Coaching with Rick Kaselj to Fix My Pain

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Who Is Rick Kaselj?

A few days ago I had the privilige to get a one-on-one coaching session with Rick Kaselj. For those who don’t who Rick is – he is a Kinesiologist and one of the most well-respected Injury Specialist in the fitness industry. He is considered to be among the top guys when it comes to specifically treating rotator cuff injuries. On his website, he has released a ton of helpful e-books geared toward tackling specific injuries. His emphasis on corrective exercises has earned him a lot of authority in his field and his popularity was the main reason that I had to see this guy while I am still in Vancouver.


Seeking Out Professional Help

Regular readers of this blog may have heard me mention that I tweaked my lower back back in Dec 2012 while going to technical failure on the deadlift. I have tried several strategies to fix my pain symptoms ranging from Trigger Point Activation, Lacrosse Balling (Small and Big) – with the end result that these approaches made some of the pain go away temporarily but didn’t fix the underlying cause.

During recent months, I was really getting pissed off about the fact that this injury persisted for so long and was giving me daily discomfort. This frustration led me to seeking out Rick who could accurately diagnose my problem and advice me on corrective exercises.


Identifying My Real Problem

My previous belief was that the pain was emanating from a trigger point (i.e. muscle knot) in my upper right gluteus maximus. I was convinced (or didn’t know any better) that I had to smash and massage that spot and the surrounding area by digging deep into the muscle tissue and trying to resolve those tight spots.

Well, it turns out that I was probably just spinning my wheels doing that. During my coaching session, Rick suggested that my pain symptoms may be largely caused by a lack of stability in my pelvis. He explained how the so-called Sacroiliac (SI) Joint was transferring huge amounts of loads during daily activity and especially during heavy lifting and how this may be the cause for my lower back pain.

Everybody has two SI joints, sitting between the sacrum and ilium. These two joints are mainly repsonsible for supporting the spinal column and create a lot of structural stability by having strong ligaments connecting them. Whenever you are squatting or deadlifting, the weight-bearing SI joints will transfer incredibly high forces present during those lifts. Professor of Spine Biomechanics, Stu McGill, showed that a mere 27 kg Squat-Lift loaded the SI joint with an incredible force of 6500N. That’s a lot of force! Now, imagine what forces go through Zydrunas Savickas‘ SI joints when he squatts 325 kg.

You can see that the SI joint literally plays a massive role in stabilising our body. What’s more critical is that anyone who has been lifiting for long enough will have had some lower back pain at some point. Often times, the SI joint is overlooked and usually not considered when diagnosing lower back pain. But it has been shown that low back pain can be closely related to a dysfunction of the SI joint.

Before meeting Rick, I thought that strengthening the muscles by using a lot of weight was key in preventing injuries by eliminating muscular imbalances and strengthening surrounding ligaments. The concept that I left out of this equation was the idea of STABILITY.

Rick suggested that instead of strengthening my muscles superficially, I first had to create stability underneath those muscles to serve as a solid foundation. Building up muscle will only go so far – if you don’t have a stable basis to support all the forces acting on your joints, ligaments and tendons your efforts in the gym will be limited and lead to injuries down the road.

 If you want to really geek out on the SI joint, check out THIS article by Bret Contreras.

Take Aways & Lessons Learned

I don’t know if Rick is absolutely right in his suggestion to cut out the heavy lower body lifts for a while and focusing instead on creating more stabilty in the pelvis. But it sounds like a logical argument and it comes from somebody who is way more knowledgeable than I am in curing injuries. So, I am just going to listen this time, leave my ego at the door and give his recommendations a shot. This means that for the next 6 weeks I will focus my efforts on the following strategies to finally become pain-free:

  • Do unilateral (i.e. single) leg work: This will involve light unilateral squats, bodyweight Bulgarian split squats, unilateral trapbar deadlifts – all in an effort to build up the small stabilising muscles and ligaments around the SI joint.
  • Build up the transverse abdominis muscles (side abs): Use pulleys and bands and rotate my body around leg while trying to fully engage these core muscles
  • Do Hyperextentions: engage the spinal erectors to create more core stability and take some load off the SI joint. Perform the hyperextensions regularly during the day.
  • Spend less time sitting: prolonged sitting with shitty posture exerts low-level loads on the SI joint
  • Continue with myofascial release with my foam roller and Lacross ball to support the above points.


With this list in mind, I will continue my quest to resolving my pain issue and maybe My Injury Can Really Be a Bliss.


Note: Check THIS video where Rick explains his approach to injuries and preventing them in the first place.

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  • MIchael Allen Smith

    That first tip rings true to me. Since I started doing yoga moves with static holds, I feel a lot better. It probably is the unilateral moves, which I was rarely doing before.