| | | Rehab to Performance: Movement

Author / Matthew Zanis

I can remember back to watching the original Rocky movie with my dad when I was just a young, chubby grade schooler, and being engrossed by Rocky Balboa’s training montage. I instantly thought to myself: ”I want to do THAT!”

Like many others kids who grew up in the 1990s, I was motivated to start working out by action heroes from the big screen. Of course, I’m talking about bad asses like Arnold, Stallone, and Van Damme. What is the usual outcome of these flicks? The guy with the big muscles ALWAYS beat the bad guys, saves the day, and gets the girl. Who wouldn’t want to emulate that?

Wired For Movement

However, the isolated hypertrophy training employed to garner those bulging biceps, while useful at certain time points on the rehab-to-performance continuum, is only part of the equation. If there is a significant deficit in strength due to injury, poor posture, poor movement quality, or muscle inhibition from pain and inflammation, then there is a credible argument for these muscles to be trained in isolation…in the initial phase of the rehabilitation program. The key to effective movement after an injury is progression, beginning by training the muscle in isolation, and then learning how to integrate the previously deficient muscle into functional movement patterns.

In reality, muscles only truly work in isolation when strapped to a Nautilus machine with a single axis of rotation. In sport, and life for that matter, the body isn’t wired to work in isolation. It is wired for movement. Wired by the brain and nervous system to produce synergistic and coordinated patterns, generating force and creating movement, or to reducing force and decelerating movement. This seamless and effortless movement through all planes of motion is found in the most graceful athletes on the field, not the strongest or biggest guys in the weight room. It’s no surprise that some of the the most talented human movers tend to be martial artists, gymnasts, acrobats, and dancers. The common denominator between any of these disciplines is movement. 

Master Your Movement: Clean it Up

When an athlete is getting ready to return to sport, there are often many limiting factors to basic human movement  that fall on you, the strength coach, to attack. Although being injured sucks, it is often the most opportune time to take a step back and clean up these lingering deficiencies. The human body is designed to move from an upright position over the ground on two feet. This is often where many athletes are left stranded in the rehab clinics, trying to produce a 90% quad index while sitting down in an isokinetic machine. 

The Power Athlete Methodology teaches us to understand how the body is designed to move through the primal patterns of squatting/hinging, lunging, stepping, pushing, pulling, and rotating. These foundational principles arm us with the knowledge and tools necessary to develop programs that improve our previously injured athletes’ movement patterns, ultimately enhancing their athletic potential and reducing their risk of re-injury.

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Matthew Zanis

PT, DPT, FAAOMPT, OCS, ATC, CSCS Former baseball catcher and an avid outdoorsman. Worked with Division 1 basketball, football, and track and field at the University of Pittsburgh, along with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Arizona Cardinals organizations. Received a Bachelors in Athletic Training from the University of Pittsburgh in 2011 and a Doctorate in Physical Therapy from Duke University in 2014. Is board certified in Orthopedics and a Fellow through the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists. Is a PT with the United States Olympic Committee and USA Shooting. Currently operates his performance therapy practice in Scottsdale, AZ with Dr. Tom Incledon of Causenta Wellness, and became a Power Athlete Block One Coach in September of 2017.

Dr. Zanis utilizes the Power Athlete Methodology to optimize performance, reduce injury risk, and rehab his clients and athletes through movement assessment, coaching, and individualized program design.


  1. Rehab to Performance: Movement | | CANTONS.US on April 17, 2019 at 7:25 am

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