Saturday, July 18, 2009

Why and When I-Phase: moving up from Z-Health's R-Phase to I-Phase As Soon As Possible

This is a blog post with a mission and a message: if you're considering getting into Z-Health or have already started with Z-Health's R-Phase program, here's some thoughts on why thinking not too far ahead to I-Phase is a good idea.

I-Phase (overviewed here) is the second step in Z-Health's neural training progression program. I-Phase grows from the first series, R-Phase, in three key ways: (1) it adds load to R-Phase positions (2) it adds new postural positions to R-Phase drills and so (3) becomes a "movement template" for practicing and expanding the R-Phase vocabulary to more Sports or Life specific contexts.

Indeed, according to Z-Health's Eric Cobb, R-Phase and I-Phase have always been meant to go together.

R-Phase is the key foundational movements presented in a neutral stance so that that we can focus on learning the moves precisely - since it's from that precision that we get so many of Z-Health's benefits.

Once those skills are learned (and a Z-Health trainer helps accelerate that process), the bigger bang for the buck comes from learning to put these movements into more dynamic, life-like postures. A more detailed explanation of why this load/position addition in I-Phase is so critical for health and well being is found in this b2d I-Phase overview.

Plan to Proceed
What that all means is that, especially if you've been practicing R-Phase for awhile, consider moving onto I-Phase. The training program that comes with the I-Phase manual provides a series of progressions for phasing in I-Phase drills along with the companion Neural Warm-Up II into your R-Phase practice.

Why Bring Up This Progression Now?
At a recent Z-Health cert, where 65+ Z-Health coaches were present, all of whom had at least R and I Phase certifications (most had the more advanced Level 3 or Level 4 certs; several were Master Trainers or Master Trainers in, er, training.) This was a high level bunch of Zed Heads.

The question was posed: what do you all do for your own Z-Health practice? The majority of folks said mainly I-Phase drills with some R, some S. The question came back: what do your clients do.? The answer pretty universally was "R-Phase." The question came back "If you all are doing I, why aren't your clients?"

That's a show stopper of a question.

A lot of answers came back that more or less sorta blamed the clients' diligence: they don't know R well enough to do I yet; they don't practice their R, etc etc. But i'm not so sure. And it also felt weird that here we were acting as gate keepers for Z-Health in a way that may be way way way too conservative for our client's well being.

Makes me think maybe we haven't been doing our job to help encourage the Z-Health progression from R-Phase, to I-Phase and into at least thinking about the remarkably awesome S-Phase. So this post is trying to rectify that, and encourage you to get your ABC's of Z down, and also, trust the plan. If you've done the R-Phase plan in the R-Phase manual that brings in R-Phase and Neural Warm Up I, then think about leaping joyfully towards I-Phase.

An Analogy for I-Phase

An analogy in the RKC world with Z-Health might be to compare R-Phase with Enter the Kettlebell's Program Minimum (PM) (review of ETK and what Program Minimum means here). The PM is an xcellent program; it's one we all come back to from time to time as it can always be challenging. R-Phase, same thing: a suggestion i got after S-Phase was to go back and do ALL the R-Phase drills at super-slow speed. Own the drills at that speed. Like getting at a weakness in one's TGU from the PM via the Kalos Sthenos hard style progression.

I-Phase in this analogy is akin to ETK's second program, the Rite of Passage (ROP). In the ROP, the foundations of the Program Minimum are kept, but they are also built upon with several new moves and their progressions - including fundamental KB moves like the Snatch.

Most kettlebellers recognize the importance of the Swing from the Program Minimum as a foundational movement, but most KB'ers want to get to the Snatch, too, for the added benefits this dynamic movement affords.

The R-Phase to I-Phase progression *should* be like the PM to ROP progression: follow the R-Phase program to get comfortable with the movements in Neutral Stance as precisely as possible. As you'd go see an RKC to tune your movements, you'd go see a Z-Health coach to tune those movements. Likewise, once you complete the R-Phase program as laid out in the manual, move into the I-Phase program. The I-Phase program does indeed progressively phase I increasingly into R practice over two 12 week cycles.

Sports Specific or Über Versatile Life Practice
While it's perfectly fine to stick with R-Phase, as it is with the Program Minimum, there are considerable benefits to moving to I-Phase. One way of expressing these is in terms of the template that I-Phase offers.

Once we're comfortable with the I-Phase movements - the template basics of lunge, foot and head position - we can mix them up to suit our needs, always following the movement efficiency heuristics of R-Phase:
  1. Perfect Form
  2. Dynamic Postural Alignment
  3. Synchronize Respiration
  4. Balance Tension and Relaxation
So, based on I-Phase as a template, we can blend an anterior 45 degree lunge with front foot straight ahead, rear foot rotated out, while doing top and bottom shoulder circles, head titled and rotated to the inside. Look at athletes in motion and you can see a number of sports that make use of such positions, including running to leap to catch a ball heading to the outfield, passing a basketball, or ready to reach out to balance one's child while they're practicing riding a two-wheeler.

A more sport specific example: in working on my press, Kenneth Jay noticed i was closing up my shoulder to my neck, likely causing an arthrokinetic reflex response to occur when trying to move through the sticking point. Eric Cobb suggested taking the 45degree front shoulder cam shafts from the I-Phase template and turning them into lateral bent arm cam shafts - mirroring the sport specific position of the press. Combining that with some eye work is smoothing out the drills.

Practice - for the non-neutral stance positions of life
We all pretty much get the value of practice. We usually think of practice as improving both the autonomy of our effort (as it becomes a refined skill) and mastering the perfection of our movement.

Research (like the Sports Injury Bulletin from March 2002 on Proprioceptive Training) has shown that likewise, in the realm of the physical, the more reps we get in practicing active positions (like those in I-Phase), the better our body is prepared for them, and the less likely we will be to injure ourselves if we're suddenly forced into them or simply called upon to demonstrate them.

As i've said elsewhere in talking about I-Phase, it is very much about preparing us for this kind of real Real.

So again, if you're contemplating Z-Health, starting with R-Phase, fabulous. May i encourage you to check out I-Phase at the same time? Z-Health does have an R-Phase/Neural Warm Up I and I-Phase Neural Warm Up II combo package.

IF you've already been doing R-Phase, may i encourage you to consider I-Phase in your near future perfecting yourself plans? I feel i've been remiss in not saying this sooner. My apologies.

A quick note about the Neural Warm Ups I & II
The Neural Warm Ups for both I and R are ten minute concise follow along warm ups that ensure you get through every joint in the body in an efficient effective way. Especially during the 12 week programs, you'll see that you blend focusing on a particular drill from I or R on most days, and alternate these with Neural Warm Up days. This alternating between focused movement/limb/joing practice sessions, and quick complete body sessions mean that we always have a way to get into this neural practice, mixing up types of effort and types of attention.

To draw again on Pavel's ETK: that practice is waved with light, medium and hard days. Likewise here, focused work is blended with whole body, shorter sessions. Max benefit; reduced mental learning fatigue. Likewise with I-Phase, because it IS adding load, moving from movement focus to moving through the whole body is a Good Thing.

So That's Why I?
Thanks for your kind attention. If you're new to b2d, this article may seem a bit sudden. What the heck is Z-Health - i've discussed that here and in even more detail here, mainly using R-Phase as an example. Plainly i see Z-Health as a pretty important part of general and ongoing health and well being. And so, as part of that practice, the game plan is really to get folks to I-Phase: get up on that template and put it into action. Amp up the benefit. Higher, Faster, Stonger.

If you have questions, please leave a comment and i'll do my best to answer or find an answer about this. Aye Aye.

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