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This past weekend I traveled down to Austin, Texas to the Onnit Academy, to attend the Functional Range Assessment specialist certification. As a movement geek, kettlebell enthusiast, and fan of many things Onnit, this was an opportunity I definitely did not want to miss. To top it off, after digesting the FRC system since my certification last February at Project Move in Colorado, this was a chance to expand my knowledge of the system through the lens of assessment.

First, the Onnit Academy is a must visit for anyone in the fitness or strength and conditioning world. If you have not heard of Onnit, they’re self described as a total human optimization company, selling both supplements and nutrition based items, along with strength and conditioning equipment. The Onnit Academy features well coached kettlebell and mace classes, Bang Muay Thai and 10th Planet jiu-jitsu.

Second, I’ve never been to Austin, and I have a few friends who have lived there and have all said great things, so this cool to experience great Texas barbeque, live music and southern hospitality. I ate Brisket only three times in five days, so I’m disappointed about not experiencing enough of it, but I hopefully brought back enough experience to elevate my monthly cookouts with my buddy David.

Now onto the meat and potatoes and the main reason for my trip, the seminar itself. Unlike FRC, which has exploded in popularity both in the trenches and “on the ‘Gram” as Michael Ranfone calls it, this was only the second FRA course ever offered by the Functional Anatomy Seminars company, but as expected from these guys and gals, it hit it out of the park.

FRA was taught by Michael Ranfone from Ranfone Training Systems, and by Dr. Michael Chivers. Both speakers brought their A game to Austin, solidifying the principles of the system taught in FRC (and in the FR courses although I have not taken any of those, yet), revisiting and expanding on core concepts, and introducing a new assessment.

Damir Simunac, Michael Ranfone, Michael Chivers, Dan Skinner

FRC is a system of management that can be used in the clinical setting with tissue treatment applications taught in the FR courses, the rehab setting and mobility development with FRC principles, and now the FRA which bridges the gap and unites the system between clinicians, trainers and coaches. FRC is a system of training which applies scientific methods to the acquisition and maintenance of functional mobility, articular resilience and articular health and longevity. The FRA assessment is based on an active and passive measurement of the primary joints used in movement, such as the ankles, knees, hips, spine, shoulders, elbows and wrists. Passive measurement evaluates flexibility, or the amount of motion the joint is capable of expressing. Active measurement evaluates functional mobility, or the ability to actively achieve a range of motion. The assessment has a relatively strict criteria on what constitutes pure joint motion, and any compensation needed by a joint to both generate and express motion should be noted and documented. A discrepancy of more than 15 to 20 degrees between the passive motion allowed in a joint, and the active mobility available by that same joint is not optimal. FRA A/P ratios can then be used to compare to CARs (controlled articular rotations) based evaluations, and can then be correlated with other clinical findings.

The goal of creating FRA seems to be to standardize a system of assessment that would offer a common language to be used across different professions in both manual therapy, and in strength and conditioning and training. In addition, it combines the FR and manual therapy side with the FRC and training side under one umbrella assessment. It should allow seamless collaboration between FRC based trainers and coaches, and FR based clinicians and therapists. To me as a young clinician, it reminded me of learning other movement screens or assessments that I have taken both in school and through post-graduate certifications, however this one is much simpler, leaves less interpretation to the tester, and in my opinion has more reproducibility.

Overall I was really happy with my entire weekend down in Austin. The Onnit Academy is a really cool facility, the instruction presented in the course was done well and will aid me as a clinician, and this will provide me with another set of tools in order to help with patient evaluations and outcomes. I liked that there was a healthy mix of both trainers and coaches as well as clinicians at the seminar, which will allow easier collaboration and management of patients and clients with other like minded and similarly trained professionals. I think the order of information presented could have been differently arranged, which would help in understanding why certain parts of the assessment are so critical. Manual based assessments and evaluations are like most things in the manual therapy world, based on skills. This is just another skill I will have to sharpen over time. My next step is to set up my Chicago based network of similarly minded therapists and trainers.

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