Exercises are sometimes difficult to master. You can watch videos of the technique or even have a strength coach provide instruction, but your body just won’t move how you want it to.
Enter Reactive Neuromuscular Training (RNT), a technique pioneered by Gray Cook, creator of the Functional Movement Screen. RNT corrects movements by actually pulling you into a mistake with an external force—typically a partner lightly pulling on a resistance band. “Reactive Neuromuscular Training accentuates a mistake to turn on a muscle that’s not doing its job,” explains Mike Boyle, co-founder of Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning.
Over time, your central nervous system learns to automatically engage these muscles—whether it’s in the weight room or on the field—fixing your form or technique mistake and reducing your risk for injury.
There are many ways to use RNT to fix exercises, but here are four RNT fixes for common exercise mistakes.
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One of the most common—and dangerous—squat mistakes is when the knees cave inward. This puts stress on the knees and is a precursor to an ACL injury. Also, if it occurs during a Squat, it’s also likely to happen during more dynamic moves in your sport , such as when you change directions or land from a jump.
RNT Fix: As Boyle demonstrates in the video above, wrap a mini-band around your thighs just above your knees. The band forces your knees inward into the mistake. Your abductors must activate to keep your knees in line with your hips and ankles, strengthening the muscles and programming the movement.
The Single-Leg Squat is a more challenging version of the Squat, so your knee is less stable and more likely to cave in.
RNT Fix: Since you cannot wrap a band around your other knee, you need a partner to pull your knee inward. This is challenging, but Boyle says it eventually teaches you use your glutes to stabilize your knee and keep it properly aligned.
As Tony Bonvechio, owner of Bonvec Strength and an intern at Cressey Sports Performance, stated in a previous article, “you have to earn the right to perform overhead exercises.” If you have poor core strength or mobility, your lower back may arch, causing back pain, among other issues.
RNT Fix: Bonvechio recommends Overhead Dumbbell Carries to “put you in a position where if you don’t engage your core and keep your body organized, you will slip into a bad position.” Focusing on maintaining an upright posture challenges the core muscles, fires the glutes and forces you to keep a neutral spine.
Push-Up or Bench Press
If your elbows flare out early when you perform a Push-Up or Bench Press, you put stress on your shoulders that can cause an injury, and you won’t be in a good position to engage your back, limiting your strength in these movements.
RNT Fix: Bonvechio recommends wrapping a resistance band around your wrists and imagining driving the band outward. This activates your back muscles and should keep your elbows closer to a 45-degree angle with your body.
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