First Principles of Movement

“Tabla Rosa”

“First principles thinking is the act of boiling a process down to the fundamental parts that you know are true and building up from there.”

Over 2000 years ago, Aristotle defined a first principle as “the first basis from which a thing is known.”

“When we’re faced with complex problems, we default to thinking like everybody else. First principles thinking is a powerful way to help you break out of this herd mentality, think outside the box and innovate completely brand new solutions to familiar problems.”

Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, says there’s a better way to innovate: start with a blank slate and use first principles.

My programs are an attempt to bring First Principles scientific logic to the Movement field. In this way I strive to make it easier for you in an era of information overload to integrate from the millions of methods & dozens of systems the most efficient approach for your client, patient or athlete. N=1 is our philosophy. “The individual’s profile drives our program”

“Don’t be a slave of the methods. The methods should serve the goals.” Dr Karel Lewit

“Time spent in assessment will save time in management.” Pr Vladimir Janda

A 12 Day Program linking the Prague School of Dr Lewit & Pr Janda to modern Athletic Development.

Goal: Learn an agile, upstream approach to promoting

  • Return to participation/activity
  • Resilent sustainable athleticism & 
  • Optimization of human performance

Taught in three 2.5-3 Day Workshops each followed by a series of 1 day Bridge the Gap sessions.

Read about the course offerings below, then check out Dr. Liebenson’s course schedule to find the course(s) nearest you.

These are interactive, problem-solving workshops. You can start at any point in the program (since they are divided up  topically).

Dr Liebenson discusses the Clinical Audit Process/Assess-Correct-Reassess Video from Stanford, 2014

WHY Should One Choose to Participate in the FPM series?

  • Learn how to INTEGRATE the art, craft & science of best practices in the rehab to athletic development continuum
  • Learn EFFICIENT strategies to thin-slice implementation of the functional approach in your environment
  • Learn the four guiding PRINCIPLES of management that underpin the many methods

WHAT Can You Expect to Learn?

The  FPM “Best Practices”  series is an ideal prep for changing one’s paradigm from –

  1. Symptom-based to a focus on the source of pain in the kinetic chain

  2. Passive to Active (self-care oriented)

  3. Output-based to outcome-based – “its not about winning the exercise, its about winning the adaptation”

  4. Hardware (structural) to software (functional)

  5. Silo-based to patient/athletic-centered approach

  6. Bridge the gap between rehab & athletic development

Learning Objective: To efficiently integrate the “best practices” from the fields of rehabilitation, pain management, athletic development, & behavioral modification for preventing disability & transitioning the chronic rehabber to resilent, sustainable activity tolerance & peak performance.
It takes passion, study & experience to learn how to be STRONG in this model. As Pavel Tsatsouline says “You are strong when you can make the hard easy”. Thus, EFFICIENCY is one of our hallmarks. The other is INTEGRATION since its better to “be a learn it all, not a know it all”. The goal of this program is to teach the mastery mindset, namely learning the nuances that come from gritty determination.

Our Philosophy: The key to a return to participation, a sustainable approach to activity, & enhancing human performance is baking positive lifestyle choices/optionality into our environment. This epitomizes an agile, upstream mindset with minimal downside risk.



 “Function better to feel better”


Developing an Agile Mindset for Sustainable Human Performance 

  • Demand vs Capacity: the role of history AND functional assessment
  • Needs assessment: What are the required capacities or demands?
  • Avoiding rehab purgatory: are we creating chronic rehabbers?
  • Building trust: What is the individuals why?
  • N= 1: Individualization to enhance efficiency & effectivenes
  • Sustainable athleticism: “That which enhances performance prevents injury”
  • Upstream approaches to bake sustainable solutions
  • Mechanism-based pain classification system

The 4 Principles 

    1. Does hurt = harm? Is ‘boot camp’ the answer? The Goldilocks principle
    2. Identifying  & remediating current capacity shortfalls (identifying the floor/basement)
    3. Overload, adpation & raising the ceiling  – “the hardest thing you do well” – “Its not the load that is the problem, it’s the load you’re not prepared for”
    4. Regional interdependence & the joint by joint approach: “he who treats the site of symptoms is lost”


  • Constraints-based learning
  • Dynamic systems theory – individual, task, environment
  • Internal vs external cueing
  • The environment as coach “it is incorrect to correct”
  • Self-corrective, reactive exercises
  • Blocked vs Random practice

Steps of Training/Care

    • Load Management
    • De-sensitization
    • Movement Prep
    • Priming (Glute/Abd activation)
    • General Physical Preparation (S&C)
    • Special Physical Preparation (Power/Skill)

Movement Prep

  • The warm-up
  • McGill’s “non-negotiable” Big 3 for stiffness
  • Greasing the gear
  • Foot afferent stimulation & fast feet

Assessment of the Torso

  • Breathing “unless breathing is normalized no other movement pattern can be”
  • Isometric strength/endurance
  • Force transfer

Training the torso

  • “Proximal stability for distal athleticism” – what does this mean?
  • To brace or not to brace that is the question
  • Sets/Reps/Hold Time/Frequency
  • 3 Block Periodization approach
    • Block 1 – Static endurance bodyweight training
    • Block 2 – Static endurance traning with external load
    • Block 3 – Core stability with distal motion
    • Isometric Anti-Trunk Motion Training (sagittal, frontal & transverse planes)
    • Progressions/regressions/lateralizations

Glute Activation

  • The role of hip extension
  • Lower crossed syndrome & “open scissors”
  • Upright functional training of the poterior chain

Resilency: Becoming durable like Phoenix

  • Brain vs Tissue – the key role of protection in the pain experience
  • Ascending (peripheral) & descending (central) modulation
  • Sensitization & “wind-up”
  • The Yellow Flags screen
  • Cognitive, affective, behaviorial & physiologic mechanisms
  • “Confidence is the cornerstone of great performance”

How to Build & Monitor Load Tolerance

  • How to measure workload with RPE
  • Building chronic fitness
  • The acute:chronic work load ratio
  • Identifying the floor or basement
  • Identifying the specific demands & unpredictable ceiling
  • The role of “slow-cooking” fitness

Finding the “Silent Killer” – The LASS Profile

  • Painless dysfunctions
  • “Every exercise is a test”
  • The 80/20 rule & corrective exercises – distinguishing signal from noise
  • The danger of over-correcting with the chronic rehabber
  • Assess-Analyze-Correct-Reassess

Spine Sparing Strategies

  • Micro-breaks
  • Hip Hinge
  • T4 mobilizations


Developmental & Archetypal (primal) Re-sets

  • Evolutionary & Development landmarks
  • The double “whammy” of the inactivity crisis & overconsumption of processed foods


“The hardest thing you do well”

Trainable Menu Concept

  • ABCs of movement literacy (agility, balance, coordination)
  • Childhood play: Run/Jump/Hop/Kick/Throw/Roll/Climb
  • Adult Fundamental Patterns – squat, hinge, lunge, push, pull, carry (locomotion, roll…)
  • Distinguishing “feats of strength” vs trainable menu
  • The stability/strength/power continuum (triple flexion for triple extension)
  • Time under tension
  • Tempo: tri-phasic

Foot/Ankle Stability: What is the role of  the dead foot?

  • Martial arts “rooting” – gripping the floor
  • The transverse arch, 1st MTP & the high gear push off
  • Foot/ankle stiffness for running economy


  • The athletic foundation
  • Finding your hip width
  • Absorbing load & pushing off the ground
  • Avoiding the knee (quad) dominant pattern
  • The hip hinge & posterior chain
  • Rotary squats for force transfer
  • Pulling from the ground
  • Split stance & reciprocal patterns
  • Star Matrix lunges with arm tweaks

Single Leg/Frontal Plane Stability

  • Janda’s single leg assessment
  • Preventing medial knee collapse
  • 1L RDL an under-appreciated rehab weapon
  • Deceleration/acceleration ability


  • The upper quarter kinetic chain in functional tasks
  • Horizontal & vertical push/pull
  • Kettlebell carries & self-limiting shoulder stability training

Dynamic Warm-up, Quick Feet & Plyometrics

  • Stretch-Shortening Cycle
  • Deceleration for acceleration
  • The key importance of landing
  • Skipping
  • Jump rope (self-limiting)
  • Box Jumps (landing/absorption)
  • Counter-Movement
  • Depth
  • Bounding
  • X-hop
  • Squat/Scissor/Rotary

The Hamstring, Groin & Hip Dilemma

  • Eccentrics for acceleration injuries
  • The Copenhagen Adductor
  • FAI assessment & strategies
  • Upper quarter kinetic chain dysfunction & scapular dyskinesis
    • Impingement
    • Instability
    • The overhead athlete
    • Scapular-stabilization acc to Cressey
    • The LASS Shoulder WOD
  • Tendonopathy Management acc to Jill Cook PT, PhD
  • Current vs Required capacity
  • Isometric strength, resistance & hold times
  • Energy storage
  • Energy storage & release
  • Role of stetching & deep massage

Video overview with testimonials of how Dr Liebenson’s programs can transform your practice.




The role of the feet & sensory afferents


  • The Dead Foot
  • Sensory blindness
  • The special role of the first MTP
  • Sensory-Motor stimulation starting from the sole of the foot

Active rest – Tuning the body

  • Phillip Beach & primitive re-sets
  • Rolling patterns


Joint by joint approach starting from the ground up (from MTPs to TMJ)


  • The role of joint dysfunction in faulty movement patterns
  • Synergist substitution & relative tightness: are tight traps a key link or trap?
  • Irradiation & potentiation: prioritizing movement preps for efficiency
  • Acc. to Gray Cook does a stiff area on passive & active testing always require mobilization?
  • How manual therapists & trainers can work together in athlete-centered management


The T4 “dead zone”


  • Kinetic chain effects on lumbar spine, head & neck, and shoulder girdle
  • Breathing dysfunction
  • Postural conspiracy
  • Workstation ergonomics
  • Lifestyle – “inactivity crisis”
  • Vertical foam WOD & thoracic mobility options


Post-isometric relaxation methods for inhibition of tight muscles & joint mobilization


  • Why self-mobilization > manual therapy
  • The role of manual therapy in the athlete-centered Trinity (athlete/coach/manual therapist)
  • Traction, springing & joint oscillations
  • Fascial release according to Lewit
  • Exteroceptive therapy
  • Scars as sabateurs
  • The fibular head & tight hamstrings
  • The painful coccyx post-partem pain
  • The pelvic floor & sacrotuberous ligament
  • Psoas & QL in trunk rotation dysfunction
  • Respiratory & visual synkinesis
  • Ideal manipulative therapy methods for acute care or the elderly
  • Distinguishing neuromuscular from connective tissue sources of hypertonus
  • Dizzyness & post-concussion syndrome
  • TMJ, speech & eye movements
  • Manual traction procedures for hip, lumbar spine, shoulder & cervical spine
  • Forward drawn posture – lumbo-dorsal fascia, fibular head & gluteal inhibition
  • Integrating Manipulation & Exercise

The Clinical Audit Process

  • Profile > Program
  • Key Performance Indicators
  • Empathy & Trust through relatedness
  • User experience & empowerment
  • Confidence & self-efficacy
  • Deductive learning
Bridge the Gap (BTG) Courses – One Day updates linking each course
  • Review the concepts & implementation of the A,B & C programs
  • While the 3 day workshops  cover the Science & Rationale or WHY of the series along with the craft, skill, methods or WHAT. The BTG programs emphasize HOW to integrate the course work in different environments.
  • Case-based
  • 1. The 4 Principles of Management2. The Individualized Profile3. The Scientific Method & Assess-Correct-Reassess4. Movement Screen Practical5. Case Management Problem-Solving