This page is devoted to explaining the Circular Strength Training system, along with why I use it, and how you can get started exploring it today.
*this page will be updated frequently
What is CST? – the official description
*this official description of CST is being reprinted from Scott Sonnon’s FlowCoach.tv website here: (http://www.rmaxinternational.com/flowcoach/?page_id=218)
The Circular Strength Training® (CST) System is the “flagship” professional certification course at RMAX International, resulting in a 22.5 hour training examination conducted at the 3-day seminar. CST was pioneered by Scott Sonnon, and the RMAX International Faculty Coaching Staff continue to build on his insights to evolve a more refined, coherent, cohesive and comprehensive approach to becoming a movement specialist. CST has rapidly emerged among the premier training modalities in the health / fitness and strength / conditioning arenas.
The CST “brand” of movement-based exercise is different from other comparable training such as those offered in functional fitness, tactical training and movement methods.
The following is exhaustive. Practitioners do not need to know all of CST in order to receive 100% of the benefits. However, the deeper you go, the more you can uncover…
- CST uses a total “vocabulary” of joint mobility drills to ship nutrition, lubrication and shock absorption to the active joints for optimal efficiency, rapid recovery, and pain and injury prevention. Unlike pathologically-based mobilization methods which are based upon a “trauma lens” of movement, CST is based upon developmental neurophysiology for the organization of joint mobility drill sequencing called Intu-Flow® (”intuitive flow”).
- CST uses the “toolbox” of body-weight movements (from yoga to martial arts) in order to “clean the slate” of the over-specializations (compensations) which result from life, injury, attitude and each and every successful exercise/skill performed in a prior cycle.) Named Prasara Body-Flow™, this Compensatory Movement™ Technique unloads the functional opposite of any repeated movement in order to preserve benefits and prevent drawbacks.
- CST involves more than mere compression to stimulate adaptation in progressive resistance. Clubbell® swinging – the oldest fitness tool and the first martial art in ancient Russia, Persia and India – combines traction to strengthen not just muscle but also connective tissue protecting the joints while building strength. In addition, since the Clubbell is swung, torque allows force production to increase exponentially rather than geometrically; instead of adding plates, the displaced center of mass swung twice as fast produces four times the force.
- CST has evolved a precise sophistication of the warm-up, work-out, cool-down triumvirate. Tri-Ring Integration™ design technique seamlessly interweaves joint mobility to prime the specific acting joints with nutrition, lubrication and shock absorption, multi-planar progressive resistance to re-balance adaptions from the prior cycle of training, and compensatory movement to unload the functional opposite of the exercise selection to maximize results and minimize over-compensations. This formula creates a dramatic result significantly greater than the sum of its individual 3 parts.
- CST represents the next stage in movement evolution. What began as linear, militaristic calisthenics, developed into “functional” training with the addition of angular/diagonal motions. Circular Strength Training adds in the missing rotary aspect of tri-planar biomechanics through Dr. Nikolai Bernstein’s work. Unlike standard “muscle-based” physiology, CST provides a language to movement, called the 6D Matrix™ – doubling capacity from tr-planar to six degrees of freedom. Basic certification includes 5 stock follow-along programs: Cardio, Strength, Athleticism, Core (ventral)/Crunch, and Core (dorsal)/Back Strengthening.
- As opposed to merely studying exercises skills, CST biomechanics teach how to dissect any skill through the Component Learning Technique™. Deconstructing skills into their 7 primary mechanical and coordinative aspects creates a training environment for rapid skill acquisition and refinement. The Technique seamlessly stringing together components to foster both skill refinement and improvisational flow. CST practitioners are widely regarded for their ability to internalize skills and approximate mastery quickly.
- CST offers an errorless, injury prevention method being a “health-first fitness” approach through monitoring the internal experience of exercise, called the ETD Compass™. Understanding this specific formula allows subjective evaluation of safety and performance by integrating the Rate of Perceived Exertion, Technique and Discomfort. This creates consistent, sustainable progress of skill refinement while preventing pain or injury set-backs.
CST teaches a sophisticated approach to respiratory efficiency: the Breath Mastery Scale™ allows teachers to observe the 5 levels and 4 volumes of breath. Based upon the Soviet performance and health enhancement scientists (Drs Nikolai Buteyko and Vladimir Frolov), CST offers a stress physiology perspective to breathing which allows maximal effort with minimal energy expenditure.
- Unlike lever-based approaches to movement which assume that musculo-skeletal actions hinge upon independent joint mechanics, CST is based upon Dr. Stephen Levin’s science of Biotensegrity: We can only ever train movements, not muscles, due to the “myofascial matrix” – the web of connective tissue. The fascial net dictates that we must train systemically, rather than segmentally, holistically rather than in isolation.
- CST’s method of Poise Analysis™ (visual assessment and movement screen) is logical, coherent, unfolding the approach step-by-step as one’s personal practice deepens. The ability to design specific programs requires an understanding of the ultimate goal, but more importantly the point of departure: screening and correcting the individual’s current over-compensation dysfunctions. The CST method of Poise Analysis organically evolves from the actual practice and teaching of the CST programs, rather than independently, allowing students to recognize what they’ve owned through their practice.
- CST offers a periodization model of cycling training modalities and goals to achieve a peak moment: an optimal athletic experience, regardless of whether the client is training for sport, for vocation or for life. Based upon models by Drs Tudor Bompa and Mel Siff, the Training Hierarchy Pyramid™ creates a harmonious balance of work / recovery through the science/art of the Fibonacci Sequence, also known as the Golden Mean. Through application of the material, the cognitive becomes intuitive, and “peaking” comes faster and without struggle.
- CST uniquely offers the science of mental toughness and emotional control training based upon Soviet and Olympic sports psychology (Drs Grigori Raiport and Robert Nideffer) through a diagnostics approach called the Awareness Diamond™ – corresponding to the four mental/emotional athletic archetypes. By learning how to dial-in to the appropriate aspect of awareness, performance accelerates, attitudinal “drag” diminishes, and quality of experience increases as a life-skill applicable to all circumstances.
- CST provides a conscious and deliberate architecture named the Three-Dimensional Performance Pyramid™ (3DPP) to program the optimal physical experience which psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi named Flow-State – a mental and emotional event transcending merely a physical “peak” performance often referred to as the “Zone.” Renovating a modified coupling of Gichin Funakoshi’s “Red Triangle” (kata/practice, kumite/competition, kihon/training) with Dr Tudor Bompa’s physical development pyramid, the 3DPP pinnacles in the entering and maintaining flow-state.
For information on seminars and certification in the world’s FIRST and BEST health-first, flow performance fitness system, go to www.CircularStrengthTraining.com and reserve your space on the RMAX International Team!
What is CST? – in my own words
The above description can be a little overwhelming to take in all at once. So, I will break it down into a personal explanation of what CST is in layman’s terms.
CST is a personal development system that is implemented through a daily physical practice. It’s a method, a way of becoming a better person (not THE way).The nature of being a method is that it can be applied to many areas of specialty. This is why CST is used for a large assortment of purposes – whether it be as simple as fat loss or muscle building to as sophisticated as preparing a professional athlete for their competition. You can even pursue mastery of CST itself, a self-pursuit of movement and health potential, as there are so many areas of study already available and new areas are constantly being developed by the CST Faculty.
As you can see, CST is a broad system, which makes it difficult to understand initially. As consumers, we like to know “is it a workout DVD program for functional strength or a certification course for personal trainers?” Even though CST has both workout DVD’s and certification courses, that isn’t what makes it so valuable. The real value is the fact that CST is a METHOD that can be repurposed to fit almost any physical living goal. This is why there are so many different program offerings available, because once you “get” CST, you realize that the potential of the method far outweighs the potential of any individual program or course. So, yes, there are CST programs specifically for fat loss, muscle building, strength, and personal development, and injury prevention goals, etc. These programs can be purchased individually and practiced at home or at the gym, or you may find a local certified CST Professional to offer personal coaching, or you can attend one of the many workshops, clinics, and training seminars to experience CST in its entirety (to experience and learn the CST METHOD). You can even try one of the many free CST programs available online. There are various educational options available because everyone learns differently.
CST is not only broad, it’s also complicated, and necessarily so. Physical health isn’t a simple subject to understand, and neither is achieving performance or aesthetic goals. The human body is one of the most intricate and sophisticated organisms in known existence, which is why it’s paramount for training practices to be extensively researched and tested prior to becoming available as a legitimate system of improving physical health. This is why CST seems “out there,” because it goes well beyond modern, familiar physical training philosophy and practice. It uses the latest research, “hot-off-the-press” that many coaches have not even heard of. Things like biotensegrity and flow-state performance are not new ideas, necessarily, but they are brand new concepts for fitness and sport. This is why CST-speak is hard to pick up, because it uses an entirely new vocabulary to describe movement.
So, in practical terms, what does the end-result of practicing CST look like?
The joint mobility exercises have often been called high-tech Tai-chi or Qigong, but also “stripper moves” and “ceremonial mating rituals.” These are most often used as a pre-workout warmup, but can also be used as a daily joint strengthening practice.
The clubbell training exercises are usually labeled functional strength-endurance builders or 3-dimensional strength training tools (ie athletic strength). The idea is that once you have recovered proper range of motion in your joints through your joint mobility practice, you should then add resistance to those ranges of motion with clubbell swinging – which is one of the best tools for strengthening a complete movement pattern.
The Prasara BodyFlow yoga routines are most often used as a post-workout cooldown, recovery-enhancer, and as a means of injury prevention. Prasara yoga can also be a stand-alone training practice on its own for a variety of training goals.
So, the three elements of a typical CST training session include:
Joint Mobility and Activity Specific warmup
Clubbell training and/or alternative strength training
Prasara BodyFlow Yoga cooldown
What makes CST so unique is the Tri-Ring Integration of the above 3 training elements. Programmed properly, a training program will be well-balanced with health-promoting joint mobility exercises, clubbell training (or other strength training method), and Prasara BodyFlow yoga to achieve optimal results from the time devoted to exercise. Each element is valuable in and of itself, and could be studied and practiced indefinitely, but the most results will be obtained when all three are working together to create the maximum stimulus possible along with recovering and adapting to that stimulus.
Other Things of Note
When training with CST, you may use various training tools like clubbells, kettlebells, sandbags, resistance bands, medicine balls, pullup bars, parallel bars, parallettes, olympic rings, plyo boxes, and even barbells and dumbbells. Remember, CST is a method that can be applied to not only any training goal, but also any training tool.
Why do I use and endorse CST?
CST is sustainable. This is what sets CST apart from any other training system I have experimented with – it’s sustainable long-term. I’ve been practicing CST since 2006, and in that time I have not only gotten stronger and more fit for my lifestyle, I have also improved my health. Most training systems I’ve tried in the past have eventually led me into injury or worse because they put performance or physique goals before health.
Since CST is a health-first system, it has injury prevention and active recovery strategies built right into the programs. Traditional programs generally do not have much outside of the “work” portion of training and maybe a non-specific or outdated warmup and cooldown. The balance between hard-style and soft-style training techniques in CST ensures that a trainee is able to train indefinitely, without side-lining injuries or nagging pains to work around.
This means that not only have I stayed injury-free, I’ve also experienced the most progress in my strength training. I’m able to constantly build upon previous accomplishments because nothing is stopping me. In a way, CST has taken the parking brake off of my performance by giving me full-time access to my conditioning and movement skills.
CST is comprehensive. The CST method can be applied to virtually any physical training goal, and CST addresses all aspects of physical training – they have left no stone unturned. Everything you could possibly think of when considering optimal physical training is covered in the CST system – ranging from mental/emotional preparedness for a competition, to the component learning technique that helps you to dissect any movement skill into its basic elements, to a time-tested system for seeking after optimal physical performance (aka flowstate). I’ve never experienced a system that considers the entire spectrum of physical training and its impact on a trainee’s lifestyle so much as CST does.
Usually a strength training system has a few elements that are regulated, and the rest of the system is left up to the individual coaches. This isn’t the case with CST, where everything is systematized into a coherent method. Once the method (the framework) is understood, only then can someone begin to express their own “version” of CST.
CST works. I’ve used CST to successfully drop bodyfat, build muscle, increase strength and other physical attributes, improve specific sport performances, prevent injury, improve and coordinate range of motion, and achieve flowstate performance time and time again. The CST crowd makes some ambitious claims, and I’ve found them to be accurate in my own training. Of course, your experience using CST could be different. I think my experience as a fitness professional has definitely helped me implement CST successfully, and someone without fitness knowledge may have a little more trouble with it. But the good news is that you don’t need to be an expert to receive 100% of the benefits of the programs. All you have to do is practice the programs as instructed, and you’ll be well on your way to understanding the HOW and WHY it works.
CST is a supportive community. When I first got involved with the CST “tribe,” I felt an overwhelming feeling of exclusivity. To put it bluntly, I felt like I had stumbled on a physical culture cult that was trying to lure blind followers into their gates for profit. The more time I spent getting to know the faculty and coaches, however, the more I realized that it wasn’t a cult so much as it was a group of people from different backgrounds trying to work together on a common basis to seek out the worlds best physical training practices for the purposes of health-first fitness and performance. What I perceived as exclusivity, was actually the result of intensive quality control being administered over the business. They’ve got a good thing going over at the CST community, and they are doing their best to protect it, so that it doesn’t get spoiled in the future.
The CST Faculty, head coaches, coaches, instructors, and other members are some of the most supportive and encouraging people I’ve ever corresponded with. If you attend a CST seminar, you’ll experience this first-hand and realize that it’s very rare for such an excellent organization to come together and create something good. Sure, it will be labeled a cult, a clique, or a herd of blind followers, but those who make that assumption likely don’t have the experience to know for sure.
How can CST help you?
The answer is… it depends.
If you’re looking for a well-rounded fitness system that will produce functional and athletic strength and conditioning while fortifying your health and vitality, then CST will be perfect for you. However, if you care more about physique or performance goals than health, then bodybuilding, powerlifting, strongman, or cross training (ie CrossFit) may be a better solution for you, and there are plenty of online resources available for those.
Of course, you can pick and choose different CST programs to help enhance your current training program. For example, it never hurts to have some mobility exercises on top of your traditional strength training program. Each CST program has a specific purpose and will cater to those things very well in-and-of-themselves.
Although, the best thing you could probably do is get started with CST in some capacity to “test the waters” and see if it’s a good fit for your lifestyle and training goals.
THE BEGINNERS GUIDE ABOUT HOW TO GET STARTED WITH CST