Bodybuilder, Heal Thyself

An Interview with Dr. Ken Kinakin


Did you know that sensitivity to sunlight and feeling lightheaded when you stand up are both signs of overtraining? Did you know you can battle overtraining with vitamin C? Did you know that the highest blood pressure ever recorded was caused from heavy leg presses and the best way to prevent injuries is to focus on your diet? Yep, all true, and most T-mag readers first learned this info from our interview with Dr. Ken Kinakin almost two years ago.

Dr. Kinakin is a chiropractor, a certified strength and conditioning specialist, and the founder of the rapidly growing Society of Weight Training Injury Specialists, or S.W.I.S. Ken has also competed in both bodybuilding and powerlifting for over twenty years. He's not only remained on the cutting edge of his field, he's defined the cutting edge.

We decided to call up Dr. Kinakin for two reasons. First, he always blows our minds with new information about everything from training to diet. Second, Dr. Kinakin is putting together the 3rd Annual Weight-Training Injury Symposium which is coming up November 16-18, 2001, in Toronto. And get this, presenting at this year's symposium will be ten experts that are either regular T-mag contributors or people we've interviewed in the past. This is the seminar to attend in 2001. For more on that and why you should be chewing (yes, chewing!) your protein shakes, read on!

Testosterone: For those who aren't familiar with SWIS, give them a quick overview.

Dr. Ken Kinakin: In 1999 I was teaching weight trainers, personal trainers and doctors across the United States and Canada in different seminars. Several things came out of these seminars. First, I found that doctors were giving poor training advice, like squats are bad for the knees and so on. Personal trainers were also trying to diagnose their clients. If you had a shoulder problem, they'd tell you that you had rotator cuff syndrome, not even understanding what a rotator cuff is.

These trainers would give you an exercise for a weak muscle not understanding that a muscle can be weak for a lot of different reasons. There could be a muscle problem, but there could also be a muscle adhesion or a joint complex problem causing a neurological problem. So the person may need Active Release Technique, they may need to see a chiropractor, or they may need physiotherapy or massage therapy.

Once you understand how all those things integrate, then you can build a team. That's the big thing I'm trying to get across with SWIS. We're trying to bridge the gap between doctors, therapists and trainers. The trainers don't know who to refer the person over to because a weight training injury is completely different than an impact injury that you'd have in football. Then the doctors don't know who to refer their patients over to once they've finished treatment because the personal trainers give the wrong exercises and hurt their clients. SWIS brings all those people together and educates them.

We get e-mails from all over the world from people with an injury wanting to know who they can turn to in their area. These people are frustrated. SWIS has over 500 members across Canada and the US. We're building a directory at the SWIS website so you can go there and find someone in your town that actually understands weight training injuries.

T: That'll be a great resource for sure. So how did the symposium come about?

KK: It started in 1999 with twelve presenters. About 400 people showed up, half of them doctors and therapists and half of them trainers and people who just wanted to learn more about training. The symposium was a huge success so I decided to run it again last year. We had fourteen presenters and about 500 people attended. This year I've gotten a little carried away; I've got 34 presenters! I've spared no expense to bring in the best people in the world.

T: Wow. Sounds great!

KK: The synergy is really incredible. You have all the top doctors, all the top trainers, and all these athletes interacting and learning from each other. Sometimes the real show is out in the foyer where all these people interact. This year I've even set up a social time at night where you can just stand around and talk to all these experts and get your picture taken with Dorian Yates, Bill Kazmaier, and Bill Pearl, all of whom will be there this year.

T: Is the symposium open to anyone?

KK: Yes. It's for anyone who wants advanced information. What T-mag has proved is that everyone is quite interested in advanced information. What I've done is created an introductory and an advanced designation on all the different topics. This way if you're not a Ph.D. or an advanced athlete, you can start out in the introductory presentations and then move to the advanced ones. For example, Dr. Mauro DiPasquale, John Berardi, and Dr. Serrano will get your head spinning with some of their advanced presentations.

Yates, Kazmaier, and Bill Pearl are going to go over some introductory training techniques. Charlie Francis will cover some more advanced training information and Charles Staley will be talking about his training applications for the martial arts. Ian King is going to go over his program designed to actually prevent injuries. Dr. Istvan Bayli, who's highly recommended by Ian King, will be there as well as Paul Chek, Dr. David Leaf, and Dr. Mike Hartle, who's on the United States Powerlifting Association. I'm also doing a presentation on injury proofing, so there's lots of information on varying levels.

T: What's the focus of this year's symposium?

KK: The focus this year is on the spine, which is the second most common area for a weight training injury to occur, the first being the shoulders. Next year's focus will be on the extremities: the hips, elbows, ankles, knees, wrists, etc.

T: Cool. You're one of the most knowledgeable guys in this field, so what did you learn from last year's symposium?

KK: The big thing that I got out of it is that there are many ways to treat an injury. It doesn't matter if it's ART, adjustments, acupuncture, active isolated stretching or whatever, they all work. But what I found is that they all don't work for everyone. The biggest frustration for most people is they're looking for the one way to train, the one way to treat. What I find is that it's multi-factorial; it's many, many things.

We had many people with injuries that were worked on in different presentations and what we found is that the different presenters found different areas of dysfunction that the others didn't. That showed me that there were a lot of different ways to treat an injury and a lot of different ways to train.

T: That seems to be a theme of many advanced people in this field: there is no right answer or perfect way to do anything, just a lot of approaches.

KK: Yes, and what I'm also finding is that there's a lot of different ways based on your own individuality. Certain people are able to respond with a low stimulus and other people need a lot. We see that with food, with anabolic steroids, with a lot of different things.

T: Last year a few people presented on acupuncture. Is this becoming more of an accepted practice?

KK: Yes. Acupuncture works by changing the energetic systems. There are different meridians going throughout the entire body. If there any injuries or scar tissues or even surgeries, you cut the actual meridians and therefore you create a dysfunction within the muscle or joint complex. The acupuncture changes that. It's also very good for getting into really deep tissues (especially along the spine) that you can't get with manual massage.

But the wildest thing is that it changes the scar tissue, especially with any kind of pec tear or biceps tear. I had one bodybuilder who tore his right biceps; he actually had almost a hole in it. We treated him for six months with acupuncture and electrical stimulation.

It got to the point where the muscle actually started to fill in. I don't know what the exact mechanism is yet, but it does seem to break down the scar tissue and regenerate the muscle tissue in that area so you can start to develop it again. Now, it does seem you have to hook it up to electricity – a mild microcurrent – to get this effect.

T: Now when you talk about meridians and energy pathways, it almost sounds like you're talking about chakras and tree hugging and all that new age stuff. But acupuncture is legitimate, huh?

KK: Totally! It's been around a couple of centuries and yes it does work. It's something we don't fully understand yet, but we know it works unbelievably. It's something I use in the clinic everyday and it fixes problems you wouldn't be able to fix any other way.

In fact, the entire body, acupuncture wise, is represented in the ear. I know some medical doctors that treat any problem in your body by putting needles in your ear and stimulating different areas. They're getting incredible results. That's one of the most powerful ways to stop smoking, too, by putting needles or little needle pellets in the ear area.

T: You've also talked about a blood test than can help people understand how they react to carbs and other aspects of their diets. What's the latest info on that?

KK: The test is okay, but it's not as consistent as I would have liked. So what I did was go out and buy a Darkfield or "live cell" microscope. The microscope has a digital camera on it so the blood shows up on the TV screen. (You just need a pin prick of blood.) From that, we can diagnostically look at what the actual state of the body is, based on your nutritional program. Dr. Alexander Wood is going to be doing this at the symposium this year. We're going to show the effects of your diet on your system.

There are a lot of different diets out there for the anabolic issues, how do I get bigger, more cut etc., but what is the actual health issue created by that? We'll have the microscope there and will be looking at people's blood in real time to show them the effects of their diets, and then we'll show how they can reverse that. This won't create less of an anabolic effect; in fact, you'll get more of an effect. What we're finding is that a lot of the proteins people eat aren't being digested.

T: Oh really? How can we fix that? Probiotics?

KK: Probiotics come later on in the chain, but the number one reason for undigested protein is that people don't chew their food.

T: As simple as that, huh?

KK: As simple of that. About 30% of digestion happens in your mouth. If you just inhale your food, it's really hard for the body to break it down. The analogy I've learned is it's a lot like buttoning your shirt. If you start one button down so it's not lined up, then it's out of whack all the way down the chain. To fix it, you have to straighten it out starting from the top.

So chew your food, and even chew your protein shakes. A lot of people just gulp this stuff down and it creates a huge glycemic rush and it's also not digested well. The digestive process is started by chewing, so chew the liquid.

T: Wait a minute, you mean to actually make chewing motions with a mouthful of protein shake?

KK: Yes, that chewing motion creates salivation within the mouth and is able to "tag" the different enzymes within the actual protein, therefore you'll be able to break it down better. If you're a person that has gas after ingesting a protein shake, then just chew the liquid and you'll probably solve that problem. Chew it about five or six times, just enough to get the stimulation going.

T: So you're not really grinding up the protein any smaller; it's more of a Pavlovian response.

KK: Totally. It's basically a neurological response. It's no different that visualization really. You know, you think about biting into a lemon and you start to salivate. Also, most people swallow their protein powders way too fast and it's way to concentrated. The body can't always utilize it and you get bloating. People assume they got their hands on some bad protein, and maybe they did, but a lot of times they just have poor chewing habits! In fact, in Germany there's a clinic where they basically try to cure cancer by teaching people how to chew their food. They suggest chewing your food until it turns into almost a fluid; chew about 30 or 40 times.

T: Very fascinating stuff! Now what's this about people making their shakes too thick?

KK: It's like with fruit juice. You should just eat fruit so you can get the pulp, and avoid juices because of the glycemic effect on the body. But if you do have fruit juice, dilute it down 50/50. Most people have way too much protein powder for fluid. You increase the fluid amount, chew it a little bit, and it'll be a lot easier on your system and you'll get better results in the long term.

T: Interesting. Now tell us a little about digestive enzymes.

KK: This is huge because most people's digestive enzyme patterns are completely altered, especially since we're so sugar based within the society. So I would highly recommend digestive enzymes.

T: Which ones?

KK: There are a lot of different ones, but basically you have protease for protein, amylase for carbohydrates, lipase for fat, lactase for milk sugar, sucrase for sugars, maltase is another protolytic enzyme, and bromelain (which is found in different fruits) is also good for breaking down protein.

T: So would bodybuilders just go for the ones that help with protein?

KK: No, get all of them and take them. These enzymes are also very powerful if you have an injury. They can even stop and actually decrease scar tissue formation. The Germans used this a lot. After an injury on the field or any type of athletic activity, they'd immediately hit the athlete with protolytic enzymes as fast as possible and would reduce injuries by about fifty percent. That's way beyond any pharmaceutical they could use!

T: So how could a bodybuilder use these enzymes?

KK: Post-workout. This would totally speed up recovery and would help prevent an injury. It's so much easier to prevent an injury than it is to work around it.

T: Interesting stuff! Hypothetical situation: Let's say I get a weight training injury. What can I do myself, besides going to the doctor, to aid in recovery so I can get back to the gym?

KK: The biggest one is the protolytic enzymes. The other thing I would utilize is a cream called Traumeel. It's an incredible German product that decreases any inflammatory process. A lot of car accident victims I work with are able to utilize it and decrease their injuries. You can get it nonprescription in a good, reputable health food store.

T: I hear people talking about how squatting and heavy weight training compresses the spine. To decompress the spine, they hang on chinning bars and use gravity boots. Does that really help?

KK: Yes. It's called facet imbrocation. What happens is when you squat, deadlift, or anything else, the spine starts to compress down and the facet joints in the low back start to compress, too. If there's too much of a load on these joints, they'll neurologically shut down the muscular system. The joint has receptors in it that will shut the muscles down so you won't hurt yourself.

Now, hanging from the chinning bar is good, but you have to have your knees bent. By just hanging from a bar or wearing anti-gravity boots, you'll still have a lordotic curve in your low back, which is the normal curve. But you're still jamming the joints. So what you do is bend your knees up to your chest or put them on a stool in front of you. Once you bring your knees up it takes the tension off and the curvature decreases. This way your spine will decompress even more.

If you just hang from a bar, you can also turn slowly from side to side with your knees up. You'll hear a pop here and there and that's just everything decompressing. You can do this everyday.

T: So with the gravity boots where you hang upside down...

KK: I'm not a fan of those because you still have a curve. The same is true for those swinging back tables. Are they better than nothing? Yeah, they are, but there are other systems to use where your knees are bent. One is called the Invertrac. It's incredible for any disk injuries or anything else.

T: What other new equipment has been developed in this area?

KK: There's a new laser out there we'll be talking about at the symposium that's programmable at different frequencies. It can actually change the proproception in the area. The proproception is sort of like the internal neurological unit inside of every muscle that lets the body know where the limb is at all times.

I got one of these lasers a few months ago and it's changed my practice incredibly. With it, you're able to change the cellular frequency; it's 635 nanometers, the same rate as DNA replication. If there's any problems within the actual cell, it re-balances it and you're able to decrease pain substantially, burns, scar tissue, etc. It's unbelievable.

We're also bringing in Dr. Daniel Kirsch to the symposium who's created a unit called the Alpha-Stim. The device duplicates the actual wavelength patterns of the body. It decreases pain and will increase your regeneration rate tremendously, thus allowing you to improve your recovery rate and prevent injuries.

He's also developed another machine that helps with depression. You just put these little clips on your ear and it runs a microcurrent through. It changes all the neurotransmitters inside the brain and can help people with depression and sleep disorders. Their need for pharmaceuticals would decrease and they'd get a great night's sleep. There's tons of research on this and Dr. Kirsch presents all over the world on this topic.

T: Well, as always, you're leaving us flabbergasted here with new info. Thanks a lot for talking with us.

KK: My pleasure. And I hope to see you guys and a lot of T-mag readers at the symposium.

Chris Shugart is T Nation's Chief Content Officer and the creator of the Velocity Diet. As part of his investigative journalism for T Nation, Chris was featured on HBO’s "Real Sports with Bryant Gumble." Follow on Instagram