Start at the End: A Case for Special Physical Preparedness

“I need to get my wind back.”

Every time I heard this I cringed.

I did all the right stuff returning guys back to sport.

I’m talking getting guys more neutral than Ron Hruska on a tropical island, FMS scores that Gray Cook would be ‘mirin’, hop tests that Kevin Wilk would foam at the mouth over, and high intensity continuous training sessions that would make Joel Jamieson say “really?”

Yet as soon as they got onto the court, they’d be smoked.

I’d hear that cursed phrase over and over again.

What was I doing wrong? I thought we address all of their performance needs, yet we would continually run into the same problem.

It wasn’t until I learned the following axiom that we broke this pattern:

General Physical Preparedness ≠ Special Physical Preparedness

Preparatory end-game must involve specific tasks an individual performs in his or her given arena.

The sooner one arrives or stays there, the better.

Perhaps a better scenario involves starting with the special and avoid travelling down GPP rabbit holes?

A Case for Special Before General

Dartanian sustained a knee contusion and was having pain cutting and accelerating.

He was one of our best shooters, and being able to perform multi-directional cuts off of screens was how he scored with reckless abandon.

I bet you are thinking, Zac probably plopped him on the table, tested him out, gave him a couple non manual techniques and some hands-on and called it a day. #winning

Not this time.

Instead, we refined directional stepping, closeout decelerations, and staying low out of cuts.

Lo and behold, his knee didn’t hurt when we favorably altered his mechanics.

To facilitate game translation, we progressed in the following manner:

Task-specific drills → Task-specific non-contact game scenarios → Task-specific contact game scenarios → Progress scenarios to game speed

This progression took about 20 minutes, and by the end he was moving without hesitancy or pain.

He played pain-free for the season’s remainder.

When to Start at the End

I’m unsure why I skipped right to the painful task, but it’s something I will do more frequently.

Not only can addressing an individual’s problematic task first accelerate buy-in, but oftentimes expedites event return.

There are a few instances in which this strategy ought to be followed:


Continual participation in a game or event is critical for reducing injury risk, simply because task loads cannot be accurately reproduced with general methods. Moreover, since our modalities our nonspecific, task transfer proportions are idiosyncratic at best.

At worst they are minimal.

Pain Only Occurs with that Task

Suppose you have someone who has pain while sitting for a prolonged period of time. Instead of addressing a myriad number of impairments, you may consider reinforcing fidgeting, altering sitting mechanics, or using a periodic walking strategy. If that takes care of the problem then your job is done. Save impairments for another day.

Time Constraints

My granny has knee osteoarthritis and uses a cane because it hurts to walk.

For a long time she used the cane on the wrong side. Once I finally convinced her to use the cane correctly, she reported having less pain with walking.

While there are many things I could do to help her, sometimes it is just faster to make tweak at the task at hand. We do this all the time when someone has back pain while deadlifting, or shoulder pain while bench pressing. Apply the same principle to specific performance tasks.

Don’t for a second think I’m a heartless bastard for not helping my granny more. I once bought her “Why Do I Hurt” for her to read. She said it was bullshit! Pick your battles.


Starting at the end focuses on what’s most important for your client, and can avoid unnecessary rehab programs.

To review:

  • General methods do not always transfer to special scenarios.
  • Improving or returning to performance often involves addressing specific tasks.
  • Starting with specific tasks can often reduce time spent with general methods.

Performance is always the goal. Never lose sight of it.


  1. The most hilarious thing I find about this post is that after reading it, the advertisement at the bottom is for Ashley Black Guru Fasciablaster

  2. HI Zac! Thanks for the blog. Do you feel that integrating Postural Restoration and FMS with your patient that quite possibly the fatigue was cause my the neurologically system learning something new? I have found integrating PRI with my athletes, I will affect their performance at the beginning of treatment. If my patient has a race or a game, I do as you did with your patient and treat to decrease their “symptoms.” I integrate PRI with lower level activity. I then have my patients return after their game or race and in the long-term, their performance improved. Faster times, increase vertical, improved movement without symptoms. The timing of integration with the athlete is crucial with where they are in their training or season in my clinical practice. Again, thanks for your thoughts.

    1. Hey Lori, appreciate you reading my blog.

      While I can only speak for my athlete population, it is hard for me to tease that out. Oftentimes while athletes are in rehab their training load in their sport is reduced. This decrease would reduce fitness, which would then reduce performance. Being able to get an athlete out of pain would then allow for resuming normal training loads, which would then improve performance over the long term.

      In the times where I was able to maintain workloads but apply our rehab modalities (e.g. player in pain but not enough to stop playing), there was no drop off in performance initially. Oftentimes I’d see performance improve, but it’s hard to say if that is because they hurt less or because of the changes that occurred to their bodies.

      Again, this is mostly in basketball players, I would reason that changes may vary across different sporting populations. Always must factor in training load though.

      Hope this provides some clarity,


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