Using the Biofeedback/Gym Movement Protocol Part I: The Basics

by Chris on November 20, 2010

Not too long ago, sometime last year, I started playing around with something called biofeedback (or Gym Movement) in my strength training. Since then, this protocol has grown and become more popular. While I am certainly no expert in the protocol, I have used it in my training to varying degrees over the past year or so and I figured it was about time I did a write-up about it (since I’ve been meaning to for a while). Some will immediately dismiss the method entirely as pseudo-science. I’ll bet that few will actually attempt to experiment with it. Those who do, I want to hear from you when it happens. This will be a multi-part series on my experience with biofeedback, so check back for Part II soon.

Getting Started

Since not everyone is familiar with the biofeedback protocol, I need to give some background first. Obviously the first question is what is it? Basically, biofeedback is a method you use to test different movements and other training variables which provides feedback as to which are best to use on a given day. How do you do that? It all starts with some form of test. The most common way to test a movement is with a range of motion test, though there are other methods (such as using a handgrip dynamometer). Before you begin your training, you are going to test a range of motion for your baseline. A common method for this is doing a standing toe touch. Take note here that this is NOT a stretch. You want to stop as soon as you feel any type of tension, no matter where it is. For me, I tend to get tension in my calves first when I test. You may feel it elsewhere. As soon as you get tension, pay note to where your range of motion was. That’s your baseline.

Next, perform a movement. It doesn’t even need to be loaded. You can mimic the movement with no weight and it will work fine. I find it works better for me if I have at least some form of minimal loading (like an empty bar) which helps my body recognize the different leverages of different movements. Perform 2 or 3 reps. Re-test. If your range of motion increased, it’s a good movement to perform because it made your body move better (i.e. more RoM). If your RoM stated the same or got worse, you should try different variations of that same movement. There is a simple protocol to follow if the movements you are trying are not testing well (i.e. greater RoM). First you should test variations of a movement. For example, flat bench press, incline, barbell, dumbbell, floor press, etc. If none of those test well, I will usually try a more drastic variation based on a similar movement pattern. What I mean by that is if I test a bench press, and no variations test well, I will usually try a different form of pressing, like an overhead press. If that still doesn’t work, test antagonistic (opposite) movements and their variations. In this example it would be different kinds of rowing movements.

So what do you do if even those don’t work out? Test different movements or test novel movements. A novel movement is basically something you don’t usually do. For example, a novel variation of a squat might be a Zercher squat. Once you have your movement selected, you test different loads/intensities. Basically, you will perform your movement with different weights, retesting after each and using the load that tests best. How many reps and sets do you perform? Here is my favorite part of the biofeedback protocol: the elements of effort. With your chosen weight, you are going to perform reps until you start to see the elements of effort. Stop your set once you feel excessive tension anywhere, your bar speed noticeably slows down, your posture beings to shift or form breaks down. Simple as that. Now you are going to do sets until the movement stops testing well. That could mean your range of motion no longer improves, or the movement becomes difficult to do, or you don’t feel like you are recovering. Let your body guide you. This is obviously a real simplification of the process for brevity’s sake, but I hope you get the idea.

Now that you know how to do it, start experimenting with biofeedback. Try testing out movements when you train just to see which tests best and get a feel for testing your range of motion. That’s how I got started. In the next part of this series I will give some more insight into my experience with biofeedback and the varying ways and degrees to which I have used it.

Part II – Programming Workouts

Part II.5 – FAQ with Mike T. Nelson

Previous post:

Next post: