Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization: Awesome!

This last weekend I spent 4 days learning the basics of Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization, or DNS. It was a fantastic 4 days and not only did I learn the basic techniques, but also got to see a group of experienced PTs in action using methods I had not seen before, and giving out information in ways I had not heard before.
DNS was developed at the Prague School for Rehabilitation by Professor Pavel Kolar through watching how newborns develop their stabilization and movement skills, from lying down to finally figuring out how to stand up. The techniques are based on the stages the child goes through and they are named as such like 3 months, 4.5 months, etc. They have shown that most people, if they have gone through proper development when they were babies, still have this basic movement capability burned into their nervous systems. It’s just that over the years after childhood, we have either forgotten or muddied up those beautiful movement patterns from our childhood. The techniques enable us to bring back those good movement patterns and help re-burn them into our current nervous system. Watch the videos on the Prague School site for more detailed information.
There are many classes to take. I took DNS Exercise Level 1 and 2, which is more for fitness professionals. Clinicians take another set of DNS classes. We went through a whole set of assessment positions, which can be also used for treatment as well.
Some of the really interesting things I learned:
1. There was the best discussion I’ve heard yet about Intra-Abdominal Pressure (IAP), how to test for it and then how to generate it. Then everything follows from there. Their view is that without IAP, then everything else cannot happen: movement, lifting, walking, etc.
In the fitness world today, we hear a lot about “bracing” before doing a lift. After learning about IAP, I think we need to change the word “bracing” because I think it evokes too much of the wrong thing, which is activating core muscles that can stabilize the torso, BUT you can’t breathe because you’ve squeezed the wrong ones. If you stabilize correctly with IAP, you will also be able to breathe.
2. In order for healthy movement to exist, there must be proper co-activation of opposing muscle groups. In any movement, there are agonists, or muscles that are providing the major force to create movement, and there are antagonists, which are muscles that oppose the agonist.
As an example, in the case of a bicep curl, the agonist is the bicep which concentrically contracts (shortens as it contracts) to flex the lower arm up to the upper arm. The antagonist is the tricep, which must eccentrically contract (lengthens as it contracts), to let the bicep move the lower arm up to the upper arm. If either one doesn’t do whatever supposed to do in perfect timing, then problems can occur like compensatory actions (using other muscles that shouldn’t normally be used) and can lead to injury. Imagine if your hamstrings are very tight, and then you swing your straight leg forward up – the hip flexors raise the leg up but if the hamstrings are so tight and can’t eccentrically contract fast enough, you could pull them as you whip your leg up. So proper function is that over your entire body, your muscles are co-activating as agonists and antagonists in balanced way with proper timing, and can both concentrically and eccentrically contract at will.
DNS contains techniques to help fix issues in co-activation. Here is a shot of one of their PTs working on my left shoulder, which I’ve been trying to fix for a while now.

My left shoulder has a tendency to drift forward and my pec/pec minor feels always tight. It gets sore when I swim, and sometimes really acts up during pull ups. In the pic, she is using one of the DNS positions and encouraging the eccentric contraction of my external rotators, while setting my shoulder in the correct position.
The moment I got out of that position, my shoulder felt great! Wow!
3. The spine must be properly aligned, from pelvis to the top of the head. The moment you break from proper alignment, compensations start popping up and inefficient movement occurs. All of the DNS moves involve setting the spine in as perfect alignment as possible, and then a movement is performed where we encourage the person to not break from spinal alignment, and to learn how to maintain spinal alignment in non-static situations.
4. Joints must be centrated in order to perform proper movement, support maximal loads, and protects structures. Decentrated joints cause problems! So the upper arm must be in the proper location in the socket to move efficiently and safely, as does the head of the upper leg bone must be in the proper place in the hip socket.
We went over how to centrate joints properly and how to observe the body for signs that joints are not centrated.
It was amusing to see how these PTs would get right up on you, using their whole body to hold you in place as you performed movements, holding your spine in position and your joints in centration! But it was necessary – it’s the only way the person can feel the proper position of the body as you go through the movements. The PT would first align and centrate you in static position, then hold you in position with their entire body and lead you through movement to the end position of a DNS developmental position.
After taking the class, my mind was filled with new ideas and possibilities. I contacted another DNS certified trainer to run me personally through all the DNS positions, checking me and making sure I am holding proper position in each one. I figure if I am to use DNS on someone, I may have to demonstrate and if so, it better be as close to perfect as I can get it!
I am also looking forward to applying DNS IAP development on some of my swimmers. Without IAP, it is impossible to efficiently transfer energy from the kick through to the spear of a stroke; you have energy leakage all along the way. But with IAP, you will be able to have a great base to transfer energy as well as make great swimming movements in the water.