ViPR and the unrivalled power behind the ‘matrix’

Paul Edmondson invites us to take the red pill, step into the matrix and look at ViPR training from a different perspective.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, Morpheus (Captain of the Nebuchadnezzar) sat Neo (a curious computer programmer in search of the ‘truth’ behind the ‘matrix’) down and offered him a choice: to stay and accept the world as we know it (to take the blue pill, wake up and all will have been a dream) or to take the red pill and open his eyes/mind to the truth of the world and ‘enter the matrix’.

This sets the scene for this article: either take the blue pill and accept current training the way tradition has conditioned us to, or take the red pill and see there is more to training than just traditional means and unveil the realities of the human body, its function, its necessities and how life and sport truly are, so that exercise can ‘map’ these requirements more succinctly.

Before we dive into the exercises and their multi-faceted benefits, let’s first define what, in our terms, a ‘matrix’ is. In 1970-something, Dr Gary Gray (father of function and CEO of Gray Institute) formulated the concept of a ‘matrix’, which is now being used by movement professionals in our industry. Gary describes the matrix as “a logical sequencing of movements, within a movement, that factor in all three planes of motion simultaneously” so as not to miss anything and train everything.

A matrix can be utilised in any movement, exercise or task with the intention of assessment, training and rehabilitation, and the rationale behind it should really ‘hit home’ both the intent behind the why and the power behind the why.

Benefits include but are not limited to:

  • Variability within specificity. This sounds oxymoronic to say because of the conflicting definitions, but we all know the SAID principle (specific adaptation to imposed demands) and how we must plan and implement ‘stressors’ that mimic our life/sport requirements. Can’t argue with that. But, in the same breath, life/sport is inherently variable, from different terrains and movements to different vectors, loads, speeds, drivers of motion and stressors from task to task in the same sport/activity of daily living. Therefore, to be adaptable, successful and unbreakable, we must programme variation within training and movement mastery.
  • Biological variability. If we think a standard push, pull, squat, lunge, etc. that has the same movement variables every time is going to equate to health and fitness, we are wrong. While we can utilise these movements and push the envelope of programming variables to elicit muscular and metabolic ‘gains’, this ‘fitness increase’ directly detracts from health. Take the joints, myofascial and neural elements of the body – without variable ‘inputs’ along different angulations, variable vectors, different speeds, ranges, heights and distances, the joints will decay (become osteoarthritic – ONLY variable movement can prevent this inevitability). Myofascial tissue will degrade, become plastic and dehydrated (drinking two to three litres of water a day will never hydrate tissues; you must squeeze and pump it there, which only happens in 3D matrix movements) and be devoid of tensile strength along all lines of tissue, instead of being fully elastic, well hydrated and unbreakably strong in all positions. Neural functions and connections are enhanced through variable, new and novel training methods – once proficiency is mastered, the ‘brain’ no longer listens, learns or adapts further. In fact, it becomes incredibly disinterested.
  • Assessment. You can use the matrix movements first to see and feel where you function well, where your individual successes are and in which positions and planes of motion you need ‘work’ – be that from a mobility, stability and/or strength standpoint (individual limitations that can be sought, trained and enhanced specific to said individual).
  • Rehab. Movement helps counteract inflammation, ‘pumping’ nutrients to ALL tissues to guide healing. Over time, they can be loaded to increase load-bearing capacity in tissues that were injured, thus building a resilient and robust rehab programme specific to the damage, healing time and limitations of the client that, once appreciated, met and logically progressed, can ensure they come back strong for the game of life, gym and sport.
  • Fun. Why squat only one predetermined way, when you can squat a thousand different ways? Literally thousands. Thousands of movement variables (driver, speed, beginning position, angulation of driver, range and many more) can be introduced, meaning the exercise can always feel fun, specific and within the threshold of your success, side stepping plateaus and stagnation because, rather than just focusing on the programme variables and manipulating only these, you can go down so many routes with a fully robust internal (joint, muscle, skin, fascia, etc.) and external (pattern, load, demand of game/sport) focus.
  • Bridging the gap. There is still a gap in training where components of fitness are unnecessarily segmented – namely mobility, stability and strength. Mobility is stretching focused, while stability training is static or balance focused, and strength training is heavy load and typically in one plane of motion. Life/sport requires mobility (space and range in joints/tissues in all directions), stability (controlling the range of motion we have) and strength (load-bearing capabilities at these positions/motions) – all at the same time in many situations – which we must appreciate, combining all these elements and programming in ‘odd position strength’ for structural and functional purpose.
  • Odd position strength. To be strong (not just mobile) in ALL tissues of the body is the fundamental difference between optimal performance in both the game of life and sport, while possessing load-bearing capabilities in these tissues that ladder up to an unbreakable, robust, resilient body – MOST traditional training neglects this. The ViPR essence is in this very thing!
  • Muscle hypertrophy. Did you know that ‘loaded stretch training’ (loaded movement training) alongside occlusion training (blood flow restriction) has the highest yield of anabolic hormone secretion than any other style of training? Loading muscles in a stretch position (rather than traditional concentric shortening) creates a cytokine pathway – mTOr (which is a cell-signalling molecule created by the loaded stretch); this then creates a cascade of anabolic hormones (mainly IGF-1), which increases protein synthesis (hypertrophy) in the target tissues (of which there are many) with the whole-body target of all things ViPR.

As previously mentioned, we can use a matrix in any/all exercise/movement for an intended purpose. To start the ball rolling and allow you to see/feel the relevance of executing exercise in this way, I’ve picked three movement patterns to showcase how simple it is to sprinkle in a little matrix magic for effective gain.

Matrix 1 – ViPR Posterior Hip Mobility Matrix

Pre-position the right foot forward (Big toe, little toe, heel connected to ground), back left foot toe touching, holding the neutral grip handles we reach anterior towards front foot (loading and stretching the sagittal plane fibres of the hamstring/glute and joint capsule), the down towards the right (adducting the hip, putting load and stretch through posterior lateral hamstrings/hip) and down towards the left lateral direction (abducting hip, which stretches and loads the posterior medial fibres of hips/joint structures) – a nice way to separate and stimulate more biceps femoris first, then secondly semimembranosus/semitendinosus in the frontal plane. We reach down and left (right hand leading) to create an external rotary force that tensions/stretches the medial aspect of the hip/hamstring on right side, then we reach across to the right lateral vector with the left hand driving an internal rotation stretch/strengthen reaction which stimulates the lateral hip/hamstrings on right side. Repeat on opposite side of body. What better way to prepare, or bullet proof your hamstring for the multiple vectors that life/sport throw’s our way.

Matrix 2 ViPR Anterior lunge Lift + Shift

Holding the neutral grip handles, lunging forwards with your right foot continually, first we reach anterior at ankle height to lengthen/strengthen the entire posterior chain of myofascial. Second rep as lunging right foot anteriorly, reach posterior at overhead – this now emphasises an anterior chain reaction from the bodies myofascial elements that completely changes where the body is challenged just by virtue of a change in ‘handprint’.

Then we reach right/left lateral which challenges the opposite side of the body to where we drive the ViPR (as the weight pulls down to that side, the opposite side lateral obliques/lats/glutes/ITBand etc all combine to decelerate the forward and lateral momentum created by body and ViPR to bring you ‘back home’ to start position again.

Last, but not least we rotate over the lead leg (to same side) which creates a lengthening of the glute muscles in all 3 planes of motion (making you feel in control and ‘very stable’ – after all your glute is your bodies ‘powerhouse’ muscle as we know – those 3 motions of flexion, adduction and internal rotation are key to ‘fire the glute’).

When you rotate away from the lead leg, now you are only allowing your powerhouse muscle to load in one plane of motion (sagittal plane flexion only) – this creates significant emphasis now on the lunging anterior/medial knee complex to control, decelerate rotary force and ‘bring you home’ – hopefully safely. Repeat both sides. Be careful with ROM and check with only bodyweight first before you load it, that you have the capacity to get in and out safely. Many in the industry would look at this exercise and think ‘dangerous’ or ‘risky’ but the reality is we need to gradually mobilise/move and then strengthen the need outside of neutral because we are not statues that stand still, we move dynamically in life/sport so if I want to be bullet proof and perform well, I require multidirectional load baring capabilities in all of my tissues to prevent injury.

Matrix 3 – ViPR Swing matrix

The swing is a great exercise that seriously trains grip strength with the utilisation of the long lever arm above the two hands on the end of ViPR tube as it swings, but also, it’s a fantastic way to train our body to capture and harness momentum – which is how we move ‘efficiently’ in life/sport. When we use momentum (gym training persists to limit or inhibit momentum to train muscles exclusively with ‘time-under-tension’ which is great for muscle hypertrophy training) we allow the body an opportunity to lengthen tissue before we shorten or contract tissue, this pre-stretch strategy allows the fibrous connective tissues like skin, fascia, ligaments and tendons to store elastic potential energy (like a rubber band) then it releases this energy to drive us into intended ‘task’ or ‘movement’. Think of throwing a ball forward, you go backward first – why? To load and explode as above. This strategy is energy/movement for FREE…. Muscle requires ATP (energy), the body wants to conserve energy outside the 4 walls of a gym. Here we allow the body an opportunity to harness momentum in all 3 planes of motion, allowing an opportunity to train effective/efficient motion for all life/sport must throw at us.

These matrices and the wisdom behind them are brought to you by Gray Institute. Check them out at or, for online and live course offerings, email

Paul Edmondson is a dedicated leader within the fitness industry, having worked with, and for some of the leading pioneers and biggest brands in the world both nationally and globally, including Gray Institute, ViPR, Anatomy Trains, Institute of Motion and others. His thought-provoking sessions are designed to bridge the gap between the traditional and new sciences to better equip trainers to serve their unique and individual clients. Paul takes pride in delivering complex content in a simplified manner and is determined to drive those he works with to become “better versions of themselves”