Interview conducted and written by Sydney Schulte & filmed by Josh Goedker
Jordan Shallow, aka The Muscle Doc, was born in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada, and grew up in Windsor, Ontario, opposite to Lake Michigan.
“From the time I could walk, I could skate,” he says, “Which is kind of like par for the course in Canada.”
In order to become a better hockey player, Jordan found himself doing strength and conditioning work. And even when he phased out of hockey, the training never really stopped.
Initially, Jordan worked on getting an undergraduate degree in history and political science, which inadvertently helped him get those humanity prerequisites out of the way early on. He was actually earmarked to become a history professor on the Ph.D. route.
But Jordan’s passion for training that took him away from a potential hockey career started to take him away from that academic career track.
“I go from skipping hockey practice to train to skipping classes to train.”
He recognized that was an issue and needed to find a way to make his passion a long-term career. So he transitioned his undergraduate degree from history and political science to kinesiology while working as a personal trainer. Once Jordan finished his degree, he attended Palmer College of Chiropractic West in California.
“Even when I wasn’t in the gym, I was in the gym. If I was in class, my head was in the gym.”
His residency at the Boss Barbell Club introduced him to his first patient, powerlifter and bodybuilder Dan Green, and to the world of powerlifting.
“I learned the ropes of chiropractic when I first started and in return, I sort of learned powerlifting at a very accelerated rate with him [Dan Green] and the other lifters at Boss Barbell because my office was inside the gym.”
Soon after, Jordan began competing, and as he puts it, the rest is history.
While powerlifting, chiropractic, and strength and conditioning might seem like very different fields, Jordan feels they’re all very connected. Knowing how the human body moves in one plane in one sport, you can figure out how it moves in different sports.
“Taking it all the way from chiropractic side, which is maybe a bit more passive, through the rehab side, through the actual sports performance side as a strength and conditioning coach, there’s a lot of overlap. I think the biggest places where they don’t overlap is in people who don’t pursue careers simultaneously in all three.”
Those overlapping areas have given Jordan a different perspective — and perhaps it’s made him even better in each of those fields.
“I’m not the strongest guy in the world, but I might have a run as one of the stronger chiropractors.”
When it comes to competition, Jordan definitely has a different view. When he’s under the bar at a meet, Jordan doesn’t really see his fellow powerlifters as his real competition at that moment; his competitors are other chiropractors who probably can’t squat as much as he can.
On the flip side, when he’s in his chiropractor’s office or on the road, that’s when he sees powerlifters as competition; these powerlifters aren’t going to be able to do his line of work. They probably can’t travel and educate people to the degree he does.
“It’s about creating the context of the competition I’m in.”
And that is what helps Jordan put everything in perspective. Treating powerlifters and speaking their language as a fellow powerlifter set him apart from other chiropractors. Having a niche set of patients, in his mind, is not a weakness. It’s a strength.
You might also view the fact that he doesn’t ascribe to any particular school of thought when it comes to treating patients. He’s not going to be the person who dunks on RPR or other treatment options — as long as it falls under the “internal logical consistencies of applied biomechanics.”
“If there are things in a three-letter acronym certification that are consistent with the way our body functions, then I can get on board with that. If there are things that you’re jamming a square peg into a round hole to fit a system, I try and teach a systems way of thinking. I don’t preach any particular system.”
If anything, he’s a big advocate of critical thinking when it comes to the field of applied biomechanics. Sure, it’s an inexact science, but it’s a “sanctimonious subset of biology, of medicine, of anthropology,” and Jordan thinks when we start to systematize in order to monetize, we start losing that sanctity around human movement.
For example, chiropractors tend to have a bone-first focus. But if we understand human movement, we understand it’s really a nervous system-first. The brain sends out the signal, and the rest of the body acts on it. That may include the skeletal structure but also musculature, too. Everything is connected.
“Most people think (chiropractic) is just a license to crack your neck. It’s not. It’s a license to know when to not to.”
And that’s something Jordan thinks his profession needs to realize. Chiropractic shouldn’t be bone-first; it should be nervous system- and function-first. That’s not the only issue he sees in his field. The other comes down to defining function — and that’s not something that chiropractors fail to do. The fitness industry also struggles to define function.
But once you have a clear definition of what function looks like, then you can clearly identify when and where function has gone wrong. From there, you can start to lay out an individualized plan to get someone back to function. That’s what Jordan wants to see more of in these respective fields.
As the fitness industry began to encroach and overlap with rehab, “function” has become more of a buzzword for sales.
“Function is probably the most meaningless word.”
Jordan defines function as “how your body works when we walk and breathe.” The way we walk and breathe, at least from an evolutionary standpoint, sets us apart from other animals.
When Jordan talks about the function of any body part, he can look at the mechanics of breathing and gait cycle and begin to interpret where things might have gone wrong in the way people lift.
“Powerlifting is a very dysfunctional sport. The shoulders. The bench press. Imagine going into a fight with Mike Tyson and he’s got to retract and depress his shoulder blades when he throws a punch... I like your odds. If he’s at that disadvantage, he doesn’t have that integrated shoulder function, yet we do that as a sport in powerlifting.”
He’s not saying that everyone should stop bench pressing right this second. It just means that in your programming, you should include a movement that allows your shoulders to act in a functional manner.
To help get some of these ideas across, Jordan and began PreScript.com to help the patients they were seeing in-person. Having one of the world’s best powerlifters and bodybuilders under his care and an office in Dan Green’s gym gave Jordan a pretty solid reputation in the strength sports community.
“It’s a big honor that you want to service... properly... so you want to make sure that you’re working under a brand, like at Boss Barbell, it’s been established through being the best, so you want to make sure you match that and you fit the location.”
If Jordan can keep people out of his office, that’s a good thing. If he’s seeing people a lot, that means he’s not helping them or they need to see someone else who can help them. So he’d record resources that strength athletes could use and access with the help of a friend, Dr. Jordan Junta, an Olympic lifter and chiropractor.
The last thing he wanted was to send people out of his office with the same photocopied programs, so they built a robust video library of interventions for patients.
“These aren’t things that most people would consider to be rehab exercises because most people maybe get a patient who’s a powerlifter like once a year, whereas it was odd for me to get someone who wasn’t a strength athlete or a professional athlete in some capacity.”
As a result, a lot of traditional rehab exercises wouldn’t fly with Jordan’s patients, hence these specialized videos.
People began reaching out to Jordan via social media about their own issues. Since Jordan couldn’t see them in-person, he’d send them a broad-spectrum approach based on the information these people provided him with. He realized that these broad-spectrum programs covered a lot of potential dysfunction, so he systematized programs that focused on certain areas.
PreScript graduated from sending out these rehab programs to examining pre-existing programs people sent in. This often allowed Jordan to figure out what exactly their program was missing or areas that needed improvement.
“‘Corrective exercises’ — and I’m going to air quote corrective exercises for what it’s worth — it’s not the end game... You can do all the corrective stuff in the world... (but) you can’t out-corrective exercise that exercise.”
From there, PreScript began to “take the wheel from start to finish.” Jordan took the programming from start to finish, so by the time a patient walks into the gym to the time they leave, they’ll have a customized program in hand that’ll help them reinstate proper function. The overall goal is to minimize the risk of injury.
“Injury prevention... I think, is a bit of a fallacy. I don’t think that actually exists, so we take this sort of cerebral approach around our programming to minimize the risk of injury.”
Another large part of PreScript is online consulting. PreScript has a team for each strength sport: powerlifting, bodybuilding, Olympic weightlifting, and body composition or hypertrophy. PreScript is also a registered team with the USAW, so they’ll send five lifters to nationals next year in California — so you’ll be working with experienced lifters, not just chiropractors or physical therapists.
There’s also a one-on-one online consulting option as well, which is for people who’ve reached the end of the rope. They’ve gone through the conventional model and dealt with scanned photocopied stretches and typical rehab exercises, so they need a little bit more of an experienced perspective from someone familiar with the sport they’re trying to get back to.
Still, online consultations have their drawbacks. PreScript focuses on improving performance, not pain. And pain can be a large hindrance to performance, so they hinge a lot of progress on performance metrics — particularly with the clients Jordan deals with.
“They can deal with pain. They can’t deal with pain that makes them weak. That’s true of most professional athletes. They only really start to deal with things when the pain starts to affect their performance, so we tie our results very closely to objective metrics and performance. That’s strength, that’s speed.”
Knowing a client’s clinical orthopedic history can really boost the end results, so it helps to have a network of clinicians around the world. And PreScript also helps people find those clinicians.
It’s not a perfect system, but given the growth of telemedicine (and Jordan can attest to that since he first started working at Apple in Silicon Valley, which he claims will be “one of the first ones in the telemedicine field” based on what he saw), PreScript is going strong. PreScript isn’t doing any treatments or diagnoses online, which could be dangerous in some cases. That’s part of why PreScript doesn’t deal with pain or rehab work. Just sports performance and objective outcomes
“Human science is an inexact science. It’ll never be a perfect system, but look, the in-person stuff isn’t perfect, either.”
The more access to information people have, the more inclined they are to seek out resources outside of the geographical bottleneck. And that’s only going to grow even more. PreScript has begun to focus more on education, and Jordan’s excited to announce that PreScript got a contract with Good Life Fitness, which is a Canadian gym franchise, to develop two certification courses to upscale the franchise’s personal training staff.
Going into the New Year, PreScript will be partnering with an international gym franchise called Ultimate Performance.
“That’s been the bulk of my travel this year. About 15 to 20 courses taught across the two curriculum I’ve developed... With Good Life and Ultimate Performance, the education arm of PreScript is growing to be able to reach more... users, more people that are putting bars on their backs, and hopefully, we can teach principles and practices that allow them to do that for longer. Rather than going to a gym and teaching a few lifters, I can go to 15 commercial gyms in Canada... teach 25 trainers who are going to have hundreds and hundreds of clients over their careers. Now we’re starting to make a bit of an impact, a bit of a change in the way people look at exercise...”
Jordan has been to Australia, the UK, Canada, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and pretty much every major city in the U.S. Out of all the places he’s been, Lebanon is probably his favorite. He’s hoping to return there this year.
What made Lebanon so special was a gym called Barbell House, located right in the heart of Beirut.
“In a place where everything else is so different, you walk through those doors, and everything’s the same. It’s reps, it’s sets, it’s bars, but even, I don’t want to say the people are the same, but there’s the community exists devoid of the walls that you’re in. For everyone there, just like me, under the bar is kind of home. So even in a place where you don’t really speak the language, you might not practice the religion, you don’t understand the geopolitical nature — Syria’s right next door — I don’t watch the news, but I know enough to not really go there. So all this stuff’s going on and the history... it’s just so different in every way you can imagine it being different than what you’re used to... and when you walk into the gym, it’s like none of that exists.”
It’s the same community you’ll find when you walk in through the S5 Compound. People come from all sorts of different backgrounds and walks of life, but the iron is what brings everyone together.
It’s what brought Jordan to become a member of Team elitefts. He read elitefts since he “gave a shit about training.” For about six years (maybe more), Jordan reached out to Dave Tate on Instagram, Facebook, and/or possibly email. Every year, he’d send a message to update Dave on what he did, especially when he got into powerlifting. He never heard a response, but Jordan understood — if anything, he sympathized with Dave’s situation of trying to answer every DM and email, “especially from some kid he’s never heard of.”
Years went by, and then, in 2018, John Meadows brought Jordan out to train at the S5 Compound. It was him, John, and Dave, and Jordan couldn’t quite get the words to come out of his mouth around Dave. After the training session, Dave followed Jordan on Instagram and realized that Jordan had messaged him years ago.
The only reply Jordan received from Dave was something along the lines of, “Hey, are you serious about wanting to write for elite(fts)?”
Soon after Jordan said yes, he had a contract sent his way, and then in June, he began writing as a columnist and a coach. His persistence paid off — and so far, it looks like it has.
As for his legacy, Jordan reflects on a conversation he had with Dave about legacy a couple of days before. Dave walked Jordan through a scene: At your funeral, the people you care about are in the front row. All of the people in the back are wondering how long they have to stay there. The people you care about are the only ones who should matter when it comes to legacy.
“I’ve never thought that Dave was ever wrong until then. I think what Dave doesn’t realize that the people at the back ... will have been just as impacted by Dave as the people at the front.”
Jordan hopes that his impact will be one that will change the current paradigm. He wants to make his mark by changing how people look at the fitness industry, chiropractic, and strength and conditioning training by the time he’s left these fields.