An interview with Josh Fandrich (July 2017)

Frequently I fail to pay close enough attention. My friend Dr. Glen Wilcoxson, whom I’ve interviewed several times in The Moneychanger, wrote me about an amazingly effective new exercise regime, OsteoStrong. He kept sending me updates about how fast his performance was improving, but since I am constitutionally allergic to formal exercise, I wasn’t listening. Finally I called him and heard mouth to ear the astonishing facts.

Glen belongs to the OsteoStrong facility in Fairhope, Alabama, and suggested I talk to the manager, Josh Fandrich. My little bit of research hooked me. I called Josh and he kindly made time for an interview on 17 July 2017. I have not yet tried OsteoStrong, but I’m making an appointment at Josh’s facility in Madison, Alabama.

For more information, visit osteostrong.me.

Moneychanger: Tell me what OsteoStrong is and what it does.

Fandrich: First I should tell you what OsteoStrong is not. We are not a gym, not a dietary supplement, and we do not perform any medical/surgical procedures or intervention. We are a wellness facility that specializes in reversing bone loss and strength loss, improving balance, and eliminating back and joint pain. We also have a lot of success with lowering chronic A1C levels for Type II diabetics.

People typically come in to our appointment-only facilities scheduled for a 15 minute session. They perform high impact trigger events to stimulate the musculoskeletal system.

Moneychanger: Wait. 15 minutes every day?

Fandrich: Once a week, because we’re not a gym. We work to fatigue from a cellular standpoint, not from a fueling standpoint. Conventional exercise aims at what’s called sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, which is burning up ATT. We’re burning up glycogen, and creatine phosphate, the fueling system that our muscles require for contraction or endurance muscle development.

Here at OsteoStrong, we attain a myofibril hypertrophy adaptation, which stimulates muscle fibers cells . Humans grow myofibrils naturally up to about age 18, and then we don’t ever grow them again unless we can somehow stimulate growth through a simultaneous full muscle recruitment. This is the power side or force production of muscle development.

Moneychanger: Myofibrils are the basic rod-like unit of a muscle cell. What was the other word you were using?

Fandrich: Hypertrophy. It’s basically exercise, resistance training, stimulating growth or excessive development of the size of a muscle cell.

Our ‘hypertrophy’ attempts to structurally fatigue the cell tissue, not attain fuel fatigue. So when members come into our facility, they work a very brief and very intense 15 minutes where we set their body in impact simulations.

We know through research that dates all the way back to 1892 that if bone tissue receives a certain amount of pressure end to end, it will adapt and become stronger. Dr. Julius Wolff described that as Wolff’s Law, the transformation or mechanotransduction of bone. It is still taught today in medical schools around the world.

But the big question is how much pressure is needed? There’s always been a recommendation for bone tissue exercise, but no one ever asks the magic question—How much pressure strengthens bone tissue?

Finally, in 2012, some researchers and scientists asked that question. Their study used blood markers and reading accelerometers to study hip joints (A fracture here is the most dangerous fracture on the planet). They discovered how much force is needed through the hip joint to stimulate new tissue growth. The magic number? 4.2 times body weight.

Moneychanger: When you say new tissue, you mean bone?

Fandrich: That’s right. Bone is constantly remodeling. Two cells are active in that remodeling, an osteoclast cell and an osteoblast.

The osteoblasts pull in the minerals to build new bone tissue in the trabecular bone, that part of the bone that resembles a small beam or crossbar. Osteoclasts tear down or shed the outer part of the bone. Remodeling is constantly happening, but as we age our body tears down bone faster than it can build it. That’s why our bones become brittle as we age.

Now we know that bones are going through a deconditioning stage as we age. The good news is that anything deconditioned can be reconditioned. We just need a safe protocol to reach the maximum force level required to encourage the musculoskeletal system to overcome the degradation, to build new bone faster than it tears down, while giving the body the nutrition it needs.

We encourage the building side of that remodeling, the osteoblast cell, by putting the body into impact scenarios that apply pressure end to end on the bone tissue. That incites mineral uptake and builds new tissue faster than the body is breaking it down.

Moneychanger: How much pressure are we talking about?

Fandrich: Well, it varies for everybody. Our goal is to get everyone above 4.2 multiples of body weight in order to stimulate the hip joint. But you have to be careful. This isn’t something you can accomplish lifting free weights.

Multiply your weight times 4.2, and then try to do squats under that weight. You simply can’t get to that level. [For me that would be 720 lb. Inconceivable. – FS] Very few extreme athletes reach such loads with free weights. It’s just too dangerous.

Enter Dr. John Jaquish, a biomedical engineer who came from outside the medical field. Inspired by his mother’s osteoporosis, he created a device to put people in the proper biomechanical positioning for impact scenarios so they could reach those levels comfortably.

On our device we perform four trigger events: a chest press, leg press, core pull, and a vertical lift, which activates the spine, for posture. The ‘vertical lift’ resembles a dead lift, but that name’s not a big hit with our older clients, so vertical lift.

There’s not been enough research to know what the levels need to be for the chest, core, and vertical movements, but we encourage each individual to get to two to three times body weight in a chest press, one time body weight in the core, one to two times in the spine, and 4.2 times body weight in the leg press for the hip joint.

We can get to those kind of levels, 200 to 300 pounds on the spine, three to five times body weight and more on the upper body. We’ve seen people reach seven to nine times their body weight in the leg press. And this is done with ease.

Moneychanger: Wait, wait, wait. You’re talking about enormous loads.

Fandrich: Oh, absolutely.

Moneychanger: I’m trying to picture a little 75 year old lady pushing twice her body weight.

Fandrich: Your own reflexes know where you’re the strongest at impact. Anybody can do this. If you were to jump up and land, your body would instinctively put you in an impact position of about 120 degrees behind the joint.

In that perfect biomechanical position our bodies are capable of taking on incredible loads, but only in that position, not in a full range of motion. Power lifters figured this out back in the ‘70s. The Romanian Olympic team did, and that’s how they won gold. They would train for one rep max with free weights. They put blocks on their chest, or they’d do a box squat to limit their range of motion. If they could load tremendous amounts of weight in that perfect biomechanical position, they would get myofibril stimulation, which is what causes the strength of the muscle fiber contraction.

With that positioning, we get that myofibril stimulation every time we do a session. That happens with all of our clients. All of our work with clients is measured on a computer so that we have immediate biofeedback. We monitor how much force production they’re able to generate week after week.

The numbers rise consistently just about every week. At some point we plateau, but that’s just because we’ve reached some really high levels on our force production and it becomes a matter of the musculoskeletal system growing the tissue in the bone (tensile strength) and the muscle fibers.

Dr. Jaquish was able to create this device by studying the constant impact gymnasts undergo. Gymnasts probably have some of the strongest bone density on the planet, because they’re constantly experiencing high ranges of impact.

Obviously, as we’re aging, we can’t jump off objects that high and land. It’s just too dangerous, so we put people into specific positions behind an osteogenic loading device. Think of 120 degrees behind the joint. From that position, we’re pushing or pulling as comfortably and as hard as we can. It’s like an isometric, but it’s static. There are two fixed objects that aren’t moving. The more pressure the client can push or pull, the more compression he is creating on his bone tissue, so we’re getting two different adaptations at the same time.

Moneychanger: Does the result show a reversal of osteoporosis, or increased muscle mass and strength, or what?

Fandrich: Yes, we’ve seen Dexa scans improve, unless there are other issues that haven’t been identified that directly impact bone remodeling. Osteo-loading encourages the central nervous system to create this adaptation for the osteoblast to work better. (Dexa = Dual Energy X-ray absorptiometry)

A full body Dexa scan is the standard medical test to measure bone density. Primarily they look at the hip and the spine.

Hip fractures end more lives than any other fracture, and spinal fractures can significantly decrease quality of life. It’s not always the fracture itself, but the complications that come along with it. The immune system weakens, pneumonia sets in, and sometimes folks end up with clots in the legs or lungs. Half of all women after the age of 50 and 30% of men will break a bone. Most people don’t realize that osteoporotic fractures end lives just as often as breast cancer. It’s that serious.

Our mission at OsteoStrong is to eliminate osteoporosis worldwide, because we know osteoporosis is the deconditioning of tissue and we believe, based on the science and research, this doesn’t have to be the case anymore.

Moneychanger: You are actually seeing DEXA scans reversed? You are seeing people add bone density?

Fandrich: Yes. In Dr. Jaquish’s initial research, after 12 months of osteogenic loading test subjects averaged 7.7% density gain in the hip, and 7.1% in the spine measured by DEXA scan. [“Osteogenic” = bone-forming – FS]

Later research in the UK (2015) showed up to a 14% increase in bone density, on the hip joint alone measured by Dexa. And that happened in half the time: six months.

Our work is all built around the central nervous system. Our bodies can create tremendous amounts of force. With biofeedback showing how much force we’re producing against the static positioning, there’s no limit to how much force we can create, until the central nervous system shuts down through neural inhibition.

Then our central nervous system protects us. It’s wired to keep us from going beyond the limit where we would injure ourselves. We rarely see an injury with what we do. It’s a very, very safe protocol.

Moneychanger: Would OsteoStrong work for people with degenerative spinal discs?

Fandrich: Absolutely. We have seen people on pain medication for years from degenerative disc disease who were able to get off pain medication because their pain vanished. We’ve seen members’ posture reverse, spinal curvatures change over time.

Moneychanger: Posture? You mean people who are bent over can stand up straight?

Fandrich: That’s correct. We are not just stimulating muscle fibers and bone tissue but also all the connective tissue. Each movement engages the ligament and tendon tissue as well. As the connective tissues strengthen, the spine starts re-aligning and that tissue can hold the spine in place better, creating a better alignment with the body.

Moneychanger: What about knees?

Fandrich: Yes. Research was done that showed tremendous change in ligament and tendon. In 1998 a study was done by Benjamin Ralph looking at the adaptation to compressive loads. When someone does an osteogenic loading movement—high impact in the proper range of motion—there’s an uptake in fibril cartilage. The ligament and tendon tissue is stimulated and becomes stronger, better supporting the joints. We see knee pain vanish.

We’ve seen instances where people were scheduled to have a knee replacement, when all of the sudden their knees stopped hurting, so they delayed surgery, or maybe they didn’t have it at all.

We have a lot of people that come in for joint and back pain.

Moneychanger: What about hips?

Fandrich: Same results. With the encouragement of the 4.2 multiples, people can build a stronger joint in the hip region. If someone has had a hip replacement, I would encourage him to come in after he is released from physical therapy to continue doing osteogenic loading, because it’s encouraging new tissue to grow around that replacement, reinforcing it. Starting osteogenic loading before a hip or knee replacement, and then continuing afterwards, would bring great benefits because (1) it encourages new bone growth in the tissue prior to the replacement and (2) it will give a better anchor point for that replacement part.

Moneychanger: How long before people begin to show results?

Fandrich: Everybody’s different. If we don’t see a gain in bone density or cessation of bone loss after six or twelve months, then we have to look at what else is happening with the body. Maybe it’s a deficiency. It could be something as easy as just changing diet or changing a medication that is blocking bone remodeling.

Obviously calcium is essential for life. When someone is calcium deficient, the body will rob calcium from bone or teeth, weakening the bones even more.

We need Vitamin D to absorb minerals. We’re all deficient in Vitamin D because everybody’s scared to get out in the sun because of cancer.

Another key component is magnesium. A lot of people don’t take magnesium but it is significant for the musculoskeletal system and essential to nerves and protein synthesis.

We want to make sure that we’re giving the body all the nutrients it needs.

Moneychanger: But it is so hard to believe that doing 15 minutes exercise once a week would make any difference at all.

Fandrich: Yes, but the intensity makes it work. We’re putting our bodies in the ultimate proper position to apply the highest amount of force to strengthen the musculoskeletal system. This is Wolff’s law in action.

Using the biofeedback on the computer, we don’t have to guess a weight that we think we might be able to reach. With this technology, individuals can safely produce maximum force every single time. We’re able to press and pull as comfortably as we can, as hard as we can.

If we can go through a maximum threshold where we fatigue the body’s cell structure, then becomes merely a matter of the body going to work building new tissue based on the communication that’s being sent from the brain to the central nervous system.

Think about it this way. Your hair and your fingernails are cells. If you get a haircut and clip your nails today, they’ll grow. If you cut them again tomorrow, they won’t grow any faster. Matter of fact, they may even grow slower because you keep stimulating the same adaptation in a close period of time.

Once we put the body in a position to adapt, we need to let the body go through its recovery time to grow new tissue.

Exercising too often can actually slow the process of growing new tissue because we stimulate the same adaptation in too short a time, instead of letting the body completely recover.

Moneychanger: Pardon me, but I’ve got this picture of somebody doing 15 minutes worth of exercise, sweating bullets and spitting iron filings. It must be terribly exhausting.

Fandrich: It can be exhausting based on the level of loading because we are pressing or pulling as hard as we can, but most people feel more of an energy rush. We don’t break a sweat because each movement lasts only about seven to eight seconds. We just have to give it our best on each movement.

Most of the time we do one repetition per movement, as hard as we can, and because of the time factor involved, we don’t break a sweat. We’re not going to get sore.

Moneychanger: Your participants don’t get sore?

Fandrich: Very rarely, and then usually less than 24 hours.

Moneychanger: Fifteen minutes a week sounds like my kind of exercise.

Fandrich: A lot of people who don’t like physical exercise come in here just because of that. Their time is valuable. They don’t like spending hours in the gym. They don’t want to break a sweat. You don’t even have to wear any special clothing. You can come in here dressed as you dress for work. We just ask that you don’t wear high heels. That would be the only stipulation.

Moneychanger: OsteoStrong operates as a franchise, is that correct?

Fandrich: Yes, I own two facilities, and I’m a regional developer for Alabama. I got involved when we were just getting developed as a franchise globally and nationally. Kyle Zagrodzky started the franchise, and opened four facilities around 2010 to 2012. He had met Dr. Jaquish the inventor and saw how rapidly people were benefitting from this osteogenic loading device. He said, “This has to be available for everybody. People don’t want to go to their doctor every week for treatment.”

At that time Dr. Jaquish was only selling the units to physicians or people with really big check books. Kyle created a membership model that people could use only once a week. In June 2014, four other people and I signed as Regional Developers and helped launch the franchise nationally. We had eight facilities open in 2014, and today we have close to 50 and two overseas.

Moneychanger: You offer the first two sessions free?

Fandrich: That’s correct. We want people to come in and experience it. Unless you’re familiar with Wolff’s Law or osteogenic loading, you don’t really understand the concept. For people to get the benefit and understand what we do, we invite them to try two sessions. We set baselines to work with, do a peripheral scan on the finger, which gives us a good idea about bone density, test balance, and then we do some vibration therapy along with the osteogenic loading device.

When they come back the following week almost every single client sees numbers increase after a single session. After they’ve seen what their body can do the first time, they want to take up our month-to-month membership.

Ongoing research since 2015 has shown that it not only reverses bone density loss and alleviates joint pain, but it also helps with pre-diabetes and Type II diabetes as well. Most doctors will recommend these clients change their diet and do cardiovascular or some weight training exercise to combat chronically high hemoglobin A1C levels.

We knew that by stimulating the myofibril where the insulin receptors are more readily available, that more glucose could be absorbed, but weren’t sure at what level until the research was done. The more myofibrils we have in a single cell in the muscle fibers, the more insulin receptors are available to pull that glucose in and convert it to energy. In the study they saw a 0.60% reduction in hemoglobin A1C levels.

Moneychanger: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Over what period of time?

Fandrich: Over the 28 week period of the study.

Moneychanger: A 0.6 reduction in hemoglobin A1C in six and a half months?

Fandrich: Yes, sir.

Moneychanger: That’s huge.

Fandrich: Even with no change in diet, after osteogenic loading, we saw a 0.60% reduction in glucose.

Moneychanger: So what does OsteoStrong cost? Everything you’ve told me is strongly positive and I hear no drawbacks.

Fandrich: There are no side effects because we’re not a pharmaceutical company. We’re not doing any surgical procedure. The only side effects we really see with people are positive. Their strength goes up tremendously and balance improves tremendously.

The price ranges from $79.00 to $109.00 a month. A lot of our facilities have a hydro massage bed, so at the end of every session they’ll get a 6 to 10 minute massage. It’s rejuvenating and good for circulation.

In my facility the complete package costs $99.00 a month, and only $49.00 more a month for another family member.

Moneychanger: That is $18.40 to $25.40 a week.

Fandrich: Cheaper than most people’s co-pay for physical therapy.

Moneychanger: Cheaper than a chiropractor. I hope you have a good, strong door there, because people are going to start beating it down.

Fandrich: We can work with people as young as twelve all the way up to 96. If you’re cleared for physical exercise by your doctor, then you can engage in our protocol.

The only people that we can’t service are muscular dystrophy sufferers because osteogenic loading has the reverse effect and worsens their condition.

Obviously disqualified also are third trimester pregnancies, we don’t want to deliver any babies here. You’re pushing, you’re pulling, as hard, as comfortably, as you can.

We don’t take people with unmedicated hypertension. As long as people are medicated and take blood pressure medicine, it’s perfectly safe.

Other than those, we’ve seen no complications. That is what makes us so attractive and why we are getting more and more referrals from Doctors. People are tired of all the side effects that come along with bisphosphonates prescribed for bone loss. Research shows we see larger gains naturally in one year than they can produce in three years.

Moneychanger: What about your background ?

Fandrich: Well, I’ve always been involved with physical fitness. I was an athlete growing up, and spent almost nine years in the Air Force. Upon leaving active duty, I ran a family independent grain and fertilizer business with my uncle that was started in 1899.

Because of my passion for physical fitness and exercise, I was getting ready to open up a gym until I met Kyle Zagrodzky. When I saw what he was creating with OsteoStrong, it completely changed my thinking. Nobody does anything like we do. We’re unique.

When I saw the benefits that people received in such a short time, I knew it was something special and I had to be a part of it. I bought the facility in Huntsville, Alabama from Kyle in December of 2013. We launched in June 2014 nationally as a global brand.

At the end of 2015 I moved my family to Fairhope, Alabama and we opened there. The great benefit is getting to see people’s lives change every week. And any time you can see someone’s physical health become better, and you can see their quality of life improving, that’s a blessing.

We see it constantly. A lady I’ve been working with came specifically for her balance a year ago. Her balance has improved 53% in 12 months. Now she can stand on one leg for a minute or two on a vibration plate, designed to put her off balance. Before she couldn’t stand on one leg on smooth surface for more than two seconds.

Last month my first client here got a bone scan, and saw a 7% bone density increase. She’s 70 years old and completely stopped her bone loss.

Moneychanger: I really appreciate your time. And I’ve made an appointment at your Madison, Alabama facility.

What is osteoporosis?

The word osteoporosis is from the Greek terms for “porous bones.” Osteoporosis increases bone weakness which increases the risk of a broken bone, and is the most common reason for a broken bone among the elderly. Bones that commonly break include the vertebrae in the spine, the bones of the forearm, and the hip. Until a broken bone occurs there are typically no symptoms. Bones may weaken so much that a break may occur with minor stress or spontaneously. Chronic pain and a decreased ability to carry out normal activities may follow a broken bone.

Osteoporosis may be due to lower than normal bone mass and greater than normal bone loss. Bone loss increases after menopause due to lower levels of estrogen. Osteoporosis may also occur due to a number of diseases or treatments including alcoholism, anorexia, hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, and surgical removal of the ovaries. Certain medications increase the rate of bone loss including some anti-seizure medications, chemotherapy, proton pump inhibitors, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and glucocorticosteroids.

Osteoporosis is defined as a bone density of 2.5 standard deviations below that of a young adult, typically measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry [Dexa Scan] at the hip.

Prevention of osteoporosis includes a proper diet during childhood and avoiding medications that cause the condition. Osteoporosis becomes more common with age. About 15% of white people in their 50s and 70% of those over 80 are affected It is more common in women than men. In the developed world. 2% to 8% of males and 9% to 38% of females are affected. In 2010 about 22 million women and 5.5 million men in the European Union had osteoporosis; in the United States about eight million women and one to two million men. Whites and Asians are at greater risk.

Wolff's Law: Bone Remodels in Response to Loading

Developed by the German anatomist and surgeon Julius Wolff (1836–1902), it states that bone in a healthy person or animal will adapt to the loads under which it is placed. [The greater the load, the more the bone strengthens.] If loading on a particular bone increases, the bone will remodel itself over time to become stronger to resist that sort of loading. The internal architecture of the trabeculae [tissue elements like beams, struts, or rods] undergoes adaptive changes, followed by secondary changes to the external cortical portion of the bone, perhaps becoming thicker as a result.

The inverse is true as well: if the loading on a bone decreases, the bone will become less dense and weaker due to the lack of the stimulus required for continued remodeling. This reduction in bone density (osteopenia) is known as stress shielding and can occur as a result of a hip replacement (or other prosthesis). The normal stress on a bone is shielded from that bone by being placed on a prosthetic implant.

WARNING & DISCLAIMER: By publishing this material, neither The Moneychanger nor the author/interviewee recommends or endorses any specific treatment or therapy for any physical condition or disease. Neither The Moneychanger nor the author/interviewee guarantees or warrants any results from any treatment discussed, nor assumes any express or implied liability for any use to which the reader puts this information. By this interview, the interviewee does not prescribe any treatment whatsoever for anyone who is not his patient. All the information here is offered for information purposes only, subject to the reader’s own research, prudence, and judgment.

Originally published July 2017