Sunday, 29 November 2009

Seminar no 2 - Z-Health

So, onto Sunday and a 6 hour Z-Health workshop.

What is Z-Health? According to the accompanying literature, it is "neural re-education". Basically Z-Health takes the premise that the nervous system is the governor of the human body, and that as such it can re-educated to improve physical performance. To illustrate the benefits this particular workshop applied the Z-Health concepts to 3 key kettlebell drills - the front squat, the two handed swing and the Turkish getup.

My impressions? I'm not sure that I completely buy into the Z-Health concepts. However, a number of elements do stack up, particularly if you're familiar with Pilates.

Z-Health theorises that the human body is designed for survival and not performance. It further
suggests that pain and tightness in the body are a 'threat response' which arise when the body views a particular position or movement as a 'threat'. So in some ways Z-Health is about threat modulation.

Z-Health is also about neural plasticity. Wolff's Law and Davis' Law were both mentioned - both refer to adaptation of tissue. Effectively the way we use our bodies determines what our bodies can actually do. Since muscular strength increases the stress on our bones, the stronger we are, the stronger our bones need to be. Therefore if we don't train our muscles appropriately, then the body can decide that we no longer need such strong bones. This can lead to essential minerals being leached away from the bones, causing osteoporosis in later life. This is prevalent in women who have not done enough resistance training.

The trainer then moved on to talk about the importance of proprioception. Proprioception is about our 'state'. It is a map of where we are and how we are. In terms of Z-Health, the two key parts of proprioception are:

Mechanoreceptors - respond to movement, clustered around joints
Nocireceptors - respond to noxious stimuli such as pain

Z-Health postulates that although nocireceptors are quite sensitive and 'noisy', they can be drowned out by movement. Essentially the body wants to move. That said, the trainer did not advocate working through pain, rather she suggested that the Z-Health system can be used as a diagnostic to locate the source of pain.

We were shown a number of drills which are designed to free up areas of tension in the body, eg the feet. The feet contain 24% of the body's synovial joints which is apparently why it is so important for these to move freely. There were similar exercises for the shoulders and for the wrists and hands.

I did notice that people's range of motion in key tests such as forward flexion from the waist and shoulder rotations definitely increased!

Then we moved on to applying the Z-Health principles to 3 key kettlebell drills. I really liked the stuff that worked on the front squat and the swing, but the Turkish getup is just not my thing. I am fine as long as I do it without the kettlebell, but as soon as I start adding the kettlebell, I start freaking out. This is clearly my threat response! I know what's it's about - it's all tied in with the
shoulder injury I got a couple of years back. I know I can hold that bell up and more, but I really tense up in the getup position. Clearly something I need to work on.

So overall an interesting and worthwhile seminar, even if I don't completely buy the concept.


  1. Hi Avril,

    The practical side sounds quite interesting and enjoyable (no idea what a Turkish get up is though!). The theory side sounds like a mixture of science and pseudo-science! But then I'm a bit of a cynic when it comes to anything that sounds 'alternative'

    Best wishes

  2. Glad you enjoyed the Z Health seminar! Awesome and thanks for sharing the updates!

    rock on
    Mike T Nelson PhD(c)
    Extreme Human Performance

  3. Hi Sue

    The Turkish getup basically involves getting up(!) from a prone position whilst holding a kettlebell above your head. It challenges your strength, mobility and co-ordination and is a damn fine exercise if you don't bottle it like I normally do!

    Re Z-Health - I think that generally the science has been well-researched, and I'm certainly familiar with a number of the concepts. I don't particularly have an issue with the 'alternative' nature of some of what was suggested, I just didn't necessarily agree with all of it!