Chapter 15: Combine Anti-rigidity with your Exercise Routine

Excessive Exercise Without Anti-rigidity is Detrimental

Unsustainable workout habits played a large role in my stress. Overly ambitious running and heavy lifting were tightening my straitjacket. I was reaping ephemeral, short-term benefits such as muscle gain and fat loss. But the long-term costs of accumulating soft tissue injury were significant. For instance, even though I had developed some strength in my bench press, if I altered the position of my shoulders slightly or turned my elbows or wrists a little, the same bench-pressing motion was painful and incredibly frail. When you put a great deal of tension into an invariant configuration, the other potential arrangements become extraordinarily limited. It is the same with running. Aside from my habitual running pattern, my body was highly immobile.

If you signed a contract to play a superhero in an upcoming blockbuster movie, you would engage in arduous weightlifting and strenuous cardiovascular exercise. A few months of this would tighten existing knots in your muscles but make you look incredibly fit. A few years of activity like this would produce copious dormant muscle, shackling the spine. In kinesiology, this is referred to as “muscular pattern overload.” It would make you stronger in the short-term but much weaker in the long-term. This is how I exercised in my twenties: sprinting and grueling weights with no stretching, massage, or recognition of bracing. Combined with chronic panicked breathing, zero postural awareness, and lots of sitting, it wrecked my foundation. The sad truth is that this should sound familiar to many people.

The Cost of Lifting Heavy Weights

Lifting heavy weights was my defense mechanism for dealing with the male status hierarchy. I thought that more muscle would free me from hierarchical worries, but it became my prison, both figuratively and literally. It wrecked my posture by pulling my shoulders forward and my chin away from my chest. I am not alone in this. Postural neglect, excessive bracing, and inattention to hyperfatigued muscle accelerate age-related postural decline in the majority of people who lift weights. Frankly, weightlifters experience significant reductions in all planes of spinal movement.

As a teenager, I read books on lifting weights that proclaimed that 8 to 12 repetitions done to complete muscle failure is the scientifically established way to achieve muscle growth. This is true on the order of months, but without regular anti-rigidity, 8 to 12 repetitions with the heaviest weight you can bear is a recipe for dormant muscle. It took me years to realize that overzealous lifting came with hidden costs. They creep up on you. Lifting heavy weights at low reps causes you to fall into faulty muscle recruitment patterns, leading to strain and cramping all over the body. In my late twenties, I would wake up every morning in agonizing tension. After rising, it would take at least 10 minutes for the circulation in my chest and neck to reestablish and abate the crushing pain.

Most people wouldn’t even have described me as muscular, and yet my chest, shoulders, neck, and back were completely locked up from weightlifting. I had trigger points, scar tissue, and chronic inflammation all along my shoulder girdle. The tension of unchecked weightlifting crept up my spine, through my cervical vertebrae, and into the attachments between my neck and skull. At this point, it impinges on one’s soul. Like most people that lift weights, I avoided frail muscles altogether. In doing so, we magnify the frailty.

Underused Muscles Need Anti-laxity, and Overused Muscles Need Anti-rigidity

When loading to certain muscles is completely missing, and these muscles sit adjacent to muscles that are unnaturally overloaded you have injury and pain waiting to happen. Underused muscles are usually long and weak. Overused muscles are short and tight. Underused muscles need to be exercised and toned. Overused muscles need to be stretched, massaged, and, most importantly, contracted through the dormant sections of their range of motion.

Bend down and feel your calf. You likely have a lot of soft muscle surrounding a lump of painful, hard muscle. The soft muscle is underused, while the hard muscle is overused. You want the softest lumps to become harder and the hardest lumps to become softer. To do so, increase the tone in the soft portions through exercise and anti-laxity and decrease the tone of the hard lumps using massage and anti-rigidity (It is the same with your spine, face, voice and, as we will see in Chapter 19, the muscles surrounding your genitals). This will develop the calf’s ability to contract as one integrated unit through its full range.

It helps to pull the toes up toward the knee (dorsiflexion), which will contract the muscles in the front of the calf. Hold this contraction and breathe deeply. Next, point your toes away from your body (plantar flexion) using the muscles in the back of the calf. Every day, spend one minute flexing the toes back toward the shin and then pointing the toes in the opposite direction. While in both positions, offset the feet to the left and then to the right. Roll your ankles clockwise and counterclockwise. Search for the areas that feel stiff and achy. If you can find this aching, know that contracting into it calmly is accomplishing bona fide anti-rigidity.

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Illustration 15.1: A. The typical range of motion in the ankle is thirty degrees. However, limiting yourself to this range contributes to the development of dormant ankle musculature; B. Exercising the ankle in an extended range will expand the mobility and contribute to healthy ankle joint mechanics.

At first, start these ankle exercises without any weight, even body weight. Just hold the contractions off the ground. Then experiment with partial body weight. Then use full bodyweight calf raises where you try to reach full height during the rise and complete dorsiflexion during the lowering phase. Hold these and breathe. Doing this with the ankles and knees in a variety of positions will allow you to target and tone the underused aspects of your calves. Try new positions like turning the feet out (lateral rotation) or in (medial rotation), and placing weight on the inside of the foot (pronation), or the outside of the foot (supination).

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Illustration 15.2: A. Holding the lowered phase of a bodyweight squat to strengthen complete ankle dorsiflexion (ankle bent); B. Holding the full height of a calf raise to strengthen complete plantar flexion (ankle straightened).

Have you heard of “cankles?” It is a pejorative term referring to the combination of “calf” and “ankle” describing an ankle that appears continuous with the calf. They are the unattractive consequence of chronically overused ankle muscles. In other words, a cankle is just an ankle whose muscles are stuck in partial contraction. Cankles are ugly because bulky, hypertrophic muscle in isolated areas leads to swelling, edema, and inflammation. The cankles phenomenon isn’t limited to the ankles. Persistent contractions make the whole body look worse for the same reasons. Most people who don’t like their physiques are simply unhappy with the appearance of their body’s dormant muscles. You want to tone and firm your soft muscles without any underlying musculature being hard and hypertonic. It’s a balancing act.

Performing calf raises in the gym with heavy weights turned sections of my calves into very hard muscle segments. This extra muscle was useful for calf raises but otherwise made walking painful. In my late twenties, my ankles, calves, and knees would hurt after just 20 minutes of walking. Percussive massage and anti-rigidity have made it so that I can walk for more than three hours without any discomfort. They also turned my cankles into lean, trim ankles and put a new spring in my step. There are very tangible benefits to replacing our high-intensity, low-variety, repetitious exercises with exercises that use the body more diversely.

Dormant Muscles Expose You to Injury

Tight and shortened muscles dominate movement at the joint disrupting healthy joint mechanics. Some researchers call this “joint compression” (not to be confused with the massage technique). It causes major physical limitations for both athletes and the general population: force leaks, torque loss, and gaps in strength. Shortened and dormant muscle is responsible for why advanced weightlifters fail at entry-level plyometric workout exercises like box jumping.1 The muscles of many bodybuilders have limited range and tend to fatigue quickly. This is why you don’t see them competing in high-level athletics events which demand agility, flexibility, or endurance. Activities that require both speed and strength are often painful for weightlifters. The abrupt forces can even cause cramped, hypertonic muscles to tear or rip.

Dormant muscle and their attachments are highly susceptible to tearing. Sprains (tearing of a ligament) and strains (tearing of a muscle or tendon) are the most common types of soft tissue sports injuries. They are often caused by activities that require muscles to stretch and contract suddenly at the same time. A lack of conditioning, flexibility, and warm-up can contribute, but usually, a strain is a previously existing site of dormancy just waiting to be injured.

When you develop a kink in your neck, lower back, or anywhere else, it is seldom a new development. It is practically always preexisting dormant muscle that has recently been agitated. Usually, kinks are previously locked up muscles that have started to unlock. Unfortunately, immobilizing them until they stop hurting, which most people do, will cause them to relock. Worse yet, trying to move them while breathing shallowly will cause them to close up tighter. But diaphragmatic anti-rigidity will allow you to open and repair these kinks. The next time you pull or strain a muscle, be grateful that a site of frailty has been revealed and is now open to rehab.

I sprained my shoulder wrestling a friend. This was ironic because I lifted heavy weights in hopes of appearing physically powerful. But when it came down to grappling with someone, my uneven tone led to disparities between muscles that could be loaded and those that couldn’t. There were muscles along my scapula that couldn’t bear even a moderate load and trying to squeeze out of a stranglehold headlock sprained them badly. I learned that it is far preferable to have regular strength throughout the body and little frailty than to have excessive strength in certain areas and extreme frailty in others.

Treating an Injury

Never stretch or use anti-rigidity for the first 72 hours after an injury. You want to give the muscle tears a chance to heal first. This means that any time you strain or even tweak something, just go home and rest. Don’t risk aggravating it by continuing to exercise or compete. Soft massage after icing can be beneficial directly following a minor injury. Three days later, it is important to begin proactively compressing and stretching the muscles to stop scar tissue formation. In fact, many medical professionals take untreated scar tissue to be the primary cause of re-injury. I believe that after a week it is safe to start rehabilitating light to moderate strains using anti-rigidity.

Physical therapists often recommend that patients “breathe into” their injuries. If you sprain your wrist, they might advise that you concentrate on deep breathing and the sensations coming from the wrist simultaneously. In yoga and Pilates, instructors recommend breathing deeply when stretching sore, injured, or tight muscles. “Breathing into” tension teaches the brain that it can interact with these muscles without recruiting the fight or flight response. This is why I recommend taking out your breathing metronome whenever you rehab an injury.

I even recommend paced breathing as soon as you sustain an injury to reduce the unnecessary bracing that comes with something like a sprain. Immediately after an injury, people naturally breathe very shallowly, and this causes the surrounding muscles to tense up, potentially exacerbating the extent of the tissue damage. Breathing with the diaphragm and concentrating on progressive relaxation at the injury site can improve the prognosis and decrease recovery time. Just be aware that paced breathing will diminish the body’s protective “casting” and immobilizing of the injured area. Accordingly, you must be very careful not to subject this area to any undue loads for the first few days.

I sprained my shoulder in a fall from a skateboard. Of course, it was the locked-up, bench press stabilizing muscles that were injured. Because of the shoulder injury, I had to stop lifting weights completely. My upper body muscle mass atrophied very quickly. I lost almost all my bulk within two months. However, and here is the kicker: the pain, knots, and scar tissue remained as if I had never stopped working out. This proved to me that lifting heavy weights has benefits that are easily lost, while the costs persist. Without incessant weightlifting, you lose the mass but still retain all the cellular scarring. I felt compelled to get this tension from weightlifting out of my body, so I developed an alternate way to lift weights.

Lift Weights with Optimal Posture

Most people lift heavy weights from a compact position. The more you do this, the more ungainly your posture becomes and the more difficult it is to lift from an expansive posture. By exercising with bad postural alignment, you will degrade the structures you are trying to improve. When your vertebrae are out of alignment and you strain under heavy weights, you further reinforce the misalignments. Like trying to erect a massive building on a poor foundation, it will be lopsided and unstable. Thus, when your form breaks down, make that your last rep. With open, expansive, properly aligned posture, any type of exercise you practice will be more effective.

When most people lift weights that are too heavy, they brace and lock up their entire skeleton holding their spine, shoulder girdle, and hips in the same invariant position each time. Merely reducing the weight allows you to lift without bracing. With less weight, you can also alter and vary your posture with each rep and change the distribution of weight loading, stimulating growth in areas that are usually stiff.

Most exercisers perform narrow range repetitions where the muscle lengthens and contracts only a small amount each repetition. This is a surefire way to force muscles into partial contraction. For example, my friend does limited range of motion squats with extremely heavy weight. This means that instead of going from standing to touching his butt to his ankles, he instead only moves a few inches during each squat. Doing this with stacks of weight plates has given him huge knots above his knees. These knots form a buffer for his end range squat, helping him stop the squat halfway down and reverse the motion. But the same knots that help him come back up in that single exercise, limit the general action of his quadriceps in almost all other activities.

I have since helped him get rid of these knots by using full range motion, massage, and anti-rigidity. You can see that this is much like the above example involving my calves. Do you do anything similar to this? If you don’t want the knots, lower the weight and increase the range of motion. You may have guessed by now that I can’t avoid making a related comparison with animals.

Strength Differences Between Humans and Other Apes

Although chimpanzees are generally lighter than humans (they range between 70 and 140 pounds), they are much stronger on average. The shaved arms of a female chimp look like a professional football player’s arms. In captivity, chimps are aware of their strength advantage and are very dangerous because of it. They often physically bulldoze humans. In the wild, they don’t know that they are stronger and can be studied safely at closer quarters. Indeed, many scientists think chimps can overpower even the strongest humans. I long wondered how at only 140 pounds, they could be stronger than bodybuilders? I believe their disproportionate strength comes from the way they build their muscles incrementally from all angles.

Apes amass upper body strength gradually from a young age tree climbing and knuckle-walking, which they do with their arms and legs. Using each limb vigorously is an intrinsic part of getting around. They incorporate their entire physique into each smooth, integrated movement rather than wrenching isolated muscles with dumbbells or barbells. Since apes build their muscles naturally rather than lifting heavy weights, trigger points and dormant muscles rarely encumber their movement. If we want to become truly strong, we have to build strength incrementally like a chimpanzee.  Now you and I cannot start our childhood over in the trees. But we can start by infusing lightweight exercises with anti-rigidity.

Practice Anti-rigidity During Exercise

Just as you can combine anti-rigidity techniques and yoga, you can also combine anti-rigidity with other workouts, including weight training. By and large, people avoid their trigger points and areas of frailty when exercising. Resist this temptation. You want to work out your short, painful muscles, tailoring exercises to target these sites specifically. To do this, exercise slowly using only light resistance to search for and contract into dormant muscle. Alter your joint configurations until you find a combination that aches or cracks, then hold this pattern and continue to perform repetitions. If you don’t let the discomfort disturb your breathing pattern, the muscle will surrender and cooperate.

I want to encourage you to go to your local gym, sit on practically every machine on the floor, use a very low weight setting, and do between 20 and 100 repetitions trying to work through the subtle aching and cracking. Think of each station in the weight room as a tool you can use to employ anti-rigidity from a different angle.


Do a few reps with your neck flexed to each side, then with your chin to your chest, with your neck retracted, and then with your neck extended backwards. It should feel like yoga with gym equipment. Any exercise expert would try to persuade you from turning your neck to the extreme left when performing a lateral pull down or from adducting your hip and tilting your pelvis when performing a leg press. They would be right if you were lifting between 50 and 100% of your one-repetition maximum. But if you are lifting less than 30% of your max, you should have plenty of room to play with the joint configurations safely.

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Illustration 15.3: Suggestions for different joint configurations for anti-rigidity during light weight bench press.

Do a few reps with your neck flexed to each side, then with your chin to your chest, with your neck retracted, and then with your neck extended backwards. It should feel like yoga with gym equipment. Any exercise expert would try to persuade you from turning your neck to the extreme left when performing a lateral pull down or from adducting your hip and tilting your pelvis when performing a leg press. They would be right if you were lifting between 50 and 100% of your one-repetition maximum. But if you are lifting less than 30% of your max, you should have plenty of room to play with the joint configurations safely.

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Illustration 15.4: Examples of different joint configurations for spinal anti-rigidity during light weight lateral pulldowns.

One important caveat: I am asking you to vary your spine’s position as you work out, but only at low intensity and low resistance. At high intensity, you want to keep your spine straight. This is common knowledge in exercise science. Many athletes refer to any bend in any portion of the spine as a fault or error.2

Indeed, you commit a fault any time your spine changes shape during any weight-bearing movement. When you lift something heavy off the ground, perform a squat, or a push-up, your spine should stay neutral the entire time. In other words, we should regularly be flexing and extending as many portions of the back as possible, but never when combined with a heavy load or rapid movements.

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Illustration 15.5: Examples of different joint configurations for anti-rigidity during light weight tricep push downs.

I find using anti-laxity and anti-frailty with weights to be tremendously relaxing. Much like yoga, the blood flow and endorphins make my muscles feel heavy and tranquil. This is a 180 from my previous approach to working out.

Exercise More Often, Not Harder

When mixing anti-rigidity with weightlifting the objective is to gradually increase the load, over the course of months, as your posture improves and your frailty diminishes. Slowly building up to heavier weights and intensities will help you build a broad, stable base to place even more muscle on top of. This is in line with the often-forgotten personal trainer’s maxim, “straighten the body before strengthening it.”

The common wisdom in personal training, which empirical studies have reinforced, is that muscle typically atrophies at half the rate it took to develop. This means that your gains from six months of squats will completely disappear a year after you stop squatting. To me, the takeaway message is clear. If you gain a lot of muscle from intense training over three months, you cannot expect to keep it for long. So don’t plan to work out this way. But if you gain muscle steadily over three years, it will resist atrophy for six years. Instead of stressing the body, plateauing early, and struggling to maintain, envision your workout goal as a slow and steady climb.

This is consistent with a popular weight training routine known as “pyramid training,” where you start with very light weights and progress steadily toward heavier weights. You will find that starting lower than bodyweight, then using bodyweight, and then progressing through very light weights will condition your postural muscles with exercise volume as opposed to intensity. For many exercises, even bodyweight is too much. In my opinion, less than 5% of the population is ready for pushups. Ninety-five percent of people will accrue unnecessary damage from pushups, myself included. Instead, they need to spend a few months doing pushups on their knees or simply lowering themselves to the ground from push-up position (working the negative).

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15.6: Pushup progression: A. Pushups on the shins and knees; B. Pushups on the knees; C. Lowered pushups, and finally traditional pushups.

Global bodily adaptations to low weights will scaffold a highly balanced system that you can later apply toward heavier weights to achieve surprising results. This takes advantage of the aforementioned SAID principle (specific adaptation to imposed demands). Again, this is how apes, farmers, mechanics, and lumberjacks develop strength. But this doesn’t just apply to lifting weights. The same goes for jogging, swimming, aerobics, Program Peace exercises, and anything else. Don’t base your exercise duration or intensity on arbitrary factors. Instead, work out from within your frailty until none of your postural muscles are hypertonic, and they all cooperate seamlessly. Then resume traditional full-body workouts.

Starting with low-intensity and focusing on anti-rigidity has another benefit. Recall from Chapter 5 that dormant muscles cannot recover adequately after a workout. They are resistant to growth and strengthening because muscles afflicted with trigger points never rest and can never fully heal.3 Thus, dormant muscles are equivalent to untapped reservoirs that are full of growth potential. Anti-rigidity allows you to tap into them. Once you convert dormant muscle to supple and tension-free muscle, they will be very responsive to exercise. From there, you will be ripe for a total body transformation.

In my twenties I would visit a nutritional supplement store. The clerks would always tell me, “look man, if you want to gain muscle, you have to take weight gainer.” For a long time, I believed they were right and that I needed protein supplementation and hundreds of additional calories every day to put on muscle mass. This isn’t true. The real constraint that keeps you from putting on additional muscle is the muscle tension. It is dormant muscle that is responsible for the performance plateaus and diminishing returns. Once you use anti-laxity and anti-rigidity to rebuild this muscle back into your posture, you will find that it will not fluctuate with exercise or diet. Because it moves when you do, and its tone is reinforced by simply standing around, it resists atrophy and does not require overeating.

Practice Anti-rigidity Following Exercise

After almost all forms of conventional exercise, dormant muscle becomes further strained. After a jog, you go home, and your knees hurt a little, or your lower back feels stiff, and this accrues with interest over time. It doesn’t have to be this way. Engaging these areas with anti-rigidity exercises directly after a workout is the best way for you to release them. It provides fresh blood to the collateral and stabilizing muscles stiffened by the activity. For every minute of training, you should perform a minute of anti-rigidity.

After you do three sets of bench press, do 3 minutes of anti-rigidity for the neck, shoulders, and upper back. A yoga pose like downward dog is excellent. Whatever you choose, shift your shoulders as you alternate between twisting, flexing, and extending the neck. You’ll discover that the increased circulation from a weight lifting or a cardio workout will allow you to contract more deeply into dormant muscle.

You can also use the anti-rigidity and yoga positions pictured in the previous chapter as “counter poses.” Counter poses are used in yoga to activate complementary and antagonistic muscles after a pose. For instance, a twist to the left follows a twist to the right and forward bends usually follow backbends. According to yoga practitioners, this “neutralizes” the spine, lengthening it and “calming the nervous system.” With practice, you can identify the best counterposes to neutralize the tension created by your exercise routine.

How to Breathe When Lifting Light Weights

Why are some people strong while others are weak? Why are some people muscular while others are not? Most scientists would say that testosterone exposure and genetics determine these characteristics, but I believe these explanations are secondary to a more primary process. This process involves the ability to contract muscles without recruiting the distressed breathing response. Naturally athletic and muscular people had childhoods conducive to combining exercise with unimpeded breathing. In other words, adults with big biceps were kids that learned to sustain hardy bicep contractions without impeding their breathing. But you don’t have to be a kid to internalize this. The truth is, we worked on this in Exercises 13.2-13.8 when we combined paced breathing with anti-laxity.

In the same vein, you want to breathe very deeply while pumping iron. Most physical therapists and personal trainers recommend breathing out when major muscles are shortening (the lifting action in a curl) and breathing in during the lengthening (the lowering action of the curl). For a bench press, this would involve breathing out while lifting the bar away from your chest and breathing in while dropping the weight to your chest. This is not bad advice, as it keeps you from holding your breath or breathing at even shorter intervals. However, when using low weight, it is beneficial to breathe at even longer intervals.


Lifting heavy weights is stressful on the body and mind, and anything stressful will provoke shallow breathing. The physical exertion involved in lifting heavy weights makes it very difficult to concentrate on breathing diaphragmatically. Lifting definitely contributed to my breathing dysfunction. A high proportion of weightlifters breathe shallowly, and like racehorses, are often high-strung. They are doing the opposite of the Program Peace method, pairing intense muscular contractions with distressed breathing, and further traumatizing them. Also, keep in mind that the anxiety involved in this puts you into a state of catabolism where proteins are broken down rather than built up, ultimately making it harder to put on and keep on muscle.

As you found with your eating routine in Chapter 3, your exercise routines may be tightly intertwined with distressed breathing. You may even find it difficult to exert yourself while breathing diaphragmatically. However, it will be much easier at the lowest levels of exertion, so start there. You can use a breath metronome when exercising or you may just want to tape your mouth.

As you work on your breathing, be aware of your other nonverbals. The stereotypical weightlifter’s body language is highly detrimental to their health. Gasping, hyperventilating, jerking, straining, breath-holding, trembling, and bracing the entire body are the exact things you want to avoid. Most people also tighten their vocal tract, raise their eyebrows, make a pained face, sneer, and squint during heavy exercise. For all the reasons described in previous chapters, try to avoid doing these things. The only muscles that should be working are the ones responsible for the load. Rather than being a spaz at the gym, try being poised and laid-back.


Using the breath metronome at the gym has another empowering benefit. By the second week of paced breathing, you will be at peace with rather than apprehensive of the muscular and athletic people lifting weights next to you. You will realize that you were previously stifling your breath to appease the other gym members in psychoneurotic ways. In my twenties, I felt like every person in the gym thought they were cooler than me. Paced breathing at the athletic facility changed this completely.

By using a breath metronome to calm your thoughts, you will completely escape “gymtimidation.” While you’re at it, try incorporating other subroutines discussed in this book such as resting face, looking above the eyeline, and the tenets of optimal posture. Paced breathing will help you become the most composed gym-goer at your facility within a matter of weeks.

People also often hold their breath during short but intense athletic performances, like a golf swing, free throw, or cartwheel. Instead, take a deep, slow breath before the feat and breathe out calmly during the feat. As you perform that high jump, penalty kick, sommersault, or basketball dunk, you want to be breathing, and to nurture the execution, it helps to be breathing out. Breathing shallowly or holding the breath tells the body: “hopefully this is the last time we will ever have to do this.” Breathing deeply tells the body: “this is something that we are going to be doing regularly now, so you better get good at it.”

Anything practiced repeatedly is debraced overtime, especially if you do it while breathing diaphragmatically. A gymnast will have a gorgeous standing backflip if they have done it hundreds of times while breathing calmly. The best backflips come from people that don’t have to activate their sympathetic system to pull it off. My cartwheel is still tense, but the more I practice it while exhaling smoothly through the nose, the more I learn which aspects of the motion are overbraced. In movement patterns from layups, to backhands, to football lobs, to jumping jacks, to burpees, don’t aim for breathless intensity. Aim for braceless efficiency.

A person new to jumping rope will grab the handles too tightly, brace their spine inordinately, look awkward, and develop an injury if they jump too long. A person who has spent over 10 cumulative hours jumping rope looks and feels like they are skipping on air. Give your exercise activities plenty of time to stabilize under diaphragmatic conditions, and they will become graceful child’s play.

Focus on Dissipating the Tension

During an exercise session, tension steadily accumulates in muscles. Some become reset to a harmfully high level, resulting in an elevation in passive contraction. This is why you want to use diaphragmatic breathing to dissipate tension right after you exercise. If you are going to exercise until you feel the burn, then focus on the burn fully subsiding after the set. Lie down if it helps.


I used to have disturbing elbow pain from lifting heavy weights. It was tennis elbow, a degenerative condition also known as epicondylitis. Conditions like it have a poor prognosis and no modern medical treatments besides rest, pain relievers, and surgery. Many of these types of surgeries have been shown to be no better than a placebo mock surgery. I used to finish resistance exercises in an extremely agitated state. Then I would spend the rest of the day, and go to bed, in that state. I wondered why my elbows hurt so much in the morning, and I naively attributed it to aging. Most medical doctors refer to such examples of acute tension as disease because they become chronic in so many people. This “disease” is easily remedied.

Now, whether resistance training, swimming, running, or anything else, I stop completely every few minutes. I take a full 30 seconds to bestow the tightness the mental attention it needs to subside. When I get home, I squeeze, compress, and percuss any muscles that hurt. I thought I was going to have tennis elbow for the rest of my life. After less than 10 total minutes of elbow tension awareness and 10 additional minutes of compression and percussion as outlined in Chapter 6, the elbow “disease” has disappeared and never resurfaced. This method has worked for me for dozens of similar issues in the last few years. That is how powerful these simple solutions are.

Rest Once the First Muscle Group Reaches Fatigue

When people lift heavy weights, some of their large muscle groups are prepared to deal with the weight, but other muscles are far too weak. The muscles that are not up to the task are usually those used to stabilize the weight. The stabilizing muscles (such as the scapular muscles during bench press) don’t move or rest between repetitions. Some muscles don’t even rest in between sets. Between each repetition, you want there to be moments where every muscle is given a microbreak. As we learned in Chapter 5, this break permits the muscles to escape partial contraction, rest, and regenerate so that they can resume proper function.

Because stabilizing muscles stay still at full exertion during the exercise, they learn to do so all the time. This drives the muscle into deep fatigue, freezing it in place. This is highly damaging. It stops the muscle from growing, and it is why some weightlifters appear so encumbered when they move. Stabilizing muscles keep parts of the body steady so that the primary muscles can do their job. But in a different exercise, a stabilizing muscle may need to be used as a primary muscle. If it is rigid, then performing that exercise correctly is impossible. When stabilizers are dormant, your motion comes across as robotic, stilted, and effortful.

Bench pressing 100 pounds may be great for your pectorals and triceps but may be brutal to your rotator cuff. In this case, you should lower the weight until the exercise is optimal for strengthening the rotator cuff. Many exercises are just right for some muscles but way too hard on others, and you owe it to yourself to fall back to the level of the weakest link. Once the first muscle group has fatigued, it is important to stop what you are doing and wait for it to return to its baseline.

Avoid Overexertion

Large increases or changes in exercise activity can cause tendonitis, tendonosis, and delayed onset muscle soreness. You can easily avoid this through more gradual transitions in an exercise regimen. But few people actually do this. Instead, most change their routine abruptly. Or they exercise infrequently but overexert themselves when they do. Soreness and tendonitis are conducive to the creation of dormant muscle so avoid them by increasing your training more gradually. Four days of recovery is recommended for individual muscle groups after heavy training. However, that doesn’t mean you should leave the muscles alone entirely. I recommend you replicate the activity that made it sore to get the blood circulating and to facilitate remodeling. Just do so with less intensity and for only a fraction of the time, so as not to impede the healing process.

The muscles that feel sore the day after a workout are usually the dormant ones and thus the ones most in need of massage and anti-rigidity. Use any hints of soreness after a workout to help you locate your dormant muscle so you can treat it. If you wake up sore, I recommend taking a baseball, knuckle, or knuckle tool and percussing the entire body focusing on the tender areas. If you are going to work so hard that you are sore the next day, you must rehab the sore spots. Working out until you’re sore and then letting the muscles stagnate for days until the soreness disappears is irresponsible. This tells us that our modus operandi should be: “exercise, massage, anti-rigidity, repeat.”

Don’t kill yourself when working out, and don’t be a weekend warrior. Training to complete exhaustion is training under duress. If you are forcing yourself, you cannot go into flow and cannot enjoy the process. Training should be addictive, but it can’t be if you push yourself into anxiety just to get it done. In the long run, extreme exertion only wears you down, lowers your mood, and leads to injury. It is exacting to generate the mental energy to train strenuously, but you should find it easy to generate the mental energy to train moderately.

Take a rest after laborious exercise. When you come home from the gym, don’t go right to cooking dinner and cleaning up. You want to reset the tension you created, so lie down in corpse pose for five to 10 minutes while paced breathing, and practice progressive muscle relaxation (see Unbracing Exercises 1 and 2). Notice pockets of tension while you are lying down and attempt to let them go.

Often the exercise activity is blamed as the cause of the pain, but in many cases the pain is produced by neglecting to stretch, massage, and relax after exercise. The same goes for those days when you didn’t exercise but engaged in prolonged sitting, standing, or walking. When you finally get home and collapse feeling stiff and achy, you’ve pushed your tissues too far without microbreaks or counterposes. Proper use of the techniques in the last two chapters can make the difference between a day that will make you stronger and a day that will make you weaker.


“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” 
— Ernest Hemingway

When my posture was at its worst, lifting weights was so uncomfortable that I reached a point where I just couldn’t do it anymore. I badly wanted to build muscle, but the pain and frailty made it so that I would just hold the weight in my hand and look at it. Like a broken-down plow horse, I just stood there and couldn’t muster the will to take on the burden. I had few acute injuries, but I was covered in chronic injury. I took two years off from intense exercise and instead focused on anti-rigidity, range of motion, flexibility, low resistance, and low impact. The same weightlifting exercises that were drudgery for me, I now find exhilarating.
Here is a list summarizing the primary elements of the Program Peace muscle rehabilitation method:

The Elements of the Muscle Rehabilitation Method

  • Search for and contract into achiness
  • Find configurations that crack and bring them to a gentle fatigue
  • Combine anti-rigidity and anti-laxity with yoga and light weightlifting
  • Rest limply once fatigue is reached
  • Be aware of bracing
  • Use optimal posture
  • Regularly refresh stagnant muscles using full range of motion
  • Reposition intermittently to avoid staleness
  • Use effective counterposes
  • Massage regularly with compression and percussion
  • Breathe properly all the while

I like the saying, “pain is weakness leaving the body.” But it is a half-truth. If the pain is derived from straining, it is weakness entering the body. If the pain is derived from the ache of gently transforming dormant muscle into optimal muscle, it truly is weakness leaving the body.

Chapter Fifteen: Bullet Points

  • Underused muscles need anti-laxity, and overused muscles need anti-rigidity.
  • Dormant muscle tears easily leading to injury.
  • Perform anti-rigidity while you perform yoga or while you lift light weights so that you can get leverage into dormant muscle.
  • Cardio and weightlifting increase circulation, and thereby make subsequent anti-rigidity more productive.
  • Employing anti-rigidity with exercise releases muscles from deep strain, reduces fatigue, and restores strength and endurance.
  • When exercising, don’t put all your intensity into an invariant form. Alter your form, using as many configurations as possible. This creates multidimensional strength.
  • Progress from body weight and very low weight toward heavier weights.
  • Rest once the first muscle group reaches fatigue.
  • Focus on debracing and dissipating tension after a set or workout.
  • It is highly beneficial to perform anti-rigidity and massage on any muscles that are sore the day after a workout.
  • Always exercise using the tenets of optimal posture.




  1. Starrett, K., & Cordoza, G. (2013). Becoming a supple leopard: The ultimate guide to resolving pain, preventing injury, and optimizing athletic performance. Victory Belt Publishing
  2. Starret & Cordoza, (2013), Becoming a supple leopard.
  3. Simons, D. G., Travell, J. G., & Simons, L. S. (1999). Travell & Simons’ myofacial pain and dysfunction: Upper half of body. Williams and Wilkins.