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Dr. Craig Liebenson was kind enough to lend us an hour of his time to discuss movement, strength, and the concept of becoming Anti-Fragile for an episode of Strength Chat. We dove into all areas of human performance but his priority list for becoming anti-fragile is what stood out the most to me. We often hear about mental toughness or cringe worthy statements such as “pain is weakness leaving the body”. But, it’s not so often we get to pick the brain of a professional as respected as Dr. Liebenson. Aside from his work as the Director of L.A Sport and Spine (a pain management, rehabilitation, and performance enhancement center) Dr. Liebenson is an active consultant for professional sports organizations such as the MLB and NFL.

I’ll set the stage for Dr. Liebenson’s formula for anti-fragility with a quote below.

“Isn’t the pursuit of perfection really the opposite of progress? Shouldn’t we look for catalysts? Shouldn’t we look for impactful interventions that will catalyze adaptation? As opposed to try and make something absolutely perfect. “– Dr. Craig Liebenson.

After you read through the good Doc’s priority list I’ll give you my thoughts on what it takes in order to become ant-fragile.

The path to Anti-Fragility.

Question – “The being of flow and anti-fragility is the end game. That’s where we want to be with our patients and athletes. We want people moving with extreme confidence and hopefully some level of proficiency. If that’s the absolute end goal, can we simplify the stages that come before that? What are they?”

Answer – “To me, there are four steps.”

There should be no pain, this isn’t no pain no gain.

  • “There should be no pain. If we think red, yellow, green…red would be a 6-10/10, yellow would be 3-6/10, green would be 0-2/10. If its green its go time, if its yellow (3-6) we might flirt with that, but we are going to audit that and monitor it.”

Motor control first, quality over quantity.

  • “We need reasonable proficiency. We don’t need to police perfection but quality must come before quantity. Competency must precede capacity. Stability must precede strength. We aren’t going to load dysfunction. But that doesn’t mean we are going to police perfection. “

Load is the best corrective. We need to get to load sooner. We can’t baby people.

  • “Load is the best corrective. We’ve got to create robustness. The only way to break someone out of the cycle of chronic pain is to add load. We’ve got to teach people how to push, pull, and carry. Unless you access those fundamental movement patterns with intensity you will never become resilient.”

Cast your net wide and look at the entire kinetic chain. Find the most impactful intervention.

  • “We have to cast our net really wide. We should never just focus on the area of the complaint or the target goal if you’re in a lifting program. We want to look at the whole body as a system. We are an engineer and everything is in play. It’s a kinetic chain and often times there might be an ankle issue caught driving the squat issue, there may be a hip issue driving a spine issue, maybe a t-spine issue driving a shoulder issue. We’ve got to take a step back and look at the whole kinetic chain and not simply local areas.”

If you’ve followed Kabuki Strength for any amount of time you’ll know the concept of Anti-Fragile is near and dear to our hearts. What people don’t understand is that becoming Anti-Fragile has nothing to do with mental toughness. Sure, you can’t be a mental midget. But you can’t afford to harbor self-destructive ideas of what mental toughness is. Mental toughness is easy when your entire connection to it is resistance. Anti-Fragile is the exact opposite of popular mental toughness rhetoric. Anti-Fragile is not resistance, its absorption. Its evolving when new challenges are placed in front of you. Its leaning into obstacles, not holding them at a distance from your inner self. When we look at movement, the idea Anti-Fragile is about allowing your mind to turn off and flow with extreme confidence. You no longer have to “hold back”. Lean into new arenas and let your body and mind do what it was made for. If you are not Anti-Fragile, what are you?

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