BODY TEMPERING: Don't Take It For Granted. It Works...
Body Tempering (BT) is a soft tissue mobilization modality utilizing external weight, usually in the form of metal cylinders (~19-200lbs), to produce externally loaded compression to the body, in which the body tends to respond with a neuromodulatory effect of decreased hypertonicity of involved muscles. In general, hypertonicity is a form of internal compression where the body’s nervous system increases the tone of specific areas of contractile soft tissues in an attempt to create a sense of stability/control of overly stressed (or even under-stressed) areas. If this reaction is prolonged and becomes chronic, this may and can contribute to a decrease in muscle function and performance and commonly presents as muscle tenderness or soreness, trigger points, joint stiffness around the involved soft tissues, limited joint mobility/restricted movement, muscle pain, limited exercise recovery, and perhaps, a poor tolerance to physical activity, in general.
The external compression of the BT device may be triggering a decompressive effect where the previous hypertonicity state of the soft tissues is disengaged as a response to the newly perceived state of stability caused by the BT implement. Perhaps we can think of it as an “All Clear” sign for the nervous system to disengage its natural protective reaction of increased tone in the muscles because it senses (and relates to) the compression formed from the external weight. For example, if we put a 50lbs BT roller on your quadriceps muscles, and let’s say, if it were possible to measure the amount of force within a specific area of hypertonicity within the quadriceps, to be ~40lbs, the nervous system has to prepare to meet the demand of the load of 50lbs. Since this is more than what it was doing previously, it senses enough stability within these soft tissues for it to “relax” its previous state of tonicity.
Body Tempering was developed by Donnie Thompson, a super heavyweight powerlifter who was the first to total 3000lbs in a competition. He developed BT and introduced it to the masses in 2014 and although it is still relatively early and new as a modality, and thus little specific research has been performed, there have been numerous studies on similar modalities such as the use of foam rollers and manual therapy in the form of ischemic compression and their neuromodulatory effects on soft tissues. BT is commonly used before training to prep the body for stress as well as after training to facilitate recovery. Imagine being a powerlifter, able to total 3000lbs within three exercises, and within an official competition, and what it would take to prep the body to reach and achieve such a state. Just imagine what kind of injuries Thompson must have had to overcome in order to keep up with this level of training. Don’t worry if this may seem “unimaginable” because not too many Human Beings walking on Earth today can say they have accomplished this. And the point is that someone like Donnie Thompson had to develop a modality such as body tempering as a result of the demands from his sport.
And you don’t have to be an elite powerlifter to reap the benefits of body tempering. Nor is it a modality exclusive to people who lift weights. If you’re alive and reading this, you can benefit. I describe body tempering as “passive” strength training in that, whether you have ever lifted weights before or not, your body will react to tempering as if you did. And this is why I recommend body tempering for those who do not “lift weights” as a consistent form of exercise. It literally preps their body for them to do so in a manner different than if they simply just started lifting weights solely.
You can perform body tempering on yourself to some degree and what is even more effective is when someone else with experience does it for you. As its popularity grows, numerous companies such as Rogue Fitness and Kabuki Strength are currently offering tempering devices for sale.
At Jocson Physical Therapy & Training, I offer body tempering services as an aspect of my Jocson Treat & Train Program for Patients (“physical therapy”) and Clients (“personal training”) as a way to prep their bodies to get stronger through the progressive overload of their strength training programs, as well as a recovery modality to assist restoration in-between training sessions.