Part 3 Movement Culture: Surpassing ouRMAXimum with CST

Movement, mobility, stability and then strength

Let me repeat that; movement, mobility, stability and then strength… what to focus on first and how to reach optimal levels of either one has been an on going debate for decades; where I have spent the last 14 years learning a vast spectrum from both sides of the strength and movement models. As a movement coach my goal is to teach the pre requisites or blueprint of movement mechanics. To teach the client the technical side how we apply strategy and how dysfunction limits their potential, on and off the field (or arena, court, track etc).

move culture 3a

To stimulate adaptation and better movement mechanics the body’s joints and surrounding tissue must be prepared and ready to absorb shock, be able to move freely without compensation and restriction, and requires optimal recovery to perform efficiently. After an online post, my friend and mentor, Carmen Bott owner and founder of Human Motion Strength and Conditioning in Vancouver, and professor at UBC and Langara gave great insight into performance metrics with this discussion post…

“What comes first…the chicken or the egg? Mobility and ‘general, primal’ movement comes first – next, we have CONTROLLED and PLANNED movement which could be described as relative strength/power…FINALLY absolute strength gets introduced into the process. Where does on-field reactive agility (which in essence is power) come in?

“Traditional programs (3 x 10 reps of “X”) without a full understanding of human adaptation fails to produce elite levels of anything.” There must be attention to the neuromuscular mechanism”.

CST (Circular Strength Training Concept)

Over the last several months I been looking very closely into an operating system called CST. A concept pioneered by Scott Sonnon, whom I have been corresponding with for well over a year and have featured many times in my articles. Part 3 of our Movement Series features this system, because of it’s “Tri-Ring” Integration that focuses on a balance of work load, and recovery so that the athlete can maximize the effectiveness of the cycle/workout.

Why does CST fit into “Movement Culture” so well? The CST “brand” of movement-based exercises are different from other comparable training because it uses a full scope vocabulary of mobilization, traction, decompression and activation drills to “restore” and alternate stability and mobility structures in the body.  It offers errorless, injury prevention methods by approaching each segment of material as a “health-first fitness” approach, through monitoring the internal experience of exercise towards “flow.”


I attended last weeks CST 3-day certification course, thinking that this would primarily by a Clubbell course (strength course) I was blown away by the detail and specificity placed upon the joint by joint approach, screening (Poise Analysis), breath mastery and attention to the myofascial matrix.

“Bones need to float. Our myofascial matrix is a web, the muscles that drape over our scalp, down to our toes are what give us shape and density. Joints will adopt the position based on compensation and on our recreational or occupational habits. Joints cannot be stable if the neighbor joint is tight and not mobile and vice versa. If we do not provide the body with the functional opposite – tension builds and compensations result in altered movement and distortion in structure. We must work from head to toe, core to periphery, bones to skin” – Scott Sonnon (quote from Day 1 of CST, March 19 2013)

 Inside the CST toolbox are body weight exercises, some based on primal movement and neuro-developmental patterns, martial arts and yoga based movements, and breath mastery techniques all with the focus of “cleaning the slate,” of compensations that can build up in the body from daily life and injury.

The 3 Rings of CST meets the Functional Movement Systems and Corrective Movement:


CST & TacFit Trailer Here:  (shot at Wolf Fitness System).

Flow Fit Testing at Wolf Fitness Systems:


In “Part 2 Movement Culture: 6 Degrees of Freedom,” I featured insights into the 3 rings of  CST; which were (1) Intu Flow (joint by joint approach, dynamic range of motion) (2) Prasara Yoga (agility, flexibility and grace) and (3) Clubbells, Kettlebells and Gymnastics (functional athletic strength).

This operating system or motor development direction relates to how the “3 Ring” process is designed to coordinate with the principles of structure and function come first. According to the Prioximodistal principle, development proceeds from near to far – outward from central axis of the body towards the extremities.

This methodology directly relates to the Functional Movement Systems and how I, as a Movement Coach approach my one on one hour. The neurodevelopmental process in pediatric development show us that even in adulthood; these pathways of learned motor control do not just turn off. In fact, these “neurophysiologic growth and development highways” remain open to switching back on even if laying dormant for years. The baby was not told to fire it’s core, to roll over or learn how to stand… he or she just did through experience.

The FMS and SFMA screens are only 1 part of the Functional Movement Systems and the idea behind program design from a corrective standpoint is designed to identify and address dysfunction (or compensations as in the CST vocabulary) and then work the line of that compensation to restore movement to all joints, and their surrounding tissues that are show asymmetrical patterning.

The CST systems provides it’s own screening process that reflects many of the same check points in the FMS systems; taking into account current training, postures, gait, injuries etc. The measuring stick is referred to for performance gains during and after the session, where regressions and or functional opposites are given to “activate” these highways of learning. As re-coordination and refinement continues, new measuring sticks are selected and performance enhancement breeds results.

Isolation Vs. Integration; Segmental vs Systemic: This is another key area that aligns with Movement Coaching and Corrective Movement Program Design. Training lines of movement vs muscles. “Complex training effect,” (CTE) provides additional bang for the buck on the client’s end, because when you pair simple movements together, the synergistic effect is greater than if the individual exercises were performed independently.

This requires attention to transition from one movement to the next, and proper breathing mechanics to pace ones movements and regulate intensity. My sessions in Salinas, with Wolf Fitness Systems; were geared towards high emphasis on transitions and working from one movement to the next to keep “in flow.”

baby bell

Clubbells: Structure, Breath, Movement = Power.

I am sure you have noticed, so far in this post there has been little to no mention of this ancient piece of strength wielding wisdom. That’s because; where it is the shiny, sparkly draw to CST, it’s the peak of the climb, once you have put forth the effort to understand and climb the terrain to the peak.

In order for one to wield and tool or load, your joints must be prepped and motor control must be evident to perform the complex tasks, such as; shoulder or joint packing, arm locks, leg drive, spinal integrity in movement etc. For instance: “If the neck is tight, then the scapula will de stabilize, if the thorax is tight, then the lower back is forced to move and the core de stabilizes.


Myth number one; Indian clubs are not club bells. This is a question I am asked all the time. In the sources section of this article, refer to Scott’s Blog page, Shane Heins (Dare to Evolve) dispels this myth.

 “Martial arts around the globe have used the club not just for combat but for health restoration and strength development, most notably in India, Iran, Okinawa, Burma and Russia. The records go as far back as Ancient Egypt, reaching its zenith at the end of the 19th century. Early versions of the club were espoused by US President Grant, and it was recognized as “the oldest known implement for military gymnastics” (Posse 1894) – a critical section of exercise in the 1914 US Army Manual of Physical Training. From 1904 to 1932 club swinging was an Olympic Sport which resurfaced in the form of the lightweight bats included in Rhythmic Gymnastics, though the club was then viewed more as a juggling implement than as a tool of physical exercise.” (One Tool – Infinite Possibilities™ RMAX International except).

In the early 20th century Scott resurrected this tool and pat-tended International Clubbell Sport. This tool provides athletes with a unique blend of functional, full range, three-dimensional muscular development. Swinging weight in three-dimensions rather than lifting weight in one, creates traction and torque, which stimulate connective tissue strength and elasticity, bone growth and much more. After visiting Wolf Fitness Systems in February, this was one tool I knew had to be one of many in my coaches toolbox.

However, dragging 2x10lbs and 1x 15lbs clubbells across the border in a sport bag, proved to be very amusing for the border cross agent and I may have snagged a new client.

Border guard: “Anything to declare, looks like that’s a heavy bag of beef?”

Sarah J: “35lbs of clubbells sir, and an open bag of trail mix.”

Border agent (no smile): “I’m sorry, what’s a clubbell.”

Sarah J: “Ummm… I’ll have to show you. It’s like a big bat, you wield around.”

Border guard: (sideways look): “wield? …. what do you use those for, what’s the purpose of your trip.”

Sarah J: “ I took a CST and Tactical training course, you swing ‘em, you can use em in 3 dimensional patterns, full range of motion.. (border agent, cuts me off….

Border guard: “You an officer? what do you do for work? Those look kinda big for you.”

Sarah J:  “I am not an officer, my “to serve and protect” are keeping guys like you injury free. Speaking of which, you keep shifting around, your back okay?”

Border guard (half way grin, does not make eye contact, waves hand): “ NEXT.”

Sarah J dead-lifts and cleans bag on one arm…. “Not so small, Thanks.”


Our last article “Part 4 Movement Culture,” will feature TacFit Tactical training and more on movement tools, such as; the clubbell, kettlebell and more.

Movement Culture Leaders:

Please feel free to join our conversation and to “LIKE” the following “Movement” centered pages for flow sequences, articles, tips and trends… click on the links here:



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