5,000 Year Old Techniques for the Modern Athlete
I’m a hired gun. I make a living making people stronger. If I fail, then I don’t get paid, as my athletes will not waste their money on someone who fails on their promises to make them better at their sport. Knowing that every one of my athletes demand my best, I spend an average of 15 hours a week reading research articles and books pertaining to athletic performance and health. I’ve spent thousands of dollars attending seminars, learning from others in my field to keep my word to my clients that I will make them a better athlete. Example: I attended a two-year massage therapy program because I felt that the massage therapists in the area were masters of the “fluff and buff” spa massage, instead of the special massage recovery techniques required for athletes. If it doesn’t improve my athlete’s performance and recovery, I don’t use it.
One of my favorite courses in the massage therapy program, was on acupressure/acupuncture. During the course, I was constantly amazed at how quickly the positive effects of manipulating meridians were experienced. Being a firm believer of the adage “work smarter, not harder,” acupressure techniques have been one of my most utilized techniques.
What is acupressure/acupuncture?
Both acupressure and acupuncture rely on the same fundamental principles. Both involve stimulation of specific points on the body called acupoints, but differ in their application. Acupressure relies on using thumbs, fingers, and even elbows to stimulate acupoints along meridians to restore normal flow of life energy.
Acupuncture also strives to bring balance within a meridian, but it does so with the use of specially designed needles. For those seeking to improve their athletic prowess, acupressure presents numerous advantages over acupuncture:
- Acupressure is safe to do, even if you have never done it before.
- I have taught these techniques to numerous fitness professionals and athletes successfully in minutes.
- Acupressure can be used anytime – anywhere.
- The only equipment you need is your two hands.
- I have performed the techniques you are about to learn on athletes during games and strength training sessions without any issues.
The practice of stimulating specific points on the body for the promotion of wellness and the treatment of disease has been used by numerous cultures all around the world for thousands of years. It is believed that the Chinese were the first to do so, as archeologists have found acupuncture needles made from stone, called bian stones, dating back approximately 6,000 years. But, regardless of who “invented” acupressure, the concept of using our hands to relieve pain is something that is ingrained in all of us. Have you ever rubbed your forehead when you had a headache? Have you ever rubbed your toe or foot after stubbing it on your coffee table? That is acupressure and you have been practicing it without even knowing it.
How Acupressure Works
The foundation for acupressure and acupuncture is based on achieving and maintaining balance of life energy. This life energy is called Chi (pronounced “chee”) in China, qi (pronounced “kee”) in Japan, prana in India, and rauch in Hebrew. When the smooth, perpetual flow of Chi is disrupted by internal or external events, the body becomes vulnerable to disease, illness, or injury.
Chi is transported through the body in channels called meridians. These meridians act like invisible pipes within your body that connect to every tissue and organ, supplying them with Chi. Along each of the meridians are numerous points called acupoints, where Chi flows near the surface of the skin, and can thus be easily accessed and effectively regulated. Depending on the needs of the athlete the flow of Chi can be strengthened, calmed, or unblocked by pressing these superficial acupoints along the meridians. By learning the acupressure techniques in this book, you will be able to correct these imbalances immediately, restoring Chi balance and improving your strength and performance.
Acupoints and Science
Acupuncture in the United States was virtually unknown until 1971, when Secretary of State Henry Kissinger went to China to negotiate a visit by President Richard Nixon. Traveling with Kissinger was New York Times reporter James Reston, who received acupuncture after undergoing an emergency appendectomy. Reston was so impressed with the post-operative pain relief he experienced that he wrote about acupuncture upon returning to the United States. Later that same year, thirty acupuncturists from China were invited to participate in a medical exchange program with UCLA Medical School. To this day, the UCLA Pain Management Center continues to use acupuncture as one of its main modalities for the relief of pain.
At the time of Reston’s articles, Western scientists knew very little about the workings of acupuncture and acupressure. Since then, a significant number of studies have provided a biological explanation for the “mysteries” behind the acupoint therapies.
In the mid 1970’s, it was shown that stimulating acupoints caused the body to release chemical substances called endorphins. Endorphins are neurotransmitters produced by the pituitary gland, which possess pain-relieving properties similar to morphine. In addition to their ability to reduce pain, endorphins also help reduce muscle tension and increase feelings of well-being. The decrease in muscle tension should not be over looked, as a relaxed muscle allows blood, which carries oxygen and nutrients into the area, facilitating healing and the elimination of toxins. Endorphins are responsible for the sense of euphoria that runners and exercisers have labeled “runner’s high.”
Do Meridians Exist?
Two French researchers, Dr. Claude Darras and Dr. Pierre de Vernejoul are believed to be among the first to demonstrate in humans, that meridians do actually exist. They injected radioactive tracers into patients at specific acupoints and used nuclear scanning equipment to follow the flow of the radioactive tracers. The researchers found that the tracers migrated 30 cm (11.8 inches) from the site of injection along routes that corresponded exactly with meridian pathways illustrated in thousand-year old acupressure charts. To ensure that the tracers were flowing through meridians and not blood vessels or lymphatic channels, some patients received injections in non-acupoint skin regions as well as in nearby blood and lymphatic channels. In these cases, the radioactive tracers diffused from the injection site into a small circular pattern. This demonstrated that meridians are a network of separate pathways within the body. The researchers further found that when acupuncture needles were inserted into distant acupoints within the same tracer injected meridian, a change was produced in the flow rate of the radioactive tracer through the meridian. This seems to support the claim that stimulating acupoints stimulates the flow of Chi though the meridians.
- Acupoints have lower electrical resistance than the surrounding skin. This allows Chi to flow easier through the meridian.
- Studies performed on the locations of acupoints found that the points correlate to large nerve bundles or nerve endings.
- When tissue in the body undergoes trauma or microscopic damage, such as when skin cells are pierced with acupuncture needles, they leak electrically charged ions into the surrounding tissue. This electric current is called the current of injury and is known to stimulate a healing response from nearby cells.
- Acupoints possess a high density of gap junctions, which are small channels between adjacent cells that allow material to pass freely from one cell to the other without having to pass through their plasma membranes. Gap junctions facilitate intercellular communication and increase electric conductivity.
- Both oxygen pressure and the carbon dioxide output of tissue at acupoints are higher than in non-acupoint portions of the meridians and at non-meridian points. Since oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production are a measure of local metabolism, these findings suggest higher metabolic activity at the acupoints
Finding acupoints is relatively easy once you know the secret. This method has been used for thousands of years and represents the best method for finding acupoints easily and more importantly, accurately. In all acupoint therapies, acupoints are located according to their distances from anatomical landmarks on the body, using measurements expressed in cun (pronounced “ts’un”). This proportional body measurement takes into account individual physical proportions, as the patient’s finger widths are used as a unit of measurement. While other articles or books would have you solely use anatomical landmarks for locating acupoints, which only get you in the general area, by using finger cun measurements, you are precisely where you need to be, thereby greatly increasing the effectiveness of your work. So, whether you are trying to find acupoints on a 295 lb., 6’2” NFL lineman, or a 100 lb., 5’ gymnast, rest assured that you will be able to locate their acupoints with ease.
At its greatest width, the thumb measures 1 cun.
For example, if you are trying to locate an acupoint one cun below your kneecap, position your thumb at the base of the kneecap and the acupoint is on the opposite side of your thumb.
There are two methods you can use when palpating acupoints on others:
Place your thumb against the recipient’s and compare the difference in width. Is their thumb narrower or wider? Make a mental note of the size difference and then use your thumb to locate their acupoints, making the necessary measurement adjustments.
This second method might be easier as you simply have the recipient use their own thumbs or fingers, under your guidance, to locate their acupoints. This method can be used on the easier to reach acupoints, but unless the recipient possesses the flexibility of a Cirque de Soleil performer, certain acupoints will be unreachable to them. In which case, you will have to resort back to method 1.
Additional Proportional Measurements
Here are other proportional measurements based on finger cun that will assist you in locating acupoints.
Middle and index fingers together measure 1.5 cun in the most distal region.
Middle, index, and ring fingers together measure 2 cun in the most distal region.
Middle, index, ring, and little fingers together measure 3 cun in the widest area over the knuckles
Techniques for Athletic Performance
For centuries, athletes and coaches have searched for ways to improve sports performance. This search has led to advances in training techniques, nutrition, and equipment, but any advantage they provide can be nullified if you are suffering from Chi imbalance, causing strength imbalances between one leg and the other, or between the upper and lower body. Acupressure will correct any strength imbalances you may be experiencing, allowing you to perform to your full potential. These improvements in your strength and athletic performance will occur immediately, reliably, and without any negative side effects.
The techniques you are about to learn will give you an edge over your competition.
Acupoints for Strength Imbalances
This first section will demonstrate acupoints that correct strength imbalances between limbs and for the upper and lower body. The second section will demonstrate acupoints for various ailments that will negatively affect athletic performance.
Lower Body Strength Imbalances
Three Mile Point
Chinese legend states that this acupoint got its name for its ability to boost endurance in the legs of fatigued army soldiers, allowing them to go for an extra “three miles.”
Benefits: Used to combat fatigue and improve strength levels in the legs and to revitalize Chi and strengthen the entire body. Can be used on both legs, or on the leg displaying a strength deficit.
Location: Three cun below the lower border of the kneecap, one cun to the outside on the shinbone. You are in the correct area if you feel the muscle (anterior tibialis) contract when you flex your foot up and down.
Benefits: Relieves leg weakness and pain.
Location: The easiest method for locating this acupoint is by standing up, dropping your arms and hands down your side, and the acupoint is located where the tip of your middle finger touches your thigh.
Upper Body Strength Imbalances
Benefits: Reduces weakness and pain throughout the entire arm, including the shoulder.
Location: With the elbow bent, the acupoint is located at the end of the outer crease.
Benefits: Relieves fatigue, numbness and pain in the forearm and elbow. Ideal for pitchers and tennis players.
Location: With the elbow bent, the acupoint is located at the end of the inner crease.
Benefits: Balances Chi and strength levels between the upper and lower body. Ideal for sports requiring coordinated effort between upper and lower body (football, tennis, etc) and the Olympic lifts.
Warning: Do not press this point if pregnant.
Location: Position your fingers straight out, with the thumb alongside your index finger. The acupoint is located at the end of the crease.
UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre undergoing acupressure treatment with Strengthology’s Wolfgang Unsoeld
As you have learned, acupoint therapies do not require magical powers, spiritual beliefs, or years of training in order to work. What it does require is some effort in learning the placement of acupoints. I recommend you print out this e-book and have the pages available for reference while first practicing these techniques. With regular practice, you will find the points easily, quickly and be well on your way to maximizing your athletic potential or that of your clients.
This article is a small excerpt from my book, Acupressure for Elite Performance: 5,000 Year Old Techniques for the Modern Athlete.
If you would like a copy of the entire book, send an email to Strengthology@Jessbanda.com, and enter “book” in the subject line. You get the book FREE, that’s a $29.95 value.
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