The history of ViPR
As a self-confessed geek obsessed with the way the human body moves, it was an on-ice encounter with farm kids that led ViPR inventor Michol Dalcourt to a new realization of functional and full-body training.
The next time you step into a gym, take a look around. What do you see? Do you see the club members moving freely as they exercise, unconstrained, or are they working out like robots – stuck in a pattern of repeated movement? Most of the time, when I make my way into the gym to train, I see the latter, and it troubles me.
Have you noticed that in general we are moving less at work, play, and in the gym? Doesn’t this seem odd? The human body was designed to move, right? Our current, conventional approach is to split the body up into parts in the name of safety and periodization, except that more and more research is indicating that we in fact cannot separate the body into parts, as much as we try.
Speed, strength, stamina
I began my career quite differently than most. I was a geek, obsessed with the many mechanisms in which the body crafts its design. I was never a star athlete; in fact I was no athlete at all. I was an awkward mover who was always picked last for the team. There was something compelling about the human body, how it moved, how it was designed. Thus my post-secondary educational pursuits were focused towards exercise science, so that I might find out more. My mind was full of uncertainties. I took on the honor of working with athletes – namely, ice hockey players.
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts
I poured everything I knew into my hockey players’ training and programming – everything that I was taught, that is. You see, my beliefs and perceptions of the body were about to be challenged, based on the fact that I wasn’t properly preparing these athletes for success. My viewpoint about the body was strongly rooted in the notion that we are made up of constituent parts. An arm, a head, a nervous system, a hamstring muscle – and these parts made up the whole. The most important factor in success, I thought, was training these parts one by one. Then life proved me wrong …
For three years I trained my hockey players to develop speed, strength, stamina, and agility – all in a 14-week off-season training programme. Then, every in-season, I would ask the scouts how my players were doing. Their answer never changed for three years. “They need to improve their strength on the puck,” they would say. That’s odd, I thought, strength is what I am training! It took me three years to ask a rather important question: “Who is beating my players to the puck, and why?” The scout's answer has echoed in my head ever since. “The farm kids.”
I knew this to be true. In fact everyone in the sport did. The toughest players were always the farm kids. On the surface it made little sense. They did not train with weights in a gym, nor did they periodize any training stress. They would rarely overload a muscle, or perform the same motion repeatedly to get stronger. When I finally analyzed what these kids were doing, it served to elucidate my training and program design. These farm kids were truly functional. Everything that they did was performed with varying loads, in all three planes, at various speed, and various ranges of motion: they called it chores. Moving farm equipment by hand, shovelling, lifting, squatting, crouching, rotating, lunging, pushing, pulling etc. They had an objective (i.e., loading a trailer with dirt), and their bodies got the job done, by integrating every body part. Isolation training did not exist on the farm, it was too inefficient and ineffective.
The body is designed to spread forces and stress out into the system, through each joint and tissue in the body. The more effectively that this is accomplished, the less that injury will plague the system. There is inherent wisdom in what those farm workers did, and as soon as I adopted similar strategies in the gym, I began to see something incredible. My players became stronger, quicker, and more agile, with less incidence of injury.
Getting farm fresh
Here are four key points that must be addressed by any training program if you’re going to be 'farm-kid fit':
There is an adage that we are stronger as a whole than the sum of our parts. Human anatomy would agree. By connecting our myofascial system (muscle and fascia) together as one system, it is stronger. Fascia research is being compiled at a rapid rate, and holds a key to understanding human biomechanics. When one looks at human anatomy in dissection, one can easily see the morass of collagen (which is the fascia) that holds our structure in place. This framework is strengthened when trained as a whole and undermined when trained in its constituent parts.
Rhythmical motion allows structures to dissipate forces through the system. This is consistent with body design. Muscles need to turn on and off. Proper joint function is predicated by proper muscle timing.
All muscles and all joints are designed to function in all three planes of motion. To ignore a plane of motion is to be ignorant of nature. Triplanar muscle and joint action serve to mitigate stress through the system.
Human form was designed and shaped through the influence of gravity. Gravity loads our bodies and allows us to become stronger and more efficient. If we use gravity in the same manner as our intended goal (i.e., for hockey), we take advantage of the elasticity of tissue, which means that we can generate more force with less effort. This means that an athlete or client that needs to be successful while standing should train in upright positions most of the time.