Gallagher Performance Blog

What you need to know: Many healthcare providers and trainers poorly understand why someone 'feels tight'. Dealing with muscle tightness is not as simple as just stretching.

Why Muscles Become Tight 

The human body is designed to move and movement requires varying amounts of stability and motion. When movement occurs, patterns of stability and motion can occur in efficient or inefficient ways. As structures accommodate movement, the load placed on everything from joints to muscles and tendons to nerves changes and these changes can produce symptoms. In the process of wanting to avoid symptoms, the body will often develop compensation patterns. A common result of this compensation process is the feeling of being 'tight' or 'tension'. This tension serves a protective role, thus it is referred to as protective tension.

The development of protective tension and the reason behind its presentation is one of the least understood mechanisms in musculoskeletal care. The body is smart enough to constantly monitor loads and prevent excessive load of any given structure to ultimately help prevent injury. If you are feeling 'tight', there is a reason and your body is sending you a signal. However, many people will ignore this signal until more pressing issues develop, such as pain. So how does one handle a muscle that 'feels tight'? Unfortunately, the solution is not as simple as just stretching. Stretching often provides temporary relief because of underlying joint dysfunction, stability and/or mobility deficits, or muscular weaknesses that need addressed.

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What you need to know: Neural efficiency is the key to becoming a better athlete, this is known as athletic mastery.Mastery requires time, intelligent programming, hard work, and dedication to consistency. Consistency Matters  The primary goal of any athletic and strength development program should be neural efficiency. Fact of the matter is t...
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FUNCTION IS AS REAL AS ANATOMY  The way our body functions is as real as our anatomy. There are some that like to act or state that "function" or "functional training" are fitness industry buzz words. They make light of the concept. And rightly so, as most of what is labeled  as "functional training" has very little to do w...
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This one is for those dealing with foot pain, calf pain, Achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, or maybe your running/sprint form needs a ground-up makeover. Whether it’s pain or performance issues residing in the lower body, if the foot isn’t working properly, the hip can’t do its job properly.

Most people get too nervous about pronation of the foot and internal rotation of leg and hip, as if these are bad things. Reality is when it comes to gait, extension -internal rotation-pronation are paired together. What do athletes and runners covet? Powerful and efficient triple extension as this is our gas pedal for propelling us over ground. But guess what, if you lack adequate pronation and internal rotation of the foot/leg/hip, you’re not going to get much in regards to extension. This is especially true of those with high arches of the feet or hip dysplasia. Often you’ll see these conditions together.

Enter the exercise progression in the video series. We need to re-educate the foot-Achilles-calf complex to work as a system.

1️⃣The focus in adequate pronation as this properly loads the plantar fascia and locks the foot for efficient load transfer. This will help to properly mobilize the foot. Likely they also need good manual therapy to restore normal mechanics.

2️⃣Then the focus goes to proper loading of the foot through the big toe for extension. This is critical because if you can’t access the big toe, you can’t fully access hip extension and the glute musculature. These athletes will short their gait and force inefficient compensations as they are over-reliant on their feet.

3️⃣ideal torso alignment and abdominal pressurization is reinforced. If patients or athletes aren’t able to perform these simple exercises with efficiency, they likely have spinal/pelvic stability issues that need addressed first.

Thank you Michal Truc for these golden bullets from the DNS course in Sweden as these same principles apply to the skating stride for efficient mechanics.

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Neck pain can be quite common in MMA, grappling sports, and wresting. A big reason can be simply over reliance on the neck and inefficiency of the extensor system and trunk stabilizers.

Once an athlete learns to improve how their body works as a system, tissue and joint stress reduce and performance efficiency will be almost immediately noticed. Especially if they have keen body awareness.

Often times when there is a strength problem, the recommendation is to isolate that area and train it. In this case, the thinking was to strengthen the neck by using a neck harness. Now while local tissue strength and resilience is absolutely important, the problem in this case is that solving what can be perceived as a "lack of strength issue" isn't always solved by isolation training.

This athlete needed to learn to use his body as a complete system to better support his neck and enable him to express the strength that he already has. His over reliance on the neck was causing accumulation of stress on the neck, leading to his neck feeling pretty jacked up week after week of grappling.

Neck pain and tightness was become a recurrent issue for him. He was developing a pattern of having to take time off every couple weeks because his neck just couldn't handle the stress anymore. Rest did enough to reduce the presence of symptoms such as tightness and pain, but rest isn't doing anything to solve the underlying problem that is feeding his pain - lack of awareness of how to use his body as a system to reduce neck pain and improve performance. If an athlete is never taught how to efficiency use their body, then there will be breakdowns in the system at some point.

Avoid the breakdowns as best as possible by developing keen body awareness and how to use the body as system, not as isolated parts.

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A common reason for low back pain, hip pain, knee pain is poor functioning hips. What happens to poor functioning hips? They usually get tight. This tightness leads to reduced range of motion and increased likelihood of back, hip, and/or knee pain.

Likewise, a common reason for reduced athletic potential is poor functioning hips.

The hip complex is meant to be trained in multiple planes of motion because the hips are designed to move in multiple planes of motion. Yet most people live in the sagittal plane of movement - essentially only moving  forward or backward - and they gradually lose the ability to move in lateral or rotational planes of motion.

Including lateral movement exercises can prove to be beneficial for reducing muscle tightness and joint pain as well as enhancing athleticism.

Here is just a sample of lateral movement exercises that are scaleable to an individual's capacity. These are great for training lateral strength, motor control, and improving weight transfer that feeds agility and power. They can easily be performed with most gym equipment. Depending on preference, you may need to purchase some furniture sliders or a slide board. You may need to get creative based on what you have access to. Regardless, the principles of movement are still the same.

In this video we feature:
  1. Lateral monster walks (use band or Hip Circle)
  2. Slider lateral lunge
  3. High box Crossover Lunge
  4. Cable Skater Lunge
  5. Lateral plyometric power
There are plenty of other lateral movement exercises that could be included. Keep in mind exercise selection should be given careful consideration based upon the individual.

Give your hips a good lather.  They'll be feeling more greased than a Five Guy's bacon cheeseburger. And that a good thing. Motion is lotion that is vital to the health of your joints. You'll be primed for speed and power. Plus your cranky back and knees will thank you.

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Exercise or training should not be fatigue seeking. The problem with a lot of training programs or exercise in general is that they are fatigue seeking.

The primary mentality is to work hard, wear you down and make you sore rather than build competency or skill. This is a mistake and, all do respect, it's wrong.

This is especially true for athletes. If your workout or training is taxing you so much and making you so sore that you can't perform or learn new sport skills, it is counterproductive. You physically cannot drain yourself in a workout, day in and day out, and expect to see improvements in sport mastery. Your body doesn't have enough reserves and you'll never reach mastery.

You cannot go "all out" every work. You cannot go maximal effort every day. But most people think this is they way to do it because that's what they've been told or what most of us see in videos of athletes training. This could be any sport athlete, fighter, or strength athlete. No one wants to put out a video of an athlete who is tapering or who is focusing on building training volume rather than going hard. We just see videos and visions of these athletes peaking or when intensity is at its highest. We made the mistake of assuming this is how they train all the time.

If you would watch most athletes train and practice year round, you'd see a totally different story. Your reaction may be more along the line of, "That wasn't so intense. That wasn't that tiring." Great athletes train for the long run, not to burn themselves out.

Why? You want to set yourself up to train the next day rather than feeling like you are so sore and tired that you can't train or have a lousy training session. This mentality and approach correlates with mastery.

You can't red line the body regularly with intensity. Most athletes that practice this mentality are too beat up by the time they get good at their sport.

Yes great athletes train with intensity but they do it periodically and strategically.  This is "Consistency over Intensity". You don't have to be an athlete to learn from these concepts. Apply them get far more out of your workouts and your training in achieving your strength or fitness goals.

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Charlie Francis defined tempo running as running performed at 65-75% of maximal speed. Tempo runs have long been used in the training of sprint athletes to enhance speed training. Outside of sprint athletes, sprinting ability and speed is arguably the most important skill field-based athletes can possess. Yet many have never been introduced to tempo runs and why they can be invaluable to their speed training.

Tempo runs can serve as tool to increase speed for a number of reasons:

1) Tempo runs are based on volume that is critical in building specific adaptations relative to speed. Similar to building maximal strength, most training programs spend the bulk of the calendar year in the 75-85% 1RM range and athletes still get stronger due to the volume of training perform at those intensities. You don't always have to train at or near your maximal strength to get stronger. Same is true for speed. You need to build volume to lay the foundation for increased maximal speed.

2) Due to the lower intensities, tempo runs aid in recovery from more intense speed training through aerobic metabolism pathways. Tempo runs improve capillary density, thus improving blood flow to our musculature and improving recovery.

3) Tempo runs are great for building aerobic and anaerobic-alactic capacity without interfering with power or speed development athletes require.

4) Including body weight exercises such as push-ups or a variety of abdominal movements during rest periods can heighten the cardiovascular conditioning response.

5) Different types of tempos and formats will depend upon the athlete and their specific needs. There is a plan and purpose behind their structure. In this video we have @makennagrieco performing tempos more specific to her needs as a 100m sprint athlete that is early in her general preparation phase.

As always hit us up with your questions.

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Personal trainers or strength coaches don't have a license to diagnose, treat, or manage musculoskeletal conditions. Yet some are convinced they can play 'therapist' or 'doctor' on the regular.

While I do agree that it's important for coaches/trainers to understand pain and how to make appropriate modifications to an exercise plan based on a client/athlete's current limitations, it's completely inappropriate to give any level of medical advice. Just because you took a course or use correctives in your exercise plan, it does not put you on the level of a PT, DC, or MD regardless of your opinions of those professions.

For example, saw a patient who, for months, had been dealing with chronic knee pain. Yet her personal trainer convinced her it was no big deal and she needed to "pump blood into her knee" by exercising and that would heal her knee - only to be informed she has a torn meniscus. This kind of situation occurs more than you would believe and it's wrong.

Social media is littered with people such as this who present solutions to pain or specific physical ailments. They generically provide exercises or stretches for some common condition (low back pain, shoulder pain, knee pain). It's often just regurgitated information cause it's easy to copy.

Yet they know NOTHING about YOU, but assume to know you. This is wrong. People listen cause it's free advice and there is perceived authority. Sadly, a large social media following equals perceived authority in today's world.

They are providing 'treatment' in the form of exercises or stretches to relieve the pain they are 'diagnosing' you with. Some even goes as far as to discredit certain medical or rehab professionals. They say, "Don't listen to them." What they are really saying is, "Listen to me." Again, wrong.

No license? Don't listen to them. They aren't qualified.

Coaches and trainers - You want to wear a medical hat, then play by our rules. Go ahead and get yourself a professional degree and pass national or state licensure requirements. Until then, stay in your lane.

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How strong should you be to establish a solid foundation for athletic performance? It’s a difficult question to answer given the shear number of variables.

It’s important to understand that athletes shouldn’t overly concern themselves with maximal strength. Not to the degree that a powerlifter, weightlifter, or strongman would. Strength athletics set an different set strength standards with regards to becoming a competitive athlete in those sports. As far as developing athletic strength is concerned, the conversation goes much deeper than the big lifts of the squat, bench, deadlift, and press.

The reality is athletic strength should be considered relative to general movement patterns as strength training is essentially general physical preparation for most athletes. The majority of athletes would be considered to have mediocre strength in the world of strength sports.While being strong is important, they have competing demands of conditioning, sport practice, competition, and additional technical/tactical attention that become just as important to achieving athletic mastery.

Determining an ideal level of strength for any individual athlete is truly an individualized process, but we can at least speak to some general guidelines for starters.

Meeting certain strength standards is essential to physical performance demands and durability. Athletes will benefit from these guidelines as they can help eliminate weaknesses and improve specific physical abilities. Specific physical abilities such as speed, power, and explosiveness that are dependent upon strength. Strength also becomes important in improving bone density, connective tissue resilience, and overall durability of the body which become important factors in reducing injury occurrence.

While limited research exists in regard to strength standards for athletes, there are some guidelines that many strength coaches can agree on from professional experience.

These videos demonstrate five athletic strength tests. The strength guidelines are relative to bodyweight. For reference I sit at 215.

1) Loaded carry - 100-200% of bodyweight for total load carried

Video: 225/hand (450 total)
2) RDL - 180% of bodyweight for 1RM

Video: 385x5
3) Reverse Lunge - bodyweight x 10/leg

Video: 225/leg x 10 
4) Chin-up - 140% of bodyweight for 1RM

Video: bwt+90 (305 total)
5) Close Grip bench press - 125% bwt for 1RM

Video: 225x5
Note - not all testing has to be a true 1RM (rep max). Testing can be 3-5RM and can project 1RM from there with decent accuracy.

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I've never highly regarded myself. There’s tons more athletic and stronger people out there. For what I lacked in natural ability, I’ve been disciplined and worked to accomplish tasks and goals. Even at age 36.

I’ve loved training hard and learning about the human body since I was 14. Ultimately it’s what lead me to what it is I do today. I knew as much as I wanted to learn, I wanted to help people more.

There’s much I’ve learned and continue to learn. And the same can be said for my brother Ryan. We want to take what we’ve learned and pass that on to those we work with. We may not be super accomplished, but what we’ve learned we hope enables others to accomplish way more than we ever have.

Here’s some things I’ve learned that I strongly feel enable you to stay healthy and maintain athleticism over the long-term:

1) Chiropractic and massage therapy work. Leave the ‘evidence based’ nonsense out of the conversation. If it wasn’t for these professions, I would be beyond broken - living in pain and wondering what happened to my quality of life. If you find a good chiro and massage therapist - make them part of your team.

2) Training hard is essential. Training smart is vital. You must be driven and patient. Listen to your body and keep the long-term in mind. This really matters if you hope to train and compete into your late 20s, 30s, 40s, and beyond.

3) Be humble and be a student. Always be willing to learn and accept the fact that you don’t have it figured out. There’s countless people I’ve learned from and I’m truly grateful to them.

4) Practice ideal posture, movement, sleep habits, nutrition, and stress management - for you. These are so individualized it can be hard to give the best guidance with general recommendations. Learn what your body responds best to and be consistent.

5) Surround yourself with a strong support system. Nobody accomplishes much in life all by themselves. People that genuinely encourage you, sharpen you, and hold you accountable are rare and invaluable.

Video: Split squat 200x15/each leg (yeah it’s 14 on the right leg cause I’m no good at counting but no doubt I had 15 in the bag)
Landmine lateral split squat - 135x5/each
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There seems to be a growing number of programs and trainers touting how they offer ‘pain-free training’ and that anything less than what they offer is simply inferior by design.

Any intelligent trainer, coach, or therapist will acknowledge the value of proper training to ensure no serious orthopedic issues develop. No one wants their clients becoming pain patients. Proper training is multi-faceted from proper form to proper exercise selection to proper volume and loading parameters. These are a given. These are essential to ensuring we minimize injury risk and improve tissue resilience.

However the reality is if you are going to push your body to new levels of performance, you are going to feel it. It’s going to be uncomfortable. It’s going to hurt at times. If you aren’t looking to better yourself, why are you even training in the first place? Essentially at the heart of training is pushing your body to a place it’s never been before. There aren’t many people out there who have pushed their bodies in training who haven’t ended up ‘feeling it’ in the form of soreness, physical discomfort, and yes - at times - pain.

By all means, yes, we shouldn’t train recklessly. We should be practical and intelligent in our execution of a training plan. But we also shouldn’t be alarmed and fear we are doing something terribly wrong when we deal with discomfort, aches and pains. It comes with the territory of pushing our bodies to new levels of fitness or performance. This is why recovery methods and seeking out qualified professional care from sports/rehab chiropractors, massage therapists, and physical therapists can do wonders for helping our bodies better manage the stress of training. ——

No one wants to be in pain, but push yourself hard enough for long enough, you’ll feel it. We need to understand better pain education, how to be more realistic with training expectations, and how to manage the stress of our bodies to avoid serious pain or orthopedic problems.

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This exercise is a hybrid of the bottoms up kettlebell (KB) serratus press and the McGill one arm bench press.

The bottoms up KB serratus press is often performed on the floor or on a foam roller. The problem is the floor will impede natural scapular motion and the foam roller is frankly awkward and uncomfortable. We want to enhance muscular activation, not create difficulty. This isn't to say that the other methods are wrong, they may not be ideal for everyone. Odds are, once you allow the scapula to move and track along the rib cage with greater freedom, the response to the exercise will be more positive.

This is why blending it with the McGill one arm bench press becomes an ideal variation. We just subbed out the bench press for the serratus press. The serratus press will enable one to learn how to "pack the shoulder", thus creating a more solid platform for pressing.

The added benefits being:
  1. By placing half your body off the bench, you will target the serratus and develop scapular control far better than from the ground and more comfortably than on a foam roller. By allowing the scapula free range of movement, we can better target the ideal mechanics for improved strength and muscular activation.
  2. You get the added benefit of enhancing rotary athleticism through the core and hips by eliminating energy leaks by oblique sling development. Developing rotary athleticism is critical to contact and combat sport athletes.
  3. Developing rotary stability in this sense has carry over to standing pressing strength and power. This is key as standing press strength is more often limited by the strength and coordination of our torso musculature than our chest or shoulders.
Note - In the video demonstration, the right half of my body is off completely off the bench. It should be clear from watching but if it isn’t - it’s stated here. 
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Introducting the Best Hip Exercise You’re Not Doing - Half Kneeling to Heel Sitting

For all you glute and booty fanatics, nothing beats properly performed squats, deadlifts, lunges, and RDLs for glutes that not only look great but work even better.

Problem is most people don’t perform the big exercises well and therefore resort to ways to “activate” or better “isolate” glute function. This is why hip thrusts, clam shells, and so on exist. They can all have their place when used with a plan and purpose.

From DNS we bring you a great drill to learn how to properly load the glutes, improve hip rotational mobility, and restore ideal function between the hips and torso. Introducing half kneeling to tall sitting.

Don’t underestimate this drill. It’s much more challenging than it looks. If you can perform this with control and precision of movement and posture, congrats you have beautifully functioning hips. For those that have challenges with it, be patient and focus on feeling the movement performed correctly. You want to feel the glute and vastus medialis of the quad working together through the movement.

Is this a real struggle for you? Plug this drill into your regular training routine. Follow the advice in the video. Perform it on the regular and watch how it not only helps your strength and movement improve but also gets rid of unwanted muscle tightness or pain in the low back, hips, and knees.

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Nothing beats properly performed squats, deadlifts, lunges, and RDLs for glutes that not only look great but work even better. Proper glute function is critical to hip extension that is prevalent in every day life (walking, sit to stand, hip hinge, lifting) as well as sport (running, sprinting, throwing, jumping, skating) Problem is most people don’t perform the big exercises well and therefore resort to ways to “activate” or better “isolate” glute function. This is why hip thrusts exist. They have their place when used with a plan and purpose. The single leg hip thrust is an advanced progression that is often performed incorrectly. The biggest mistake being the unleveling of the hips that can occur during the movement. By using the external cue of a tennis ball, we can promote better technique that results in improved muscular coordination of the glutes and core. This translates into more efficient movement mechanics, not only in this exercise, but in life and sport as well. Hopefully the video explains the set-up and execution well enough for you to give it a try.

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Sensory Motor Training

SMT is a targeted approach to training the proprioceptive system and it’s pathways involved with the control of equilibrium and posture.

SMT is used to train the upright posture of the body with the emphasis placed on ideal posture during dynamic stability.

Benefits of SMT:

1️⃣ Increases speed of activation of muscle

2️⃣ Improves muscle coordination

3️⃣ Improves pelvic stability through the increased activation of the trunk and gluteal muscles

4️⃣ Improves foot function when ideal foot loading and posture is maintained

Indications for SMT (sub acute patients and performance training considerations):

✅ Post-injury or post-operative

✅ Chronic back or neck pain

✅ Faulty posture with respiratory dysfunction

✅ General hypermobility or instability

✅ Postpartum muscle imbalance

✅ Prevention of falls in senior populations

✅ General physical preparation or fitness

SMT has a wide range of applications and is traditionally trained through 1-leg balance drills, wobble boards, rocker boards, balance sandals, and mini trampolines. All tools we use regularly at GP.

Here we demonstrate a couple advanced variations which incorporate anti-rotational stressors via bands or kettlebells which only take muscular coordination and dynamic stability challenge to another level.

Source: Rehabilitation of the Spine by Liebenson

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Use active stretches to improve muscular flexibility, joint range of motion, and posture. These stretches and exercises can be incorporated into your warm-up routine, as an active recovery method, or used on a regular basis to improve the way you move and feel.

When compared to traditional static stretching, active stretches carry a number of benefits:

1. Enhanced proprioceptive input which facilitates changes in posture and the release of overactive/tight muscles.

2. Increased neuromuscular demand which drives activation of muscles in an end range position leading to improved motor control or dynamic joint stability.

3. When guided by postural principles, the increased global muscular activation leads to the coordination needed to enhance posture.

4. Helps create the 'feel' necessary for improving movement and posture. It's one thing to think through movement/posture, it's another thing to feel it. We want to feel movement/posture

5. Increased preparedness for training, practice, or competition.

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The gateway to change in the body is the sensory system.

The balance of excitatory and inhibitory  signals coming from our body's sensory system influences the level of performance of the human body. And this balance of stimuli is always under the control of the brain/central nervous system (CNS).

Be it a chiropractic adjustment, massage or manual therapy, or exercise, the rich stimulation of sensory system is what drives changes in our nervous system that create responses such as:

✅ reduced pain

✅ increased body awareness

✅ improved neuromuscular control

✅ reduced muscular tension/tightness

✅ improved joint range of motion

How the Nervous System Unlocks Performance

The tissues and joints of the body are richly innervated with sensors that constantly monitor the conditions our body is exposed to. The external stimuli our body encounters will generate excitatory or inhibitory signals which will ultimately improved or shut down performance.

For example, our tendons are home to sensory receptors known as Golgi Tendon Organs (GTOs). GTO are responsible for sensing tension as it builds up in our tendons. If the load (resistance) our body encounters is too heavy, thus placing potentially damaging stresses on our muscles and tendons, the GTOs will shut down our muscles ability to contract as a protective mechanism. This inhibitory signaling is directed by the nervous system to protect our body from injury.

Conversely, our body can be elevated to higher levels of performance by the nervous system by means of excitatory signals perceived by our muscle spindles within our muscles. Muscle spindles are sensors that are sensitive to stretch. For those that are familiar with the myotatic or stretch reflex, muscle spindles enable our muscles to function like a "rubber band".

The balance of signals coming from our muscle spindles and GTOs is being monitored by our nervous system to either enhance or shut down performance. This occurs through what is known as the Stretch-Shortening Cycle (SSC).

Enter Plyometrics

The SSC is a normal function of all human motion, be it walking, jogging, running, throwing, etc. The training of the SSC occurs through what is known as "plyometrics".

Plyometrics are often mistaken for ballistic training. Plyometrics may be the most misunderstood and undervalued form of training as they specifically train the SSC function of our muscular system. More specifically they are undervalued and underutilized in rehabilitation and return-to-play procedures for athletes.

If the function of the SSC is not normalized, this is potentially why many patient's "fail" rehab and athletes are unable to return to play or are soon after sidelined with a relapse.

Experience the Difference

At Gallagher Performance, we place a priority of normalizing the function of the entire body. We follow criteria-based progressions which address complete neuromuscular function, including addressing strength deficits and normalizing the SSC function.

Below are same exercises we use regularly to improve the function of the nervous system and unlock the performance abilities - be it for rehabilitation or athletics.




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  • Murrysville, PA 15668

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