A Purpose Of Exercise

Keeping as many muscles on the body engaged as you move through an exercise is crucial to reinforcing the way your body functions outside of exercise ?

Creating and maintaining tension is priority to prevent going through the motions with a flaccid structure ?

Just like a flaccid ??doesn’t work, a body void of muscle tension won’t work optimally either. This is what sets the stage for pain and injury down the road ?

If you expect to live life without dull aches and debilitating pains, all of your muscles need to function the way they were designed to, to support your body the way you want them to??‍♂️

Work one-on-one with our team of trainers to build your body for the life you’re living! Contact us today to get started!

210-947-4597 OR info@safunctionalfitness.com

Functional Anatomy Part 1

It’s important to know common terminology that we use at this gym to effectively teach you how to move well.

The benefits of learning the function of your anatomy and the way it’s capable of moving will help you adjust your body during exercises to produce proper muscle contractions, in the correct muscle.

The big benefit to having the right muscle contracting properly is that it alleviates strain in the wrong muscles, and prevents pain in your joints.

When you think about anatomy, picture the human skeleton from 7th grade science class hanging in the back of the room. All of those boney structures are supported by your muscles (not the other way around) and they are all capable of moving, when your muscles contract.

So, your pelvis, femurs, ribcage, humerus, scapulae, ankles, feet, shoulders, elbows, etc., are all meant to move. And the muscles on top of them, move them. So when your muscles contract properly, your skeleton moves properly. Each muscle/muscle chain has a job to do and is in charge of moving certain structures. When a muscle is taught to contract at the wrong time, in the wrong way, or the wrong muscle contracting, chaos ensues and you aren’t able to move as well as you should. That’s when compensations start to manifest and poor body mechanics caused by poor muscle function, control your movement and eventually create a pull on your skeleton (which exacerbates muscle dysfunction) causing it to get stuck in a certain position.

When your skeleton can’t move out of a position then the muscle that’s causing it to be stuck there, is chronically contracting (tense) or is chronically flaccid (weak) and not strong enough to move your skeleton between spectrums of movement. That’s where the hard work comes in of reprogramming muscle function to change your posture (skeletal positioning) and allow your body the freedom to move in a multitude of directions- to handle the multiple forces acting upon it.

A lot goes in to restoring balance amongst the musculoskeletal system. First, you have to learn basic structural functions like tilts, shifts, and rotations, as well as extensions and flexions. Then, you need to learn how those functions apply to the parts of your body, like your pelvis, spine, ribcage, and limbs. Finally, depending where your skeleton is stuck we work to move it in the opposite direction. Creating enough tension in another muscle to release the tension in the muscle forcing your skeletal misalignment, or learning to contract a muscle more effectively that’s weak or dormant, causing your skeleton to shift because it doesn’t have enough support from that muscle. All of this sounds simple, and it mostly is, but it’s not easy. Think about your current ailment (that you’re aware of) and how long you’ve been dealing with it. That has become your new “normal” and your brain has been conditioned to accept this as how things are going to be, even though it might be detrimental to your body and long term wellbeing.

Let’s face it, a misaligned skeleton caused by poor functioning muscles will cause aches and pains that can be sharp and debilitating or gradually cause more problems over time. And this causes stress to your body because it’s not able to achieve homeostasis. So your physical posture not only looks bad, but you start to feel bad and the wear and tear on your physiological wellbeing from the subconscious stress being induced isn’t good for your long term health. So actually, exercising for the sake of exercising might not be what your body needs to actually be healthy.

Think about it, if your misaligned, which most of us are- us included- every time you move, whether you’re walking a few feet from your car to the store or your vigorously working out, your muscles are not working properly and you’re just reinforcing the same shoddy mechanics that are already hindering you. So if you’re 20 and have a structural dysfunction and you don’t do anything to resolve it, then 20 more years of improper workouts and general movement and you’re 40… and you feel 40, or 60. That’s called expediting the aging process. But if you decide to spend some time on fully rehabbing old injuries, fixing dysfunctions that popped up from bad habits or maybe you were born with, then you start to move better, and better movement supports better posture in your skeleton, and better aligned skeleton doesn’t cause pain, which doesn’t cause stress to your innate wellbeing.

So if you want to function, well, into your late life, then it starts now, no matter your age. All the damage, self inflicted or just by chance, can be undone (overtime) and you can live a pain free life! This isn’t just a personal training studio, this is biomechanics training that revolves around human function- so you can actually learn exercises that transfer to your life outside of the gym.

For more information about the function of your anatomy (shifts, tilts, rotations, etc.) check back for our next blog, covering the details on why these are key to unlocking your movement potential and how to actually perform them!

Integrated Fitness

The human body was designed to move as one fully integrated unit. The muscles connect with each other through patterns such as walking, running, and even throwing. When the muscles connect (talk) with each other, the body functions efficiently and compensations during movement are kept to a minimum. Poor movement compensations are the cause for most of the body’s aches and pains, and can be prevented by training the body the way it was designed.

If you want a fish to get better at swimming, you wouldn’t teach it to walk on land. The body of a fish is designed to swim, the same way the human body is designed to walk. Walking is a fundamental movement that every body utilizes at some point in their day. Whether you walk around the neighborhood, to and from your car, in the grocery store, or at the park, your muscles are engaging through reciprocal sequences (opposite limbs connecting) that allow it to propel itself through space. When exercise doesn’t account for reciprocation of body parts and the muscles get trained through isolated movements, it conditions the body to disconnect during basic human movements like walking. When the body is disconnected that’s when movement compensations arise, so every step you take, while you’re walking the dog around the block or walking into the gym, is a step that’s forcing your body out of its natural alignment. If you don’t do anything to remain aligned then every time you move, you’re telling your body that this misalignment is the new normal, and your body gets stuck in this position. In order to regain better alignment, you need to train your body the way it naturally moves, by engaging the myofascial sling system.

The body has a sling system that is interwoven in the myofascial network and those slings are responsible for connecting the upper body with the lower body, the same way they connect when you walk, run, or throw. (Yes your lower body is involved when you play fetch with your dog- if it’s not, then that’s a shoulder injury waiting to happen). The slings connect the right shoulder, through the external and internal obliques, to the left hip, and all the way down the front of that leg. Then around the bottom of the foot, back up the rear of the same leg, to the left glute. From the left glute, up across the spine towards the right lat, which then finishes back where it started, at the right shoulder. Then you have an identical sling connection connecting the left shoulder to the right hip. This is an in depth view of whats typically referred to as the body’s “X.” When you move, force is transmitted through the sling systems and balanced between the two sides so that you move efficiently. All of our muscles are encompassed in these slings so they’re working in harmony to balance out your movement. When muscles are isolated during exercise they stop working in harmony, so now the slings aren’t balanced the way they were designed. It’s like removing the lower left section of the “X,” it’s not going to be able to stand the way it was, instead it’s going to have to lean to one side to find balance. Our body works the same way, when the slings disconnect, you can still move, but you’re going to move with more imbalances.

If left untreated, muscular imbalances cause disturbances in your gait and shifting in your posture that contribute to joint pain and muscle aches. Since the body is no longer working optimally, the joints absorb the forces that the sling systems should be balancing. Imbalances in the sling systems cause some muscles to overwork to pick up the slack of the primary movers, leading to strains in those muscles. For example, if your hamstrings aren’t engaging when you walk, the calf usually picks up the load and since the calf wasn’t designed to handle all the responsibility it gets tired and the muscles in the bottom of your foot start to work by themselves. Hello plantar fasciitis. The same can be said of the lats and pecs not working in unison with the sling systems and being plagued with rotator cuff issues.

If you expect to live a pain free life and move freely, then exercise must account for reciprocal movements that engage the myofascial sling systems through Functional Patterns that mirror real life. Sitting on an exercise bike or a weight machine at the gym is good for your health, but it’s not preparing your body for life outside of the gym to the extent that sling training will. All exercise is better than no exercise, but not all exercise is created equal. Depending on what you want to get out of your time spent working out, evaluate what is going to be the most beneficial for your goals. Do you want to be really good at rowing or cycling for an hour but unable to run to save your life or do normal activities of daily living without experiencing aches or pains? It’s your life, build your body for how you want to live it.


Now vs Then; Posture Results

The importance of posture is gaining more recognition as our society becomes more sedentary. Rounded shoulders, hunched back, sway back, and “text neck” impact most of us on a daily basis. Our environment shapes us, literally. If you sit behind a desk all day, you more than likely have rounded shoulders and a forward head posture, because you’re confined to a computer screen for 8 hours a day. Posture is problematic if you’re body gets “stuck” in that particular position and your body can’t get out of it when you move. Whether you’re exercising or grocery shopping, your posture will manifest during movement. Posture training goes deeper than just reminding yourself to stand up straight and pull your shoulders back. In order to truly get yourself out of that “stuck” position and move better, you have to reprogram your nervous system to allow for the long term fix.

Long term improvements to your posture orient from integrated exercise, not training the posture itself. Remember, the nervous system needs to be involved in the process so the body can intrinsically maintain the changes while at rest. So when you’re working all day, your body no longer accepts that familiar “hunched over” position as normal. Now you don’t have to constantly be conscious about sitting up straight with your shoulders back, you’re body will default to that new “stuck” position. Ideally a better position for your body. When the correct exercise stimulus is provided for the body, it will adapt to that stimulus. This is when the nervous system gets involved and connects with the muscular system, as it does in the real world. Exercise that aligns with this notion has the power to reconnect missing links in the muscles and reprogram the nervous system, making you “unstuck,” allowing for long term changes in alignment.

Alignment, posture, structural integrity, stability, however it’s referred to, plays a role in movement and therefore repeat injuries, chronic muscle aches, and nagging joint pain, which then influences movement further. If your alignment is flawed when you’re just standing or sitting, imagine how that “bad posture” will manifest during movement. Your body is going to compensate poorly when it moves leading to the vicious cycle of injury, aches, pains, and eventually lead to even worse movement quality. Whether you’re moving in the gym or around town, your body isn’t adequately  prepared for life and so it breaks down under all the varying forces. From climbing stairs, running, playing with your kids, walking your dog, GRAVITY! If you want more resiliency against these forces then, when you’re in the gym exercising, you have to prepare your body for life outside of the gym. Your body needs a reference to operate better in the real world by utilizing real life Functional Patterns of movement that translate to the way humans were designed to move. Functional Patterns is a training system that respects human evolution and integrates the muscles in accordance with how the muscles are actually, anatomically, connected. When muscles are isolated during exercise, those muscle connections are severed and over time the nervous system recognizes this dysfunctional state as the new normal. Leading to the bodies inefficient relationship with gravity. As you reprogram the nervous system with the right stimulus, from patterns that actually respect the way the bodies connected and tap into those connections during exercise, then better movement manifests in life outside of the gym. Better movement means less compensations and a solution to your nagging aches and pains.

Below are some results one of our clients was able to achieve, after working together once a week for 10 weeks, toward improving his posture for the long run. These changes are only skimming the surface and we have more work to do, but the only cue given during these photos was to “relax, take a deep breath in and let it out.” No other positional cues were given during the photos so we could see how the posture was actually influenced at the neuromuscular level- hence the structural changes even though he’s resting in all the pictures. Even though both poses are relaxed, there are visual differences between the poses because the posture was influenced at a nueromuscular level. In other words, we woke up some muscles that have been asleep (influencing the posture negatively) and put them to work in order to change the structure of the body at a deeper level, rather than just “standing up straight.”

Before (right) ; After (left)

Side view
Increased intra-abdominal pressure (fuller looking belly) so more muscles in the core are being engaged while at rest to support his new posture at an intrinsic level. Decreased forward head posture (height of his nose and angle of his neck) achieved, not from teaching him to pull his head back, but from waking up his deep front line.

Rear view
Overall spinal decompression (less scapular winging, lengthened spinal column) because of overall ribcage decompression. More space between his body and his arms hanging by his side, because his shoulders were pulled out of their chronic internal rotation.

Front view                                                                                                                                   Intra-abdominal pressure and spine/ribcage Decompression  (positioning of his pecs and height of his ears) resulting from an improved resiliency to gravity and an overall taller Rene. Less rib flare (hands pulled to side of his thighs rather than resting at the front of his thighs), due to the ribcage opening up.

As a result of changing the “alignment” at a neuromuscular level, Rene was able to diminish his lower back pain that he’s been living with for years! Since we aim to lift up the structure of the body during exercise, Rene reported feeling “taller” after every session which is a result of the spine and ribcage decompression, and a more efficient relationship with gravity. Decompression is only achieved at an internal level when the right exercises stimulus is provided, when the body becomes decompressed, the normal resting posture changes. It’s important to note that we did not spend any time after his first session focusing on posture- these changes in alignment were created by focusing on corrective exercise with proper breathing mechanics and body mechanics. It’s all about teaching the muscles to work together in harmony so the body learns how to function as one integrated unit and balance the forces influencing it everyday.

Don’t just change your posture for the short term by pinching your shoulders back and standing up straight. Address the mechanical issues of your body and, in the process, your posture will be changed at a deeper level. Stopping the vicious injury cycle and automatically opening the doors to better movement and pain-free living. Contact us now to set up your consultation and introductory posture assessment. Mention this post and we’ll waive your consultation fee so you can come see what steps you can take toward improving your posture and pain for the long term!