If you were to ask me the most common question that I receive on the regular,  “why am I doing this?” tops that list (right after, “how is your beard so freaking marvelous?”).

Hey guys/gals, Chris here- listen, I’m no English major, and I’m pretty sure that the above sentence structure is a wreck… so let’s just get that out of the way.  I KNOW!

See the girl to the left?  It’s not REALLY her, but my client, Danielle, gives me this look on a multi-daily basis.  She’ll be like, “ughhh what does a single arm slightly abducted farmer carry even do?”

When I politely explain to her the benefits and reason why she is doing it, she’ll mumble stuff at me in this Napoleon Dynamite-esque tone.

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Minus the “gross” line, that’s pretty much word-for-word what she says too…

But Danielle is right to want to understand why she’s doing what she’s doing, and you should too.  In our case, at Beyond Strength Performance, it all comes down to movement.  There are A LOT of different activities you can get involved in, and trust me when I tell you, there are people out there that don’t do a lick of structured exercise and they’re in great shape from an aesthetic viewpoint- but we’re concerned about a little more than that.  Our approach isn’t random movement to “forge elite fitness,” but rather calculated movements, in a specific order, for a specified time/repetitions to forge bullet-proof bodies ready for battle as a one man Army- all while looking great naked. Whew!

In a few of my latest posts I have talked about the 4×4 matrix and it’s use in progressing people from point A to point B, so I thought I’d get a little more in depth with how we use it with our members.  I am not saying that Gray Cook would sign off and give me an A+ for textbook implementation, but I would like to think he might ;-).  In all seriousness though, this is my interpretation and approach to using the 4×4 matrix to progress positioning, stability and strength…

What is the 4×4 Matrix?

Imagine that you woke up in the middle of a frozen lake… I have no clue how you got there, just work with me here.

Unless you sleep standing up, I would assume that you are lying down.  Any dimwit with half a brain knows that this is the safest position to be in on the ice, as your weight is disbursed over a larger area, thus protecting the integrity of the ice (of which you have no clue the thickness).  Well, this position, whether prone (face down) or supine (face up) is the starting position for the 4×4 matrix.  Now think of working to a standing position on the ice… Unless you have no care in the world for your personal safety, you wouldn’t just pop up.  You would slowly work up to being propped on your elbows, then quadruped (all fours), next kneeling, tall kneeling, half kneeling (lunge position with the back knee down), a split stance, and finally standing before attemping to walk off of the ice.

I threw in a few more positions than 4, but that’s the general idea of the 4×4 matrix.  We are moving from non-weight bearing, all the way to a standing position.  The other half of the equation is what to do in those positions.  This flow chart shows it quite well:

4X4 Corrective Matrix:
Position Resistance/Assistance
1. Non-Weight Bearing 1. No Resistance – Pattern Assistance
2. Quadruped 2. No Resistance
3. Kneeling (Half or Tall) 3. Resistance – Pattern Assistance
4. Standing 4. Resistance

How do we find out there’s a problem?

Assess.  You don’t HAVE to use an assessment to see movements that need corrected, but you’d be a fool not to.  Ask a room full of high school kids to demonstrate a walking lunge and you’ll see all kinds of movement “problems.”  Where do you start then?

We use the Functional Movement Screen (FMS).  I’m not going to get into the full 7 tests here, but for today we’ll use the rotary stability test.  First things first, what is the rotary stability test?

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That’s a rare example of a damn good rotary stability test and would pass as a “3,” the highest score on the FMS scale.  A “2” would look more like this:

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A “1” would involve the inability to complete the test with balance or proper position, but not present pain.  A “0,” on the other hand, would be any form of completion, or lack of completion, where pain is present.

The goal is obviously to not have any “1’s” or “0’s.”  But along with that we want to see symmetrical scores from left to right…

The most common score on this test, in our facility, has been symmetrical “2’s.”  Technically we do not have a “problem” per se, but I will now present some correctives walking through the 4×4 matrix.

What do we do?

Position First!

  • The first thing we want to be able to do is get into the position that we want to train.  Much of the time we take this for granted… but just work with a client that has a movement disorder and you’ll understand what I mean.  You may have to guide someone through the pattern to get into the proper position.  In MOST individuals, the nervous system will begin to “remember” the pattern and they will be able to do it on their own… The goal here is to simply be able to “own” a position without assistance.
  • Once the client can maintain the position on their own, we want to make sure that they are breathing properly and use pertubations and the like to challenge stability.  After success with the breath and stability, we can finally add movement before resistance.

The following are some example of using resistance to build up the rotary stability test with the 4×4 matrix… the main focus of this post is on the positions themselves.  I filmed this while the gym was closed, so I could not film many of the resistance/assistance exercises (especially assistance).  This is not intended to be a comlete matrix for each position (for some of the positions I have one exercise, involving resistance), but rather some ideas to get the ball rolling…



  • Lower Quadrant Rolling & Upper Quadrant Rolling
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  • Dead Bugs with Stability Ball
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  • Supine Pallof Press
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  • Supine Pallof Press with 90/90 at Hip/Knee
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  • Crawls (Bear – both forward and back, as well as side; Spider – both forward and back)
  • Lateral Resistance/Assistance (Cook Band) Bird Dog
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Tall Kneeling:

  • Pallof Press
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Half Kneeling:

  • Pallof Press (with alternating foot forward)
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Split Stance/Standing:

  • Split Stance Pallof Press (with alternating foot forward) and Pallof Press
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Bonus* – Accommodating Resistance & Gait:

  • Lateral Walk Pallof Press
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  • Single Arm Slightly Abducted Farmer Carry
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There were some things that I could not demonstrate as I filmed these exercises by myself while the gym was closed (hence, no help).  But “no resistance – pattern assistance” could be guiding a client through the motions- literally, move them the way you want them to.  I have to do this very often with my client, Melanie, whom you have seen in the videos about her Cerebral Palsy.  [If you haven’t seen the articles about Melanie, check them out: http://www.beyondstrengthperformance.com/be-thankful-for-the-little-things & http://www.beyondstrengthperformance.com/one-step-back-two-steps-forward] “Resistance – pattern assistance” would be a self correcting exercise that forces you to use the correct form.  This does not mean a machine with a fixed range of motion!  One option would be using reactive neuromuscular training (RNT) on a client that exhibits a valgus collapse (knock knees) during their squat pattern, using bands to pull the knees together further, thus causing their nervous system to react and them to self-correct.

Also, doing the movements and owning the movements are not one in the same.  In order to own a movement you’ve got to be able to perform it, free of compensation, and able to breathe properly throughout the entire movement.  This is key.

(I’ll be honest with you: You can see me struggle and adjust in the some of the above videos!  I have symettrical 2’s on the rotary stability test myself, but some of the positions in these videos are really challenging… watch for me to adjust my neck many times to try and remember to pack it, watch for difficulties in my breathing – rib flare – in some others…)

Now, am I saying that you would need to work on each of these positions until they are PERFECT?  No.  We use the FMS to find out where you can use some work, but also where we can train the hell out of you, safely, with load and/or volume.  These “correctives” will just help you to progress programing and impact you or your client’s movement where you/they need it…

These are merely a FEW exercises to get the ball rolling… once again, this is not the complete picture with each position.  From my experience thus far, there is no road map that works perfectly with every individual.  Play around with the idea of the 4×4 matrix and have fun coming up with your own approaches.

And before I finish, realize that these are merely exercises… there is still the soft tissue component, as well as an array of stretches and other corrective work to go along with this.  I could demonstrate a ton of exercises, especially with having only presented one in most of the categories, but I am hoping you at least get the idea of where I am going with it.

So look at your programming, or that of your clients’ and make sure that there’s a method to the madness…  Systems drive consistent results!


Progression through perseverance,

Coach Chris



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Chris Merritt
Strength Coach/ B.S. Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University/ FMS/ Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist/ Certified Kettlebell Instructor/ Owner of Beyond Strength Performance and Beyond Strength Performance NOVA
Chris Merritt
About the author

Strength Coach/ B.S. Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University/ FMS/ Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist/ Certified Kettlebell Instructor/ Owner of Beyond Strength Performance and Beyond Strength Performance NOVA

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