October 21, 2009 posted by


My entire training philosophy is now based around balance. I’ve always known about the importance of balance but my endeavors as a human lab rat have meant that I was pushing the envelope in one discipline or another, meaning that balance was something that I advised other people to seek. With my ability to perform threatened for keeps, I’ve finally begun to follow my own advice and, in the process, entered a new world where I’m soaking up info like a kid in kindergarten.

I’ve blogged about both yoga and the Kevin Brown Training system. I work in both of these realms daily. All other training, along with my usual climbing, riding, and running, is focused on foundation; merely keeping my engrams primed for the harder training that will follow, once I’m up to speed on all of my benchmarks.

Benchmarks are the cornerstone of Kevin’s training method. These are tests that gauge the strength of your stabilizer muscles. Until they are strong enough to work in harmony with your prime mover muscles, your body is at a high risk of injury. In short, this is exactly why major sports headlines are as much about injury as they are about performance. With all the technological advancement in sport, you’d think we’d get injured less. But it’s exactly the opposite. This is because we focus too much on the prime movers, the large muscles we see that are primarily responsible for our feats of strength, and not enough on the stabilizers that hold our structure together. Essentially, we’re getting so strong that we’re literally tearing our bodies apart.

All you need are headlines to understand how rampant the problem is, but Kevin has done a lot of testing and has scary data. One example: he tested participants at an elite soccer camp and found that less than 10% of the athletes weren’t at high risk of knee injury. These were athletes being coached and doing high level training. Imagine how bad those stats would be for the average weekend warrior who tends to focus on sexier training that graces most books and magazines.

When I told Kevin that I’d be following his program he scoffed, “yeah, for two days!” His skepticism is valid. I’ve known him for close to twenty years. I see him whenever I’m injured and follow his advice until I’m no longer injured, at which point I go back to pummeling myself. I like pain, suffering, and, as one of my friends put it, “chasin’ the hairy edge”. This training is slow, controlled, and pretty much exactly the opposite of what I do for fun.

It also feels kind of, um, dorky. When I asked my friend Bob if he wanted to join me in a hip medley, he looked at me as though I’d just asked him to catch a Bette Midler show. At our meeting a few weeks ago, one of the attendees, who trains military, just shook his head at one of the exercises and said, “I’ll never get my guys to do that. They’d rather get shot.”

It’s hard to look outside on a beautiful fall day and not venture into the mountains. I’ll still go, but instead of spending eight hours traipsing through the backcountry until I’m exhausted, I’ll just get a taste and then come home and do hundreds of slow easy repetitions with puny weights aimed at training every tiny muscle in my body, and follow it with yoga.

And while I yearn to feel the deep pain that prolonged suffering brings, I’ve got to admit that I feel good. Really good. I’ve been at this since July and my range of motion—that was worse than it’s ever been in May after recovering from my injury—is probably better than it was in high school. Along with daily yoga (which also focuses on stabilizer muscle strength), Kevin’s system uses the theory that strong stabilizers reduce the strain on prime movers. This freedom increases range of motion without increases in muscle flexibility (which helps too), and thus increases the muscle’s workload capacity.

My benchmarks are up to the high school level in some things, college level in others. Most people aren’t close to the high school level, and neither was I when I started. When I hit pro, I’ll begin to ramp up my other training. Assuming all of my personal testing goes well, we’ll hopefully have a way to get this info out to all of you by then.


  • Forgive me, but my last swallow of Oly just came shooting out through my nose.The word "balance" is not one I equate with "Steve Edwards".We're talking about the "Steve Edwards" who as soon as he found a mercado that would sell him chia seeds and pinole essentially switched his entire diet….right? That guy?

  • My crash test dummy status means that I need to explore everything. I haven't yet explored balance, so that's what I'm doing. And thanks for reminding me; I have to place a bulk order for chia seeds. I'm nearly out!

  • Balance has always been important in my training too. For example, I believe that sweet and dry vermouth should be balanced in the Perfect Manhattan. Stabilizer muscles . . . like those developed through the disciplined use of a cocktail shaker?-Josh

  • You should pitch that idea to these guys:

  • I'd be up for some info on building those stabilizer muscles. But I don't think my injury was caused by muscle instability. I think it was caused my the force of gravity showing me exactly how powerful it can be.

  • stability only helps for non-contact injuries, which yours was definitely not. i've got so many stabilizer exercises to do that i could do them all day. i'll have to make some videos one of these days.

  • You mean, beyond cocktail shaking?-Josh

  • Steve so do you reccomend training the stabilizer muscles?does 'nt yoga do the same for you?it would be awkward to do 100 repetitions with 4 lb! what do you reccomend?

  • without climbing much in the last 5 years i've felt my body slowly pulling into a knot. lower back & neck are getting chronically sore and core strength is not what it used to be. i think climbing every week kept me limber and tough as a nail. now i mostly just ride my bike, which does keep one's aerobic capacity tuned up, but does nothing for flexibility. i better just go climb for 24 hour races, the 24 Hours in the Sage in Gunnison, CO is the funnest 24 hour race i've done. i'd recommend it over the Moab race. that's just me though.Mark McD

  • Hassan, you're correct in that yoga is excellent for this. Also, since you do 90X and Insanity you're ahead of most people, as these programs address stabilizer muscles more than most sport-specific programs do. Non athletes who train scientifically are likely the least vulnerable, since many modern trainers are well aware of the importance here. Those who target sports performance and looks are the most likely to be far out of balance because they focus on arbitrary targets, like bench press max or seeing their six pack.That said, Brett Hobel (or RevAbs) is our most qualified stability expert as he trained uder Paul Check. But, yeah, once we figure out how to get this info out there (post testing on moi), you should be regularly testing your benchmarks for stability and adjusting as necessary.

  • Is this where you start advocating slacklining and hula hoops?

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