Dr. Spina holds a Bachelor of Kinesiology degree from McMaster University. He later graduated with summa cum laude and clinic honors from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College as a Doctor of Chiropractic. He then completed a two-year post-graduate fellowship in Sports Sciences. He is the creator of the Functional Range Release (FR)® soft tissue management system, the Functional Range Conditioning (FRC)® mobility development system, and the Kinstretch™ method of movement stretching that are currently used by practitioners world wide as well as a number of professional sports organizations, athletes, and performers. He is a published author, and international speaker on the topics of joint health, movement and mobility development, sports performance, and injury management.
In this podcast we discuss:
- The #1 Priority When Working With Athletes
- Mobility vs Stretching
- Movement Training
- FRC (Functional Range Conditioning)
- FR (Functional Range Release)
- and more!
If you’d like to connect with Dr. Andreo Spina…
Full Transcription of Our Podcast with Dr. Andreo Spina
COREY: Hey guys, this is Corey Beasley with Fight Camp Conditioning. I’m on the phone with Dr. Andreo Spina. How’re you doing, bud?
ANDREO: I’m good man. How are you?
COREY: Very good. Thank you so much for taking the time to join us this morning.
ANDREO: Not at all.
COREY: So give everybody like a little too cents of who you are and what you’re doing.
ANDREO: Well, man. It’s a harder question than you might think. Yes, so I’m Dr. Andreo Spina. I own a company called Functional Anatomy Seminars where I offer continuing education seminars in my system of assessment, treatment, rehabilitation and training. So I offer two seminars, one being a soft tissue assessment treatment course called Functional Range Release where I certify manual therapists and doctors from around the world in the system. It’s a system of soft tissue assessment, soft tissue treatment, joint management, that kind of thing. And then I have another seminar series that I teach called Functional Range Conditioning, where I certify personal trainers, strength and conditioning specialist coaches, as well as manual therapists in my system of joint strength and health development. So we focus on getting people’s joints functioning the way they should, improving performance and increasing the longevity and health of their joints. And recently I also put out another series or another system called Kinstretch which is a class based movement enhancement, body Control training system. So yeah, those are the three things that I teach and I focus on. Other than that I maintain a private practice in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
COREY: Right on. Busy man. So just to kind of — I mean, a lot of people are thinking about joint health, a lot of people will talk about just stretching, right? Or to do SMR, to do self myofascial release, foam rolling techniques, all these types of things that are out there. How does your system differ from some of that stuff?
ANDREO: Yeah, like you said, there’s a lot of people that are let’s say, for lack of a better word, claiming to work on joint health, work on joint mobility, but for the most part, when you look around at what’s actually being done, you see that what’s being done is let’s call it very far from being scientifically guided. So my seminar series, my systems are evidence based systems whereby I pretty much took the best available literature and combined that with the best clinical evidence to make a system of action so that one can improve their joint health improve, their body control, their capacity to move but using scientifically guided principles. Whereas many situations or many things that I see in the gym now, some people might be hitting some good ideas here and there but with regards to having a systematic approach to improving their ability to control their body, that’s what’s really lacking, and that’s what I feel is separating the systems we are running versus some of the other training systems that I see out there.
COREY: Right on. Now when you’re talk about joint mobility on control, how does that differ? The people that are listening, they’re stretching maybe before and after the jiu-jitsu session. When you’re talking about mobility and control and health and strength of that joint, what are some of the things that are missing with a lot of your guys? Because obviously, guys probably want their hips to be a little bit more dynamic. They want to be able to move better. They want to be able to transfer energy better. Talking about movement, a lot of times these days with all the movement things that are out there, how does the system that you’re putting together kind of differ from some of that stuff? Because a lot of people are doing like bear crawls and stuff like that.
ANDREO: Yeah, a lot of it’s very random. I think the first thing to note is I think some of the — I call it a problem, but some of the problem stems from a lack of understanding of the definitions that we’re talking about. So when you say mobility, most of your audience might think that they have a good understanding as to what that is, but I think it’s worthwhile kind of exploring that further because the definition that a lot of people hold for the words mobility, flexibility, they’re kind of confused in popular media. So when somebody says for example that they’re flexible or they’re working on their flexibility, how I like to describe it is, to become flexible is to be able to achieve position while under the influence of an external load. So be it gravity or be it your personal trainer pushing on you are you grabbing your leg and pulling or using let’s say like one of those stretchy bands to pull your arm back. All of those are passive pursuits so you’re passively achieving range of motion.
The problem is that when you only achieve a range of motion passively, it doesn’t necessarily translate into your body’s ability to move the joint through that particular range of motion, which is an active pursuit. Now, mobility as the word should be defined, is kind of the opposite. Mobility is the ability to actively achieve joint motions or to be able to actively move your joints throughout a range of motion.
So pretty much the main difference between flexibility and mobility is flexibility is passive; mobility is active.
Now, why is that important? It’s important because a lot of people who think they’re doing mobility work are actually just working on flexibility training. They’re working on very, very passive type pursuits. So you brought up foam rolling, for example. Foam rolling is, you’re passively “smushing” I guess is the best way to describe it, the muscles under this external object, but you’re not doing anything to teach your body how to actually control the ranges of motion that you’re freeing. So whereas you may be improving your flexibility, you’re doing very little to improve your mobility. So if somebody wants to become more mobile, it’s a matter of putting training stimuli in place that not only expand range of motion but also teach your nervous system how to use your range of motion. And martial arts is a very good example of where you see the misunderstanding.
For example, you have a fighter, maybe they want to be able to more effectively throw head kicks. So they spend a large majority of their time stretching to try to do the splits. And what you learn very quickly as your ability to do the splits does not translate into your ability to effectively throw a head kick. Most people, once they acquire the splits, they go ahead and try to throw the head kick and they end up falling on their ass, which is pretty much demonstrating that they’ve not taught their nervous system enough about the new range of motion for your body to actually utilize it in creating movement. And that’s the main difference between a system which is developing actual mobility and one which is making somebody more bendable. The ones that simply make you more bendable, I advise against for several reasons. Not the least of which is the fact that simply being bendy, not only will it not decrease your chance of hurting yourself, it might actually increase your chance of hurting yourself for various reasons. So I always advise especially for sports as dynamic as jiu-jitsu or for mixed martial arts or any martial arts for that matter, what you really want to do is you really want to improve your ability to control your own body. And once a person has the ability to control their own body, it makes it that much easier to then control an external weight or an external load, whereby you’re trying to control someone else’s body.
COREY: Yeah absolutely. So Andreo, when people are implementing some of these systems, they’re increasing the mobility and their ability to control those new ranges of motion, so that could be, like you said, a high kick. It could be — a lot of guys hurt their shoulders when they’re shooting in for takedowns and stuff like that. Now, once they have that mobility and control, do you have systems in place that allow them to then strengthen those areas?
ANDREO: Well, actually it’s done pretty much simultaneously in FRC which is the functional range conditioning system that I employ, whereby as we expand the range of motion and teach the nervous system how to control it, we’re also increasing the resilience of the tissues as they function in those new ranges. And that’s a really important statement and I’ll tell you why. Not a lot of people might know this, but when somebody injures themselves, doesn’t matter the cause of the injury, at the very last second when whatever tissue gets injured gets injured, it’s simply a matter of the fact that the load that is being put into the tissue is greater than the load that the tissue is able to absorb. And that’s pretty much defined how people get injured. If the load absorption capacity of the tissue is lower than the load that’s being placed, then the tissue will become injured. So it’s incredibly important that when you acquire ranges of motion by flexibility pursuits for example that you then also ensure that those tissues are able to bear load, in order that when load is placed upon them, they don’t yield and end up tearing or ripping.
So it kind of comes hand in hand that when you’re improving someone’s mobility or body control, you should be doing so in a way that’s also increasing the tissues load bearing capacity to protect those tissues as you move.
So with functional range conditioning, there’s a three pronged approach where, number one, we’re going to expand that range. Number two, we’re going to incorporate that range into the nervous system or in other words, we’re going to teach the nervous system how do you actually use that range of motion, and number three, we’re going to increase the resilience of the tissues in that range. And when you’re using a scientific methodology, all of these three goals are completely attainable simultaneously.
You mentioned, people are doing a lot of stuff like this in terms of bear crawling and things like that, and I want to touch on that point. I think the major problem with the people’s pursuits now is the randomness of it all. People are simply trying to, let’s say employ techniques from the latest movement guru on TV or on the internet and they’re just kind of looking at what they’re doing and try to mimic some of their drills. And I seriously advise against it. As I was saying, I teach these seminars but my background is I’m a sport chiropractor and medical acupuncturist. So I get to see both sides of the equation. I get to see the training side from my training work as well as the injury side, and more and more I’m seeing people come into the office because they’re trying these more advanced let’s call the movement type exercises but they have no idea as to how to decide whether or not they’re ready to do those exercises. And that’s a huge thing. I mean, an exercise in and of itself is not good nor bad. It all depends on whether the person performing it is prepared to perform it or they’re not prepared. And that I would say is the biggest problem in the industry today is that there’s a lack of understanding as to what are the prerequisites for some of the exercises that people are doing?
You mentioned bear crawl, I mean, just because bear crawl might seem like a good idea. If a person’s wrists for example are not at a suitable level of functioning for those broad bear crawls or their ankle doesn’t move well enough or their hips don’t express the proper biomechanics, then a lot of these exercises which seem good end up being extraordinarily bad. I think it’s one of those — it’s all stemming from this kind of social media kind of onslaught where I go on Twitter and I might put out an exercise or on Instagram, rather. I put an exercise on Instagram, and there’s always someone in the first comment usually that says, oh, that’s cool. I want to try that. And I feel like calling that person saying, no, don’t just randomly try things that you see online. There’s a time, there’s a place, there’s a certain amount of preparedness that is necessary to do some of these things. And I just find that people are just randomly choosing things online that they think are cool or are sexy to do and they just start throwing them into their routine which is ultimately damaging.
COREY: Yeah, I heard a coach or an athlete couple of weeks back saying everybody’s always asking me what I’m doing today, when what they should be asking me is what I was doing 10 years ago when I was in their position.
ADNREO: It’s such a great quote and I can’t expand on that enough like you go on Instagram and you go to somebody’s page and they’re doing just amazing things; the handstands and back-flips and all this crazy shit. And not a lot of people stop and realize that that person was likely doing it for their entire life. So you look into their background and the person is a professional dancer, or they’re a gymnast, or they’re kind of like an acrobat type martial artist and they’ve been doing it since they were three, four or five years old. I mean, when I see someone at that level doing that kind of stuff, I’m like, well, yeah, of course, you should be able to do these crazy flippy back-flips. But that does not make it a good idea for someone who doesn’t have such a background. And that’s the real difference between somebody employing a scientific methodology or someone who’s just giving training advice and doing the do-what-I-do scenario.
It’s never a good idea to follow an Olympic level gymnast and do what he does or what she does. And that’s because what he does or what she does has been the amalgamation of the years of training and most of those years were during the most adaptable ages when they were young children, where their bodies can really accomplish anything. But that doesn’t mean that these same exercises should be used by a 35 or 40 year old who’s in the Masters division at a jiu-jitsu tournament. You have to separate yourself from these freaks of nature it seems and realize that they’re not freaks of nature, they’ve just been doing it their entire life, and you’re not at that level. So if you want to start to improve the way your body functions, you need to start where you need to start and you need to do what you need to do to start to improve joint health, not what someone else is doing.
COREY: So as people are trying to implement all these different aspects, mobility, we have, creating stability and strength throughout the joint. And then we move on and we have all kinds of strength work that people need to be doing and power and speed work and all these other aspects, not to mention the skill training that they’re doing in addition. If someone comes in networking with you and they walk in the door, where do you kind of start with these guys?
ANDREO: It’s a good question, fair question; it’s also a very difficult question to answer. Like if I get a professional athlete come through the door and wants to do some private work with me, the best thing I can say is I start exactly where they need to start based on my assessment. And my assessment is going to look at number one, the health of their joints. Number two, the capacity for their joints to create movement and create motion. And number three is the prerequisites that they already have.
So if you’re deciding on should my athlete perform a full snatch or a full clean or a full depth bodyweight or weighted squat? It’s a matter of deciding, do they have the capacity to do what you’re asking? Are their ankles, knees, low back, shoulders, etc, are they prepared to produce the motion that that you’re asking of them? And that’s really the most important question. And once I start breaking things down in terms of prerequisites, then it becomes very easy to know exactly where this particular athlete needs to start. But they don’t start at the same place. And I can’t emphasize that enough, even if I had two athletes from the same team or same fight camp for example and they both want to work with me simultaneously, that really doesn’t mean they’re going to get the same exercises. And that’s the key, right? It’s to know where that person is lacking and then move on from there.
Now, you mentioned there’s a lot to work on and you’re absolutely right. There’s speed, there’s power, there’s agility, there’s technical training. And a lot of people will often say, well, where does this idea of joint training or, I mean, now the buzzword is going to be movement training which is a very bizarre term, but we’ll go with that. Where does that fit in? Or how do you say what’s more important? And the way I look at it is what I do, what my system looks to do is to make your joints move the way they’re naturally supposed to move. So how do I say we know what’s more important, what to focus on? Well, for me, if you’re doing anything using your hip, and your hip doesn’t function like a normal human hip should, then that becomes the most important thing to work on which is to bring that person’s hip back to a functional level.
And I hear a lot of people say, well, yeah, but I also have to work on power and I have to work on squats, and I can’t fit that stuff in. But it really can’t be an afterthought. You can’t think to yourself the health and function of my joint is not as important as me squatting 500 pounds. Because the fact of the matter is, if you squat 500 pounds on a hip that is not functional, you can only do so for so long before you blow through that hip or something else goes and then you end up missing the fight, missing a match, missing a tournament because you were so busy preparing to build strength in the joint before that joint was prepared to have strength inputs placed on it.
So unfortunately, there — you’re right, there’s a lot to work on. Also, unfortunately, I don’t make the rules. So the fact is, if your hip doesn’t function like a hip should and you use your hip in training, your hip will become problematic or some other part of your body will become problematic because of your hip. Now, unfortunately, it’s not up to me how long or how short you should be working on that hip. The fact is, you need that hip to work. So no matter if you have jiu-jitsu class and wrestling and striking and this and you have to eat well and get your sleep, that’s all irrelevant because the body is the body. Nobody made the rules. It developed randomly via natural selection and evolution and what it requires is exactly what it requires, no more no less. It’s not anybody’s decision, but I guess evolution’s decision over time.
COREY: Right on. Yeah, and just hunkered down in a rolling jiu-jitsu or protecting your chin and stand up and then staring at your phone, sitting on the couch, sitting in the car, all these different things. Most people’s joints are pretty stiff and jacked up anyway.
ANDREO: Well, the problem is this. In my opinion, it always comes back to the understanding of human evolution. There’s a very well known principle in evolutionary biology called the Caveman Principle. And it’s unfortunately not a principle well known to trainers and manual therapists but it’s worthwhile understanding. And the principle pretty much states that “For the last, let’s say, 100,000 years, our bodies haven’t evolved or changed all that much.” So another way to think of that is your anatomy still thinks it’s, 100,000 years old, and it is adapted for activities that were being done 100,000 years ago. I mean, our genomes have a definite thing that they’re adapted for. And for us to understand how to take a human nowadays and improve their function, we have to understand what their anatomy was made for? What their genetics were made for? What is their genome adapted for? And if we look back 100,000 years ago, well, what were humans doing? They were hunting and gathering. For the majority of the Homo sapiens existence, I believe it’s 84,000 generations or 95% of our species history, we’ve been existing as hunter gatherers. And what does that entail? Well, a hunter, gatherer would have to have gotten up in the morning, and then spent the majority of their day performing complex multi directional tasks of movement, for example, crawling, running, fighting, walking, ducking, jumping. There’s all of these things were being done on a regular basis in between bouts of having sex, eating or sleeping.
So what we can say is that we were evolved to move on a regular basis with very multi directional complex tasks. Now the problem is, is when you contrast that to how we live right now, you see that it’s not even close to the same. Now, society dictates that we wear shoes, sit in a car, work at a desk, stare at a TV, sleep on these artificial soft and cushy mattresses etc. So it really takes us out of our element and it takes us out of what we were naturally selected to do. And you see the repercussions of this type of lifestyle in the health of human joints. We see this large number or a problem with low back pain, neck pain, foot pain, shoulder injuries, athletic injuries, etc., most of which are stemming from the fact that we’re not living the way our genomes dictates we should be living. And that’s why, like you said, the idea of exercise and preparing your body, it doesn’t happen in the one hour exercise session you have today. It happens in the way that you carry out your life on a regular basis. And that’s what I try to get into my athletes, into my fighters is that you have to take the entire day and consider the entire day a workout. Which means that in the morning, you have to prepare your body for what you’re about to put it through throughout the day. And the process of freeing the body, the process of opening the body up, of getting the body warm, of preparing the body, it’s a full day affair. And that’s why I always say that you start working on your mobility as soon as you get up in the morning, and you stop just before you go to bed. And that’s what it takes to keep your joints functioning at a level which would allow you to do jiu-jitsu, do Thai boxing, do MMA safely. And that’s really what is required and there’s really no compromise in place. That’s just what has to be done. So you have to constantly be working on your joints, opening yourself, freeing yourself as if every day that the process starts again.
COREY: Now Andreo, do you have any videos or anything like that to kind of go through some of those drills to open the body up in the morning, in the evening and throughout the day?
ANDREO: Yeah, what I have this — a lot of people, they’ll contact me and they’re like, what is the video to watch? I mean, it’s not the video. It’s an understanding that the people need. I put out a lot of free material, might as well list them now, on YouTube, the channel is Andreo Spina, and on that forum, I have a bunch of free videos but most of the videos are involved in teaching the person about the process as opposed to look at me doing a crazy exercise all the time, which is what social media has become.
It’s a matter of learning about how to maintain, how to treat the body. So I have a lot of videos there as well as on my Instagram feed at Dr. Andreo Spina. Twitter as well Dr. Andreo Spina, as well as on Facebook, my Functional Anatomy Seminar’s page, as well as my at my Dr. Andreo Spina page. I try to put out as much information as I can but where people get frustrated with the information is I don’t give a step by step method. To say something’s a mess is a very bizarre thing to say, because a method works for the person who developed the method because probably it was their method, but I’m not teaching the Dr. Andreo Spina method. I’m teaching something called functional range conditioning, which is a system that is based upon scientific literature. And the difference between a system and a method is, if I teach you my method, then when something happens, there’s a variable at play, the slight injury, I can’t do this extra, I can’t do that exercise. The person doesn’t have the ability to compensate. Whereas when I teach a system and you understand the system, you’re able to make decisions on an ongoing basis as to what to do, how to change my training accordingly to my injuries to my, my energy levels, etc.
So yeah, you can definitely go online look me up, but don’t expect to find a step by step process because there isn’t a step by step process. The fact of the matter is that you and I have lived very different lives and because of that I have different compensations, you have different compensations. I have particular joint functions, my shoulder does this, my elbow does this, my wrist is that. You have very different joint function. So there is no recipe to how to do this. One has to look at the person, assess where they are, how healthy their joints are one by one, and then they have to tailor the program around that assessment, which is something that I can’t generically do.
So yeah, to answer your question, I have a ton of free information. Is it packaged in a beautiful do this first do this second? No. And is that on purpose? Absolutely. The people who have a system in place where the system to good flexibility, good mobility, good health, do this first, this second, this third, they’re not really being realistic in how complex our nervous system is, how complex our anatomy is. And the equivalent amount of complexity should be found in a training system where it’s tailored to one person specifically rather than having a generic program. And I advise highly, especially with athletes who are trying to move forward in their sport, don’t take generic exercises that you saw on YouTube and apply them into your training. Take the time to find out what is required of you and then do it. And I can’t stress that enough.
COREY: That’s a good advice. Now, Andreo, if people wanted to learn about your system and your seminars and stuff like that, what’s the website that they can visit?
ANDREO: The website is functionalanatomyseminars.com. People will be able to find out more about functional range release as well as functional range conditioning. There is quite a bit of good information on the web. If you’re wanting to work with someone who is certified in my systems, there’s also a “Find a Provider” function on that website. So you might be able to work with someone in your area who understands the FRC system, or who can manage injuries using the FR system, but functional anatomy seminars is the main website.
COREY: Perfect. Guys I’ll put all the links and stuff like that down below the podcast so you guys will be able to click right over to that. Andreo, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much for sharing with us for about half an hour and yeah, hopefully everybody will reach out and get some more information about what you’re doing.
ANDREO: Yeah, not at all. I appreciate the time as well. Anytime you want to chat I’d be free.
COREY: Thank you so much.
ANDREO: Okay, sir.