Benefits of SET For Athletes

The following is a published article, written by Greg, that is of interest to those who coach athletes or are personally striving for improvements in athletic performance.

Since becoming involved in the sport of triathlon in 1990, I have watched and learned as the sport has grown. All those participating, whether an athlete, a coach, a race director, or even a volunteer, are continually getting more education, being creative and exploring new ideas to help the sport expand, become safer and soar to new heights. The science of training for this sport has grown by leaps and bounds, taking in the new and not forgetting the old. Certainly, it is now recognized as an industry of its own. 25 years ago, who would have thought this could happen? Remember all those comments about how Ironman distances were impossible? But innovations in equipment, fuel and training have rendered that attitude obsolete. Look at where we are now, with an unprecedented number of participants in the event. This popularity has resulted in advances in the science of performance that may not have occurred otherwise. We explored the new and conquered. I consider myself lucky to be a part of it. Despite this progress, we have not yet exhausted every opportunity for athletes to reach their peak potential.

Coaching athletes in this sport requires attention to the physical, mental and chemical aspects of the body. They all work together for an athlete to achieve success. Coaches and athletes must together identify “limiters” within each of these three areas in order to accomplish goals. As a SET (Structural Energetic Therapy) therapist and USAT coach, I have made some discoveries through clinical trials in my practice. I see many athletes come through the office, some successful and some struggling to get by. It usually comes down to two groups: Elite athletes vs. Age Group athletes. What are the differences between the two? You may have first said that Elites possess genetic traits that are conducive to their sport. They also typically have more time for training and rest. The list of differences goes on and on. But one “limiter” that does not occur to most people is postural dysfunction. This encompasses the body’s imbalances that prevent optimum strength and cause poor economy. This is exactly the type of problem I tackle as a SET therapist.

The Core Distortion

Elite athletes have a way of making their sport look so easy. Their bodies in motion are almost flawless. Why? One reason is that the core distortion collapse is not as present or evident in the elite athlete as in your typical age-group athlete. The core distortion is basically instability resulting from the separation between the iliums (hip bones) and the sacrum (tailbone) while under weight-bearing stress. This creates a spiral dysfunction, a strain pattern, with its corresponding imbalances, throughout the body. The degree of this distortion could be why some make the team and some don’t. It could also make the difference between a poor to good running gait and a great running gait, or whether or not one maintains high cadences and rides smoothly on the bike. Ever notice the weak left arm of your swim stroke? And why do some people always seem to have an injury holding them back? It is a result of this uneven strength in the primary movers due to the spiral imbalance of the dysfunctional state. In other words, the body works harder than necessary to perform some movements. The weakened side is forced to recruit other muscles to keep up with the strong side. This can lead to injury or an inability to fully recover from injury.

Typically, when an imbalance is found, we are encouraged to strengthen with resistance training. The fundamental problem is that this only makes a dysfunctional state stronger, i.e. more dysfunctional. When you first remove the dysfunction, and then strengthen…voila! You have a much better state than before. Improvement in the balance of strength leads to an improvement in an athlete’s performance. An essential aspect of Structural Energetic Therapy is the elimination of this core distortion.

Defining and understanding the core distortion or dysfunction is difficult to do on paper. It is a learning process that becomes much easier to comprehend once you practice identifying it hands-on. This is done using two methods: body reading and kinesiology testing.

Body Reading

Find a friend, client or fellow athlete and ask him to stand 10 feet in front of you. If he is wearing a swimsuit, underwear, or running shorts, you’ll be able to identify postural traits that make up the core distortion. Begin by looking at the hip bones(ASIS). Is the left (their left) lower than the right? Is the left side rotated forward (appearing closer to you than the right)? If so, observe what the lower leg is doing to absorb the extra leg length. You might notice rotation of the knee medially and/or a collapse of the foot, laterally rotated or supinated and medially rotated.

Now focus on the upper body. Is the right shoulder rotated or sunken down more than the left? Is there visible tightness on the right side of the neck more so than the left? Next, ask him to turn around. From the back side, is there a flare in the right scapula? Does the left hip appear higher than the right? Is the right gluteus maximus more developed? Which knee is hyper-extended? These imbalances are just a few indicators of the extent of the core distortion. If you are having trouble seeing this, please keep in mind that it does take practice. It is also possible that you are looking at someone whose core distortion is not as visible to read. However, everyone possesses it to some degree.

If you are a coach, you can read your athletes’ bodies while they are in workouts or races. The finish-line of an Ironman is ideal since the core distortion is in an extended state of collapse following such a long, rigorous event. You can even observe it in some post-race photographs. You might be amazed to see how weaknesses win, despite the outcome of the race. The more you practice body reading, the better this skill develops.

Kinesiology Testing

The next method of identifying the core distortion is through kinesiology testing. This method reveals the imbalances more consistently. Using quick and easy tests, coaches, therapists and trainers can identify weaknesses and take appropriate action with their athletes. The following are a few of those tests:

Have the athlete lie on her back on a treatment table (or on the ground if no table is available). Ask her to hold her right arm out straight, raise it 45 degrees, and rotate it medially so that the thumb is down. This will be the indicator for what we challenge. Ask the athlete to resist your downward pressure (the athlete’s arm goes up while you apply downward pressure). This will isolate the anterior deltoid. You will notice that the resistance is good (strong). Now ask the athlete to rotate her head to the right (like breathing while swimming). Again, have her resist with the right arm starting at the same 45 degree height. What is the result, weak or strong? Now do the same with athlete turning her head to the left. Is she weak or strong? You, as a coach or trainer, can see the test differences with these subtle position changes and athletes can feel the differences in their strength. This is incredible to witness.

Now do the same series of tests with the left arm held out straight in the same position (45 degrees up and rotated medially). There is no need to turn the head this time. The left arm is always weak until the distortion is corrected for a permanent change. Until now, left-handed pitchers could only dream of this discovery and the corresponding SET correction.

Next, test the left leg vs. the right leg. Again, the athlete is on her back. Ask her to lift her right leg off the table 8-10”, keeping it straightened. Place one hand just above the right knee (quad) and one below the knee (shin). Ask her to resist as you push down. Observe the strength of her resistance. Then, do the same with the left leg. What do you get? Chances are, the left leg will test much weaker than the right one did.

You can also test the hamstrings and gluteus. Ask the athlete to flip over, lying on her belly. Bend (flex the knee) and raise the left leg up, contracting the gluteus and hamstrings. Ask her to resist your pressure and what do you get? Pretty strong, correct? Do the same for the right leg. You’ll find that it is weaker than other side.

This is just a sample of a host of kinesiology tests. Other tests compare the left and right hips, knees, arches of the feet and more.

The Role of SET

Structural Energetic Therapy (, founded by Don McCann, MA, LMHC, LMT is the basis for this treatment. While treating clients with acute and chronic pain, we have found that, not only does SET reduce their pain, but their performance is also improved. A “limiter” beyond the pain itself has been found and treated. Most athletes already have the other ingredients in the mix going well for them. This is the next step to getting more performance in the endurance world of efficiency of movement patterns. Furthermore, aches and pains disappear. Many athletes can feel the difference as soon as they stand up. They feel balanced! There may be a sense of feeling taller, more grounded in both feet, and shoulders feeling relaxed. It can even be easier to stand. This results in both improved and increased training. Balance returns to a state much like what they experienced in their younger years. Whoops, did I say we turned back time?

The solution is a simple, yet powerful treatment of releasing the SBS joint’s soft tissue in the cranial vault. It takes less than 20-30 minutes for the trained therapist. Sport team trainers, massage therapists, physical therapists, nurses, and other medical professionals can also learn this treatment. After the treatment session, the same kinesiology muscle testing will confirm the results are successful. It’s that simple.

SET is a breakthrough for the science of performance. For many who have been struggling to find their limiter, it is like breaking through to the other side. And, best of all, the correction is permanent (unless the client has a traumatic blow to the cranial vault resulting from a car crash, bike fall, fist fight, etc. In which case, the release can simply be repeated)!


Once the treatment is completed, many athletes feel the urge to rush out and hammer down a workout. However, this is not recommended. It is best to undergo a day of rest with some easy walking in the “new self.”
Recalling the individual tests, some muscles had to work much harder than others. So now, weak muscles will be asked to work. These muscles need some adaptation time. The following week, light aerobic exercise focusing on form/technique of the individual sport(s) would be ideal. Swimmers should stay away from the strain of paddles and focus on drills in body positioning and stroke. Cyclists need to work on efficiency of cadence, not power. And for some, a new bike fit would be recommended. Runners should work on the awareness of their gait and arm swing/leg rhythmic patterns.

It is also time to throw away used shoes as they are holding the old patterns of the feet. Orthotics should be tossed or re-fitted. Core exercises or functional resistance training can begin and will bring the once weakened areas into stronger movement patterns. Keep workouts light and easy until obvious gains in strength are identifiable. In my experience, I have observed great improvements in just a 4-6 week period. This just might be the missing link you’ve been searching for.

As the owner of Carolina Structural Restoration Therapy, LLC, Greg helps many people who suffer with acute and chronic pain. Using advanced techniques involving soft-tissue releases, he treats back, head, neck and shoulder pain, as well as a host of other strain patterns.

"After having surgeries on my right knee, my left Achilles tendon, and my lower back between the ages of 30 and 35, I thought my future exercise would be very limited. However, after catching the fitness bug again in my late 30s, I hired Greg as both a therapist and coach. As a result, over the past 4 years, I have been able to remain healthy, train hard, and continue to achieve personal bests ..."

- Don C., Greenville, SC

Carolina Structural Restoration Therapy

(864) 877-3500
107 Memorial Dr., Greer, SC 29650