’s bad for your hips.
It’s bad for your posture.
I've been talking about how detrimental sitting for long periods of time is for years and it seems like people are finally starting to listen.
The solution is the adjustable height work surface. (If you don’t feel like buying anything, just put your computer on top of a stack of boxes on your desk.)
I recently started driving a lot more (to the university and back) and I can tell you with 99% certainty that if I didn’t have an adjustable height work surface my back and/or shoulders would be bothering me. I went from spending about an hour a day in the car to two hours. That is a 100% increase in the amount of time spent in a car seat.
And the thing is you don’t necessarily have to stand 8-hours a day, but you absolutely should NOT be sitting 8-hours a day.


Foam Rolling the Glutes

Gluteal health impacts the entire system, especially when it comes to common musculoskeletal pain (back pain, knee pain, hip pain, etc.) Sitting for long periods of time (more than 1-hour a day) and wearing shoes that alter normal gait negatively impact optimal motion of the hips. This in turn causes muscle deformity which can further impact knee-joint motion, hip-joint motion, and spinal motion.
Getting the gluteal muscles to relax can help the other joints (knee, hip, spine) relax, and can go a long way towards recovery.

The Broken Record

The Borken Record
By Jon Messner

I see it time and time again. People always want more. A bigger house. A faster car. More exercise. Yet, when it comes to exercise, less is more. Jogging less is better for the knees, the hips and metabolism. Swimming less is better for the shoulders and the neck. Eating less food is better for gut health and the digestive track. Read More...

Person of Interest - Mike Boyle

I suffered with knee pain for several years. One day while perusing the fitness aisle at Barnes and Noble I came across a book called Functional Training for Sport by Mike Boyle. I adopted the strength training program outlined in Functional Training for Sport and after 3-months of training, I no longer had any knee pain.
Coach Boyle has written several books and he moderates the popular website Coach Boyle is also the founder of Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning (and its several locations) in Massachusetts. Also he was a guest on episode 20 of The Core Training for Distance Runners podcast!
Coach Boyle has brought strength and conditioning and rehabilitation training to the forefront of the fitness realm, and his influence can be felt in almost every professional sport. More importantly, he has helped regular people get stronger and feel better AT THE SAME TIME, a feat not common in the world of the internet-trainer and the quick fix.


Blacklisted Exercise - Superman Stretch


I love exercise. I really do.
However, I feel as though often times I come off as the trainer who says things like “don’t do >>insert name of exercise here<<”.
I don’t want to be that guy. I really don’t.
But I am. And here I go.
Let’s talk about the stretch commonly known as “
The Superman Stretch”.
There are several reasons this exercise is not good for your body.
First of all, most individuals who suffer with back pain do so because their backs are TOO FLEXIBLE. A common misconception of those who have back pain is that their backs’ are tight, however this is NOT TRUE. Their backs are in-fact, hyper-mobile.
Which leads to my second point. Those who suffer with back pain love to do exercises that they feel in their back (where the "pain" or "tightness" is located), essentially, in their own minds, treating the direct source of their back pain! However, this is NOT the cause of the back pain (back pain is 99.99% of the time caused by weak/tight hips) and what they are now doing is treating the symptom (the pain itself) which will only exacerbate symptoms further as well as inflame the ego, making the exercise they are doing more addictive!
So yea, don’t do it.
Brace instead.

About Black Listed Exercises
These exercises violate The Joint-By-Joint approach. More information on the Joint-By-Joint approach can be found here and here.
2. We’ve had personal experience hurting individuals with these exercises.
3. These “exercises” almost always target areas of pain and do not address the actual injury. Good training programs address the injury-site (e.g. the gluteal muscles). Poor training programs address the pain-site (e.g. the low back). There is a difference. More information can be found here.


Over the past 10-years, I have attempted to publish quality information based on my experiences in the world of personal training and more recently, college coaching. To be honest, my foray into the world of the interweb was only intended to be a place for me to journal my experiences which would help me to become a better trainer!

However, I never expected both sites ( and to grow in popularity as much as they did! I am so very grateful for all the readers, listeners, and of course, Drew and Maxine!

There will be some changes moving forward. These changes are based on my desire to keep publishing quality information on a consistent basis.

1. (Core Training for Distance Runners) will be merging with What we've found is that some people go to one site and are totally oblivious to the other site and all its great content! By merging the two sites, we are hoping to provide all this great information in one place!
2. The gang is taking a break from podcasting. How long this break is has yet to be determined. It may be temporary. It might be permanent. Both Drew, Maxine, and myself are super busy with work, coaching and personal training, and we feel as though we were letting our crazy schedules get in the way of providing you with great, consistent podcasting!

I want to assure you that I have some things in the works, and even though it might seem that content production has been sparse, it will pick back up again. In the meantime, feel free to browse through our more than
60 articles and 30 podcasts.
Thank you again for your loyalty and patience, and don't forget to do your glute exercises today!

The Most Important Exercise You Aren't Doing

The supine brace is the first exercise that should be mastered in an exercise program. The ability to “brace” or stabilize the spine is of paramount importance, and learning to do so allows subsequent movements such as bridging, squatting and walking to better utilize the glutes.
An unstable spine will neurologically shut-off the gluteal musculature. This can further cause hip pain and more prominently, back pain.
We live in a world that constantly tries to destabilize our spine. Look around! Most everyone has small and weak glutes (pan-ass syndrome) and has either has back pain or hip pain.
Bracing is an action that should be nurtured time and time again. At Core Fitness, everyone braces in every single workout, regardless of age.

Selling Exercise

Selling Exercise
By Jon Messner

In high school I was hit by a car. Not long thereafter I developed knee pain, which over the course of several years, got
progressively worse. One day, while working as a personal trainer, I had a revelation that exercise might be able to help me feel better. Read More...

Back Pain is an Epidemic

Don’t you find it strange that almost everyone you know has some level of back pain or back tightness? It’s an epidemic!
Is this just happenstance or is their a cause behind 80% of the U.S. population suffering with back pain?!
I feel as though the biggest contributor to back pain is the amount of time we spend sitting. Sitting is not a natural position for the human body to be in (especially over long periods of time). Sitting places the muscles of the low back in a perpetually-stretched position and the muscles of the anterior (front-side) hip in a shortened position.
This alters movement (walking, going up and down stairs, etc.) and places stress on the low back and on the hip. The resulting fix is two fold: 1. Get an adjustable height work surface for work so that you aren’t locked into a seated position throughout the course of the day.
2. Begin a core training routine with the goal of getting the gluteal muscles stronger.

Not Everyone Should Squat

In the exercise realm, we seem to think that everyone should be able to squat. Bootcamp classes and Crossfit classes have heavily perpetuated this notion.
However, most individuals over the age of 35 are anatomically unable to squat because of too much time in the seated position and too much inappropriate exercise. If you have knee pain, back pain, or hip pain, then you should not squat in the gym. Even body-weight squatting can exacerbate symptoms.
This isn’t to say that they won’t be able to get back to squatting, and in fact, that is what we strive for with our clients at Core Fitness.
If (a) you have been doing core exercises for at least a month and (b) have no pain, then it is probably OK to dabble with double leg squatting.
The goal of double leg squatting is to feel the exercise in the glutes and to progress to one-leg squatting without pain.

Kathie - Pushups

Kathie is demonstrating the perfect pushup. Her shoulders are relaxed and her chest is up (relatively). This is a great example of what can be accomplished by the general population and good, consistent training.

Walking is Great Exercise

We’ve been told that exercise is important our entire lives, but what is exercise really? Is exercise going for a 1-mile run? Is exercise going for a 10-mile run? Is exercise performing 100 squats until your legs buckle or is exercise performing 500 sit-ups until you’ve given yourself a hernia?
I think exercise should be something we do to feel better physically. However, I feel like a lot of the things we do in the name of exercise and “feeling better physically” actually hurt our bodies!
What is good exercise, then? Walking!
Walking is great for the cardiac system, the muscular system, the skeletal system, etc. Walking is also easy on the joints.
If we are to use our critical-thinking skills, this makes sense. Human beings are meant to walk! Human beings are bi-pedal creatures and the structure (muscles, skeleton, ligaments, etc.) is built to utilize this type of movement.
Walking is also something we have done since the beginning of time. Furthermore, we learn to walk as an infant and it is crucial to health and long term development of more advanced motor patterns such as running.
Walking is great exercise, and it can be done in the company of others, which makes it the best kind of exercise.

The car seat is the worst...

I’ve worked with a lot of people who have back pain. Based on my experience, back pain is caused by too much sitting or inappropriate exercise. Furthermore, I know several people who have really long computes and really messed up backs. In my opinion, it seems as though the car seat causes more damage to the spine than other forms of sitting.
Maybe it's because of the shape of the car seat?
Maybe it's the repetitive motion of the right foot on the gas pedal?
There are several factors involved in acute low back pain. If you are driving a lot and have back pain or back tightness, then this might help!

The squat can be a very difficult exercise to understand...

The squat can be a very difficult exercise to understand.
In youth athletes, it can be taught immediately. However, in those over the age of 30 with no lifting experience, it should be taught after (a) bracing, (b) bridging, (c) quadruped bracing, and (d) quadruped hip extension are learned.
Squatting is innate in all of us. Just watch the way infants get up and down off the floor! With that being said, many of us suffer from really tight hips and poor posture because of too much sitting.
If the glutes are working, and squatting is felt in the glutes, then it can be an incredible exercise both for health and athletic development.
Experience has taught me to be wary with squatting with the general population or endurance athletes. Both populations seem to get much more out of the big 4 core exercises (bracing, bridging, quadruped bracing, quadruped hip extension).

The Inconvenient Truth About Exercise

The Inconvenient Truth About Exercise
By Jon Messner

I worked at a big box gym for 10-years and can’t begin to tell you how often members came to me after they hurt their backs after using the
rotary torso.
You know and I know the rotary torso damages the lumbar vertebrae, but is it our job to inform the rest of the world that the rotary torso is hazardous?
You may say
obviously yes! We know something they don’t know! However, it seems every time I give programming advice to those who don't ask for it, I am brushed off and ignored.

Person of Interest - Dr. Stuart McGill

A lot of the studies that are conducted in health and wellness are performed in artificial environments. These research methods seem to measure the tiniest of details without taking into account the rest of the system.
However, with that being said, Dr. Stuart McGill has been researching spinal health for more than 2-decades, so when he talks about back health, even someone as stubborn is I am shuts his mouth to listen!
Dr. McGill has pioneered the concept that we at JMP Fitness live by; that is spinal stability in conjunction with hip mobility.
Really, if you only follow one researcher, this should be the one.

Only One Body

Only One Body
By Mike Boyle

Imagine you are sixteen years old and your parents give you your first car. They also give you simple instructions. There is one small hitch, you only get one car, you can never get another. Never. No trade-ins, no trade-ups. Nothing.

Real Core Training 2

Real Core Training 2
By Jon Messner

What does “core training” really mean? I think when people talk about training their core, what they mean is training their abs. I would somewhat agree with this. I also think a lot of people feel as though core training can prevent back pain. I would also agree with this.

Our tier-2  glute activation/awareness exercise is bridging...

A few emails back I mentioned the importance of learning to brace. Bracing is our tier-1 glute activation (or glute awareness) exercise.
Our tier-2  glute activation/awareness exercise is bridging. Bridging brings the very basic concepts of bracing (squeezing the abdominals without sucking in or pushing out while squeezing the glutes) to a little bit more of a challenging setting.
When I am running a lot, I am also doing upwards of 6 to 10 sets (5 reps per set) of bridging a day. For those with back pain or hip pain, the trick is to learn to bridge without exasperating symptoms.

4 Things I Learned Coaching Track

4 Things I Learned Coaching Track
By Jon Messner

I recently returned to college track coaching after a 10-year hiatus.
10-years ago, my coaching was influenced by how I was coached when I was an athlete. Now, my coaching is influenced by functional anatomy and exercise physiology.

How to properly stretch the pectoral muscles...

I see a lot of pec stretches on the internet that I don’t necessarily agree with for a few reasons. The traditional pec stretch (the sleeper stretch) may or may not stretch out the pec, but what it definitely does that you don’t want to do is stretch out the anterior capsule of the shoulder. In my opinion, you need to promote stability at she shoulder joint. However, too many people overstretch their shoulder capsule because it feels good.
“Feeling good” is not what stretching is about. Improving function of joints is what stretching is about.
So let’s bring this back to the pecs. How do you get a pec stretch without damaging the anterior capsule? In the video below, we describe how we do this at JMP Fitness. This stretch is very difficult to do correctly, and it is also my favorite stretch! Enjoy!

Tight quads may cause back pain...

Tight (weak, dysfunctional, whatever term you want to use) quads can really exasperate back pain. We’ve done a lot of work on people’s hips at JMP Fitness, and a great indicator of hip health (function?) is quadriceps tissue-quality. Tight quads not only will inhibit proper core function, but can also cause low back pain itself.