A few weeks ago, my friend Jen Bladon of Better Than Fit asked if I'd be willing to answer some questions for an interview series she's doing on movement. Her questions were so dynamite that I asked if I could re-post the interview here. Happy reading!
When writing a guest post about shoulder rehab for MOVE a couple years ago, Travis was kind enough to (heavily!) edit my article. Lucky for me, that introduced me to Travis’ online presence in the movement, exercise, and biomechanics world. Travis is both strong in mind and strong in body, as well as a true leader in the rehab, strength and conditioning field. He is committed to academics, (working on his Doctorate in Rehabilitation Science no less!), an accomplished athlete, and a dedicated coach. This is another great read. Enjoy! -Jen Bladon
J: What are your first memories of movement and/or activity? How was movement part of your life growing up?
T: Movement has always been one of the most important aspects of my life. Although I was born missing my left femur, I have very early memories of hobbling around on a makeshift prosthesis prior to having revisions done to my residual limb at age 3 in order to wear a normal prosthesis. Clearly, even as a tike I couldn’t be slowed down. After that, I remember loving to play basketball on my neighbor’s hoop, capture the flag during summer camp, and tennis on Fridays after school. Later on, in middle school and high school, I took up hand-cycling, rowing, swimming, and resistance training.
J: What does your regular movement practice and training on a weekly basis look like?
T: It varies from week to week. Ideally, I’m in the gym almost every day for about an hour lifting weights, doing conditioning, or both. Sometimes, when I’m short on time, my workouts are much shorter and take place in my backyard (where I have a pull-up bar) or in my basement (where I have a squat rack). When the workouts are short, the intensity goes way up. For example, there’s one CrossFit workout I love that consists of a descending ladder of pull-ups alternating with an ascending ladder of push-ups. It only takes about 10 minutes, but my heart rate goes through the roof and the arm pump is insane.
J: Who and what are your biggest movement influences and inspirations?
T: My training philosophy is primarily influenced by my mentors from the National Personal Training Institute of Philadelphia (Barry Fritz and Karl Safran) and Endeavor Sports Performance (Kevin Neeld). I guess you could call what we do “functional training,” although that term has gotten bastardized over the years. We draw on influences from powerlifting and bodybuilding in order to train athletes and everyday people to be fit, strong, injury-free, and sexy. (I like to think the “sexy” is a byproduct of the other benefits.) I also draw inspiration from some of my best friends, who are avid swimmers, tennis players, and CrossFitters. We each push each other to excel in our respective fitness journeys.
J: What does a balanced movement practice mean to you? How has this changed over the past several years?
T: To me, a balanced movement practice means devoting equal training time and resources to the entire body. When I first started lifting weights, like every other meathead I did chest on Mondays, back on Wednesdays, and legs on Fridays (or not at all!). Now I train my entire body every session, incorporating pushing and pulling movements for both my upper and lower body, as well as something for my core. In addition to the strength training, I like to incorporate some conditioning, as well. Previously, as a competitive swimmer, I did almost all endurance training with only a few sessions of strength training each week. Now that mix is flip-flopped. I think both are equally important; it’s just my personal preference to favor strength.
J: What “feedback tools” do you regularly use to determine what would be most beneficial (or detrimental) for your movement practice and training?
T: Over the last year or so, I experimented quite a bit with a biofeedback tool known as the Gym Movement Protocol (created by Frankie Faires and further popularized by David Dellanave). This type of biofeedback involves range of motion or grip strength testing (I use grip strength) to determine which movements the body is most well-suited for on a given day. Practicing this technique has helped me better understand which movements were missing from my training, which in turn has helped me further balance my training. In general, variety is the name of the game, even if it’s only subtle. From a day-to-day standpoint, I like to limit the high-intensity workouts to one or two sessions per week on days I’m feeling strong. This way I don’t burn myself out.
J: What movement knowledge/skill do you love to share and why?
T: I love to share information on programming and exercise technique. When I go to commercial gyms, I see so much awful form. I like to think that if one person reads a blog post of mine and discovers the correct way to do a squat, deadlift, or kettlebell swing, then I’ve done a good service to the general exercising public.
J: What movement knowledge/skill do you find the most challenging to share/teach and why?
T: For me, the hardest movement skill to teach is the hip hinge. Some people just “get it” immediately. You demonstrate a hinge and they replicate it. For others, it takes a lot more verbal cueing, tactile cueing, and repetition. This may be a hyperbole, but I like to think that I’m saving the life (or at least spine) of every person I teach to hinge properly. Most humans experience low back pain at some point in their life, but hopefully by learning to pick things up off the floor properly, the people I train can avoid it.
J: How do you see your movement practice evolving over the next several years? (and how do you see yourself sharing it?)
T: Right now I’m working on my doctorate in Rehabilitation Sciences, with an emphasis on the biomechanics of the shoulder and core. Over the next few years, I hope to integrate even more scientific rigor into my movement practice. In between working on my dissertation, I plan to continue sharing my ideas on my blog.
J: What would you recommend as foundational aspects of a movement practice to anyone looking towards improving overall “movement literacy” and supporting a more active lifestyle?
T: The turning point in my own movement practice occurred when I stopped thinking about which muscles I was worked and started concentrating on movements instead. It’s as simple as incorporating some sort of squat (lower body pushing), deadlift (lower body pulling), press (upper body pushing), and row (low body pulling) into a weekly training program. Those foundational movements alone account for about 80% of fitness. Anything else beyond that is just icing on the cake.