Hunter Cook and FRC: A Pole Nerds' Point of View
Yaaay!! I am back from my very long (2,5 months!!!) trip from the US, with LOTS of new information to process and to share. At some point, I am pretty sure I learnt how to properly kill a person as well, but this post is going to be mostly about HUNTER COOK and my experience with FRC so far. To all pole dancers out there, here is the solution to most of your problems regarding mobility and active use of your range of motion. So, read carefully! If you are not aware of Hunter's incredible existence yet, you should start stalking him from every social media thingie that you can...NOW! Here, let me help you out with that: Hunters' FB page and Hunters' Instagram.
-First things first; before we move on the the Hunters' Realm of Ridiculous ROM (Range of Motion) and the Wonderland of FRC, I would like to talk briefly about how I discovered both. Please do not skip this part, I promise it is important and relevant.
As many of you know, I have hyper mobility in my joints and peculiar proportions. Before I learned how to respect the way my body is built, I was constantly getting injured. Roughly about 2 years ago, when I injured my knee, a friend who was concerned about my well being, told me about this weird Russian Physiotherapist that hangs people from their neck (!!!!!). My curiosity was titilated, so I decided to check him out. Turns out he was not as scary as the stories were told, plus he knew a lot more about the human body than ANY OTHER medical doctor I have known so far.
Alen, my guardian angel without wings, not only helped me heal my knee faster but also started teaching me how to balance my body. At the end of 1st year, my severe lordosis was nowhere to be seen and my posture was so good that I actually grew taller! Not only he addressed all of my previous traumas, but made all of my injured joints even stronger than the rest! Naturally, I wanted to learn "the logic" behind it all, to be able to become not just a healthier human, but a better athlete. Now, I already have a better understanding of human anatomy (because I am a super nerd about it) than a regular person with no background; but to tell a physiotherapist who has been actively working in the field for 20 years and still improving his knowledge with new researches to ''teach you all the things'' is not an easy way to learn it. Simply because THERE IS TOO MANY THINGS to learn, and the human body is just an endless galaxy of connected information... So I silently wished for a solution from the universe, and it sent me Hunter!
WHO IS HUNTER COOK AND WHY IS HE AWESOME?
I first discovered Hunter on instagram, back when the posts were still squeezed in 15 seconds. I cannot pinpoint to the post that peaked my interest, but it was somewhere along the lines of this video right HERE. If you are fooled by how easy he makes it look, I encourage you to try this at home! I mean, feeding myself with my toes is currently my ultimate goal for hip mobility, all thanks to him...
-Of course there is a more formal way to answer ''who is Hunter?'' which I copied from the FRC instructor page: ''Hunter has been personal training for the last 8 years, and has also worked as a physical therapy aide for 6 years in both New York and California. He is well qualified as a fitness professional to work with any demographic of clientele, however, excels in nutritional guidance, mobility and flexibility, and post-rehabilitation clients due to his background working in physical therapy offices. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with the option in Exercise Science from California State University, Long Beach. Hunter’s certifications include the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), and the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA)''
Now that we can all agree that he OFFICIALLY knows what he is talking about, I would like to express who he is to me, which I believe is more fun :P. Yes, I made a list!
...that person who I show people to end the argument on ''People who have big muscles cannot be flexible''. Duuuuuuude is surreal!!
...the ONLY instagram account that I enabled the notifications of, because I really don't want to miss any of his posts.
...fun to follow because his posts are not just informative, but also full of life and intelligent sense of humour.
...A COFFEE FREAK!! like me :o).
...too humble for his own good which is very rare in the fitness industry. Also is one of the kindest spirits that I have known in my life.
...so enthusiastic about sharing everything he knows that could help you, to a point where start questioning the motives of everybody else.
...does not let you get away with only a ''u-huh I got it'', but actively tests if you actually did understand the point. If not, finds an explanation that would fit your learning process.
...a friend :o)!
A WEEK WITH HUNTER
After stalking him for over a year, and continuously being humbled by the ''simple looking'' exercises and drills he posts regularly (see below), I decided he might be the person who I can work with to better understand the FRC system, which looked like the missing link in my training. So I contacted him and pre-booked 10 hours of ''teach me all the things'' private sessions. My goal is eventually to be certified as an FRC provider, but I wanted to do one-on-one sessions first, to get a better understanding and have time to explore it myself.
Anyway, I started learning about the FRC in great detail, and Hunter was an AMAZING coach for the time that we were working together. Far better than I would have imagined or wanted him to be, honestly! He was always attentive and present, caringly motivating through the challenging exercises. He made sure that I understood every detail before continuing the progressions. Even had me do some of the partner exercises to him, so I get to experience the trainer side of things and understand how important the wording is for the client.
-If you are interested to learn how to apply FRC to your training, or for your students/clients, I highly suggest to find and work with Hunter. Don't be intimidated by the amount of followers he has, he is absolutely the cutest person out there, and he is very approachable.
At the end of one week spent with a lot of laughs, tons of notes and full of new information; it was time for me to continue my journey and explore how I could improve my body, health and performance with using this system. The results that I started to see, even in 2 months is just unbelievable!
I gathered some of his videos, so that you can be humbled appropriately too! Do not attempt to perform some of these movements if you don't have healthy joints kids! Please ''READ'' what he writes on the description part to really understand what it's about too. You can pick and choose your battles with these. I couldn't find a way to embed the videos here unfortunately, so here are the links.
BUT... WHAT IS THIS FRC VOODOO YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT?
Well, damn... This section is harder than I thought it would be, because frankly, there is no easy way to explain what FRC actually is! In the simplest explanation, it is a system to improve mobility and active range of motion, that has been put together by Dr. Andreo Spina, based on scientific evidence. If you would like to have more opinion on it's principles defined by its founder, or information about the upcoming courses, you may visit the FRC website here.
-From here on, I will share my own experiences, improvement and opinions on the FRC system. I would like to encourage everyone to have their own opinion and share it too, naturally. But my only hope is not to offend anyone, for I know the fitness&health industry is very fragile when it comes to self expression.
For me the best way to describe FRC is that it is a system which helps you to unleash your true potential. Let me give you an analogy that I hope will help you to understand the stages: Imagine your body, as a huge house with lots of rooms with locked doors, and hidden secret sections that you are not even aware of. Now, in this house, there is places that you are familiar with, like the living room, but even that room is quite badly illuminated that you can not see the corners very well. What FRC does, is first of all properly enlighten all the dark corners of the house (your body), so you can see the spaces that requires cleaning and further attention. Once you have cleaned all the corners and renewed everything that has been broken, you move on to the locked doors and hidden rooms to discover what else is there. After you have discovered a new room, now it is time to figure out how to use it properly and take care of it spontaneously. Eventually, with patience and hard work, you will be able to fully understand the potential of your huge house and use it wisely to your liking.
-As awesome as it sounds though, I have to confess that the road to truly healthy joints and being able to use your full potential is not as easy as it sounds. It is also not fun! It is tedious, time consuming and tiring. But it is oh-so-worth it!
Let me show you an example picture of how much I improved one of my weakest points,
my hip extension... Due to my years of bad posture and lordosis, the muscles which were supposed to work to extend my leg backwards was just not getting the hint for a long time! I actually had the passive range of motion there, so if someone would pull my leg passively up, it went up. But if I tried to lift it myself, the movement was pathetic. I expressed this to Hunter, and he gave me some examples of how I would improve it with the FRC principles. He also stressed the importance of training your neurological connection to that muscle, as well as strengthening it. The difference between before and after picture IS INSANE! Notice that in the first picture, I am not even able to lift it, Hunter is holding it!! It has been just a month since I started training it.
I can hear some of you say: ''Oh, you can lift your leg up higher now, so what??''. Let me be more SPECIFIC to pole training then. What do you thing a Jade is?? Or any aerial split that we do for that matter? Let me tell you, all of those are a pole dancers expression of their control on active range of motion. So next time you staticly stretch the hell outta yourself on the floor and climb the pole, only to get disappointed in your aerial split, think of this moment and imagine me whispering ''FRC'' in your ears. Here is a good example of how my no handed jade improved within a month from: ''IT is so bad that I did not even dare to take a picture of it'' to ''HELL YEAH!!''.
Apart from fine tuning your already concurred skills, FRC can be so much more than daily mobility exercise, provided that you really understand the system. As pole dancers, we mainly work and try to improve at our end range of motion, accompanied with whole body tension, trying to squeeze ourselves like hell on a pole!! Especially as you start to advance on higher level tricks, the need for active flexibility increases dramatically. An example of this in our world is the difference between an inside leg hang cacoon and an eagle.
Basically an inside leg hang cacoon is an upside down eagle! So if you can do the inverted one, what aren't you able to do the upright one? Well, because one of them only requires enough flexibility to only hold your foot, then the gravity does the trick! With the eagle, you need to LIFT your leg UP TO YOUR HAND, while trying to hold yourself in the ballerina position and contracting your whole body like there is no tomorrow!!! I have been able to do the cacoon for 3 years already, but had no luck whatsoever with the eagle -even when I asked people to push my foot in my hand... So this week I decided to apply some FRC knowledge to find an eagle specific pattern that will help me achieve one of my nemesis tricks. Aaaaaand, here it is... It is not super pretty yet, but I was able to do it myself, while spinning, in a combo, on my first try after training for it for 20 minutes... This is not a miracle people, it is science...
Thank you all for reading, I hope that it would inspire you to learn more about the FRC or work with Hunter personally. I would love to hear your thoughts or experiences, as usual, don't hesitate to say 'Hi' :o).
Special thanks to Hunter Cook and his amazing girlfriend Diana Sullivan Pham for taking such good care of me while I was in Long Beach.