Functional Range Conditioning

Matt Kirtley is a certified Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist and a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt in Bethlehem, PA. This guide will explain what FRC is, what you can get out of it, and how you can start doing it.

What do you get out of FRC?

  • Enjoy healthier joints
  • Move freely without pain
  • Greater strength and control
  • Better joint mobility
  • Improved flexibility
  • Larger active ranges of motion
  • Enhanced athletic abilities
  • More durability
  • Reduced risk of injury
  • Faster recovery

Who can benefit from FRC?

  • Any human who wants a healthier body with stronger joints and better movement
  • Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners (like me), martial artists, and combat athletes
  • Athletes in sports like football, rugby, baseball, basketball, volleyball, etc.
  • Dancers, acrobats, and performers who need greater flexibility and control
  • Rock climbers who want relief from grip strain and more movement options
  • Olympic and power lifting athletes who want better performance without worse injuries
  • Yogis who want to enhance their practice with scientifically-driven methodologies
  • People with connective tissue problems like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • People with joint pain like arthritis and tendinitis
  • People will movement or motor function problems like multiple sclerosis

How to get started training FRC

If you are located in Lehigh Valley, PA (mainly the cities of Allentown, Bethlehem, or Easton), you can work with me one-on-one in private FRC training sessions. Here’s what you can expect:

  1. Contact me and we can go over your injury/training history and your current goals.
  2. In your first session, I’ll give you head-to-toe assessment so we know exactly what’s going on with your body.
  3. You will learn an easy daily mobility routine so you can make progress everyday.
  4. We will develop a customized program to achieve your mobility/flexibility goals.

As we train, you will learn to apply the FRC methods as they apply to you. I will be happy to explain as much of the science and rationale behind it as you are interested in. My goal is to educate you so you can keep making gains without being dependent on me.

You can start your education by reading these articles about FRC and mobility, written mostly for BJJ athletes, but useful for anyone. If you are short on time, just read Part 3:

If you want to go deep, read my articles Jiu-Jitsu Will Destroy You If You Let It: How I Finally Started Fixing My Broken Body and Functional Range Conditioning and Kinstretch from the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Perspective.

How is FRC different from yoga?

The short answer is FRC is based on the current science of how human bodies work and how we can affect tissue growth and motor skill development, while yoga has poses and stretches that are passed down from guru to student based on the tradition of the yoga practice.

The longer answer:

The most common question I get when someone new sees me doing FRC is “Is that yoga?” I have done some yoga and like it, but I am nowhere near an expert, so I tell them “No, it’s FRC, but this pose may be similar to one in yoga.” FRC will have you doing stretches and movements that will remind you of yoga or Pilates because all practices that seeks to improve flexibility and mobility have some crossover.

Where FRC is different is that its methods are not derived from an ancient tradition or the beliefs of its founder. FRC started with a look at the scientific research on stretching, connective tissue, muscle growth, neuroplasticity, etc. and asked “What would a mobility practice look like based on the science?” From this, we can answer questions like how long to hold a stretch, what forces stimulate the most change in tissues, how to give the brain what it wants when learning a new skill, and many other questions. The application of scientific principles drove the creation of FRC and how it is practiced, instead of someone just making up some stretches and exercises that seemed good and slapping some bro science on it.

Yoga has many different styles, and each yoga instructor can have an unique approach, so it’s hard to make a blanket statement about all yoga. But, in general, yoga tends to focus on passive end ranges of flexibility and holding static poses a certain way based on how they are traditionally done. Not all yoga styles are like that, but many, if not most, are.

FRC focuses more on increasing active ranges of motion by targeting mobility in a way that combines strength and control through end ranges of movement. The goal is to be able to use the ranges you have even as you increase them. FRC programs are tailored to the needs of the person doing it. You can apply same principles you learn in FRC to any stretch or pose if you understand what you’re doing.

Many FRC practitioners are also yoga instructors, and they use FRC to enhance their practice, because it allows them to target certain attributes more precisely, or to be sure how they practice yoga is in line with what modern science says.

FRC does have a group class format called Kinstretch that is similar in format to a yoga class. You can think of it as “yoga for people who don’t want yoga” in that it has no Eastern philosophy or cultural traditions attached. Instead, it’s a movement practice backed up by science.

What is the difference between flexibility and mobility? Why does it matter?

Flexibility is the total range of motion someone could achieve, even through passive means, like someone helping you stretch or taking a long time stretching to let gravity draw you into a deep position.

Mobility is how much of that flexibility you can control by exerting strength and generating movement in and out of it. In FRC, we focus on mobility because it gives you more control and resilience to injury like you probably to want, and you will gain increased flexibility too. This is explained in more depth in my article Laying the Groundwork for a Mobility Practice.

Why is FRC so good for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu athletes?

Speaking as a BJJ black belt, I think FRC and BJJ both look at the body in terms of biomechanics and finding the best ways to get leverage for maximum effect, and both are based on what works in a real world, not what some supposed guru or sensei told us. The founder of Functional Anatomy Systems, Dr. Andreo Spina, is a purple belt in BJJ, and several of the top FRC/Kinstretch instructors are BJJ black belts.

FRC is being adopted by the BJJ and MMA community because it addresses one of the biggest problems with the health of athletes: chronic joint pain, habitual posture problems, and acute joint pain from injuries (like submissions that get cranked too hard). And if durable, pain-free, healthy joints weren’t good enough, you can get into advanced FRC training to get bigger active ranges of motion, become able to generate more power without more muscle, and move with more precision and control.