Chronic knee pain set in for me at age 12 and boy, do I wish at any point over the next decade that Google had told me about the power of BACKWARD.
The simple but precise technology of backward has worked better for me and thousands of others than ice, painkillers, surgeries, and any treatment or supplement.
I have two exact protocols:
- Walk backward for 10 minutes 3 times per week. Make sure your area has safe footing. Older people may want to use an area with a railing or wall for balance.
For those older folks, backward walking alone has proven to be an effective screening process against falling.
2. Get on a treadmill that is turned OFF. Put your butt against the handle and use your own backward power to spin the belt! 5 minutes straight, 3 times per week.
The backward “deadmill” combines the power of resistance training with the power of backward walking.
In my program, we call these options “ROKP” for Reverse Out Knee Pain, and they are the optional warm-ups for lower body exercise sessions.
When you walk backward, you directly work on your strength with your knees over your toes. The slower and shorter you step, the easier it is. The faster and longer you step, the harder it is. The more resistance you add — such as the deadmill — the harder it is.
The better you get at ROKP, the easier it becomes to do things like go down stairs, which was a major problem for me and thousands of others.
So why would such a simple and powerful tool be optional?
The reason is that my exercise regimen itself builds this same ability and more, with much more precision and even further regressions as well as much further progressions.
I no longer do ROKP before sessions, but I did do over 100 miles of resisted backwards on my journey from fragile to bulletproof.
I also did those 100 miles before making the breakthrough of rebuilding from the ground up!
What I mean by this is that when I train, I start from my ankle and then gradually work up. This naturally warms up the knees so you’re prepared for each next step.
This breakthrough became the Zero program, which uses 8 steps in order Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with optional hip and upper body work on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
I still do these 8 basic Zero steps on Wednesdays or weekends before an athletic activity such as jumping. This continual investment in my body from the ground up has me dunking a basketball with ease at age 30 wearing barefoot shoes, even though I reached age 20 having never grabbed the rim.
I am now on the Advanced Zero program, which adds strategic equipment and weights:
Mondays = Loaded Legs
Tuesdays = Hips & Upper
Thursdays = Bodyweight Legs
Fridays = Hips & Upper
The hips and upper also use an even balance of bodyweight and weights.
But on my leg days I still start the same way I did in Zero: from the ground up!
Step 1 of Zero is 25 reps in the tibialis raise. The closer you stand, the easier it is. The farther you stand, the harder it is. Go ahead and take a break from reading this article: Try 25 reps. Done correctly, you will feel more burn in this muscle than you ever have in your life. This is the first step to rebuilding your knees with strength training.
Think of it like gymnastics for your knees. Ever see a gymnast who couldn’t do a pull-up? Me neither. I talked with a gymnastics coach and asked: “Can some people just not get stronger with their own bodyweight?”
She answered that in coaching for 20 years, she’d never had a client who could not get stronger.
I feel the same way about protecting the knees.
Not everyone who trains with a gymnastics coach will go to the Olympics and not everyone who does my program will get world-class bulletproof knees. We have people in their 80s and 90s making breakthroughs and regaining the ability to run but they might not be signing up for a marathon!
Those sets of 25 can go a long way…
Let’s say, like me, you had trained your body for over a decade before ever taking your tibialis to failure.
So now you’re telling your body you want to be stronger from the ground up. You want your ankle to be able to flex with more strength. You want to handle more force through your foot and ankle and shin so your knee has less stress on it. You want to get incredible bloodflow circulating through those areas so old injuries can heal.
What do you think will happen if you do this with correct form, without working through pain, working hard on a sensible schedule of training and adequate recovery, for 10 years?
I still do this exact drill on Thursdays, in my bodyweight session.
On Mondays, I use a bar that came out last year. The concept was created almost 50 years ago by the legendary Bob Gajda, who was a miracle worker at extending pro sports careers. The bar had not been produced for over a decade when my friend reached out and said, “What needs to exist that doesn’t?”
He now makes the bar but I am not involved and have never received a penny of profit, so if you have any questions, you’ll have to ask him (@thehomegymguys on Instagram).
Any unique equipment I add on Advanced Zero isn’t just “advanced” — IT SPECIFICALLY TROUBLESHOOTS FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT SUCCEEDING ON THE ZERO VERSION.
Example: Some people are not strong enough to do the bodyweight tibialis raise, but anyone with nerve connection to the feet can use the Tib Bar.
Just last week, an 89-year-old made a new personal record for herself on the Tib Bar… AND two NFL teams ordered Tib Bars for their weight room.
Really, they should be in every weight room because they cost a fraction of machines and yet hit what all the machines in your local gym miss — and they should be in every rehab center for the elderly and for people coming off lower body injuries.
Even if you have knee surgery and think your lower leg is fine, your leg is out of commission and you lose strength in your lower leg muscles. Now you try to come back into sport and your patellar tendon hurts. This post-surgery tendonitis has been a mystery for the medical field. Now it is solved.
As we move up those 8 steps we strategically rebuild the patellar tendons themselves. Having big strong legs doesn’t protect you from knee pain and injury if your exercises avoid your tendons, which are stronger than muscles. We call this internal vs. external; we don’t just want to be externally (muscle) strong, we want to be able to handle our muscular power internally (tendons).
I use only 3 unique devices, in order from the ground up:
- Tib Bar, either metal or PVC
- Slantboard, which offers both solid and portable versions
- MonkeyFoot, which replaces the need for thousands of dollars on hamstring and hip-flexor machines, and in my opinion works better because you get a natural range of motion and free weight loading.
All 3 of these actually troubleshoot any of the 8 steps of Zero that someone is not winning with. All 3 are then used in my Advanced Zero program, and all 3 could be makeshifted or built yourself if you so desire.
With backward walking and tibialis raises alone, I never would have had knee surgeries, I never would have had to ice my knees 4 times a day, and I never would have wound up hooked on painkillers and depressed because I couldn’t even play my sport.
But I paid thousands of dollars to mentors who sharpened my form on every step thereafter, and I’ve made form-coaching more accessible than any service in history.
atgonlinecoaching.com is where I deliver exactly what I wish had existed for me:
-ability to ask questions 7 days a week and be answered within a couple hours or less!
-ability to send video of my form 7 days a week and be coached within a couple hours or less!
Business gets pretty dang simple when you create exactly what you needed when you were at your worst.
Because I get asked this DAILY: I’ve kept myself out of the product industry because my role is pushing it forward. Products will continue to improve and I didn’t want to slow down and get caught up in running a product business.
To me, spreading myself thin is the biggest risk to my happiness and to the happiness of my family. I take my little Onyx on two walks a day, every day, 7 days a week. No business calls. Just me and him. Every one of those walks is a business opportunity turned down. I am passionate about products but not as much as I’m passionate about my programs and my family. That’s all I have time for right now.
I have personally received 2,270 knee success stories to date from people doing my program, but what’s cooler than that is I receive even more total knee success stories from people who mastered my exercises and have now helped someone else to their own knee success story!
We’re all in this game of life together.
Yours in Solutions,