Jesse is a former NFL player and the inventor of The Breath Belt. He has trained thousands of developing kickers and punters over the past 18 years from high school to professional level. He is passionate about Injury Prevention and helping the public make the connection between optimal hip function and breath mechanics. You can follow him on Instagram. You can also pick up a Breath Belt directly from RPR here!
How I Found RPR
I first heard about RPR by going down a podcast rabbit hole!
In December 2017, I was listening to the Barbell Shrugged Podcast where Cal Dietz was being interviewed on Triphasic Training. During the interview he mentioned the prone hip extension test for his athletes, which I kept rewinding because I was so excited that a high level coach in S&C was actually talking about it! Among physical therapists, glute firing pattern issues have been a subject of conversation for decades. But in my experience, NO ONE was ever talking about it in Strength & Conditioning. I had kept coming back to the glute firing pattern over the years with my athletes, but kept hitting a brick wall as it wasn't a "sexy" topic in the S&C community. I sent Cal a message immediately and he was kind enough to respond. At the bottom of his message, he left bunch of videos about RPR for me to check out. As soon as I watched those RPR videos it made perfect sense. I was hooked and couldn't wait to learn more. I went up to go see him in Minneapolis soon as I could!
As an NFL kicker whose career had been cut short by an injury and whose life was turning into a battle with hip and low back pain - which all show up when people have a suboptimal glute firing pattern - I set a goal to create a tool that would get me out of pain. At that point, I’d spent five years diving really deep into breath mechanics building on the work of Brian MacKenzie from Power Speed Endurance. In early 2017, I tied the threads together that if I could create a tool that helped both hip stability and breath mechanics I could get myself out of pain and help my developing athletes avoid the position I was in. This is such a common occurrence for kickers and punters that I needed to get it together as soon as possible. And The Breath Belt was born!
Of course, a tool is only useful in the hands of someone who knows how to use it. While we were testing out prototypes of The Breath Belt, I was using it as a tool to coach people, both in-person and online, into better patterns. Prior to RPR, I thought the strategies I was teaching were efficient to keep people in top form through a practice or a game, but I realized two things IMMEDIATELY in the clinic: my strategies had a lot of holes and it wasn’t a system that was repeatable across athletes or environments. One thing Cal said a couple times during the clinic that stuck with me: “we’re all doing the best we can with the information that’s available to us.” In that clinic, there was a bunch of new information that became available. And by using it, my best got better.
The Light Bulb
From the moment I arrived at the Velocity Training Center and met the other RPR attendees, even before the clinic started, I was impressed. I was surrounded by fellow professional athletes, chiropractors, physical therapists, NFL strength coaches, and athletic trainers. It was clear that everyone there was looking to go deeper so they could be better. For the first time in years, I felt comfortable at a clinic like this because this was the missing piece I have been looking for years in my movement education. I knew I was home.
I would have to say my 'ah-ha moment' came at the end of the clinic. Through the clinic, I was feeling really good about all the education and pattern tests and was already locked in on how to implement with my athletes. A couple times during the day, Cal had hinted towards some of the additional things we would learn in Level Two - especially around vision and some things he’d found with concussions. We all stuck around for a little preview. Cal asked for volunteers and really nice college athlete I had worked with during the clinic went to the front of the room.
This athlete had a number of concussions from soccer and had been in a recent car crash. He was having a lot of trouble with headaches and eyesight which were discouraging him. And then … something amazing happened. Cal was testing his vision field and found a point in his eyesight that he had been protective of (it may have been the same angle that the collision had come from). Cal had him work through a few of the wake up drills while focusing on that point. During the retest, I had a close view of the changes that occurred. Even though he was standing in place, I noticed an immediate improvement in his hip and shoulder position. His face and hands had flushed from the lymphatic response. It literally looked like a weight was taken off his shoulders and tears were showing. That was the moment right there for me. Anyone who coaches knows they make a tremendous impact on their athletes, but once in a blue moon a coach makes an impact that is immediately embedded in the athletes psyche. Those are the kind of moments I coach for and my psyche was forever impacted when I saw that.
What I Did Next
When I returned home I was immediately ready to put this to work. I am fortunate to have high level athletes come to see me in Miami weekly in the offseason, so I knew I had lots of bodies to work on for practice. Without a hitch, the tests worked great on everyone and exposed hints of compensation my old system had missed. I could then teach someone exactly what to do to overcome this compensation!
For those select few who I wasn't experienced enough to identify, we just went through the drills again to see if we could force a change. This showed me just how different each athlete is. One athlete’s erectors fired up when he worked on his calf points. Another's QL completely changed the way his opposite foot hit the ground. I’d say about 90% of the clients I work with are pretty straightforward and RPR really helped both me and the athlete understand the story of how his or her body may have been compensating for a specific movement. As an athlete, you can quickly bond with and trust a coach who helps you make that connection. As a coach, that athlete who knows how to affect change in themselves is going to go out into the world and send more people my way.
So if 90% are pretty straightforward, the 10% that aren’t typically have crazy background stories. A great example of this is an athlete I had trained for 8 months prior to introducing them to RPR. He was very explosive but had an imbalance in the way he pushed off his kicking foot. His hip extension pattern was correct, and I had given him many foot, ankle and calf mobilizations to work on. The athlete continued to complain about the issue that was appearing to get worse. Taking one of the keys from RPR that you can’t fix a neurological issue with a movement strategy, when I got back from Cal’s, I taught him RPR. He’d gone through the wake up drills on his own, but had a hard time finding anything in the calf and asked me to help. As soon as I put my fingers on that point, he practically screamed in pain. I understood his pain tolerance and was confident enough in our relationship to know there was something deeper going on. As he calmed down asked him to sit up and we talked a bit. It turns out, when he was a six or seven, he tried to slide under a security fence while playing with friends. He didn't make it all the way through and the end of the wiring had sliced a thin but very deep 'S' scar at the bottom of his calf. He said he was too afraid to tell his parents about it at the time and was hiding a limp from them for a few months. He’s in college now, and still felt ashamed about it. Obviously, I’m a coach not a therapist, but I could tell it was good for him to get this off his chest.
The next day I set him up for soft tissue work with a chiropractor friend of mine. After that session and few one-on-one RPR sessions over the next week, the pain from deep scar on his calf, and the mobility restrictions that came with it, vanished and hasn't come back since. Thanks to RPR, I was able to make a real deep connection with this athlete. More importantly, it helped him deal with something he’d pushed back into a memory vault and was holding his performance back. There is no telling how a traumatic emotional or physical experience can affect an athlete years down the road. I’m not saying that coaches should look for these things, but as anyone who’s worked with people in private environments knows, the coach-athlete relationship is a big part of an athlete’s life and we need to treat that with the highest respect.
This is one of the biggest reasons why I believe RPR is so effective. It's a catalyst for any athlete to understand that they can’t separate their performance, mindset, or nervous system. With my athletes there is always a physical compensation that we’re trying to solve, but more often than you think it’s attached to an emotion or feeling about that experience or memory. With RPR, the athlete is able to process that history and unlock their potential.