How Do You Train Your Pecs?

Did you know your chest muscles (the pecs) dominate movements like punching, throwing, and even running?

The pecs were designed for these functions via human evolution- throwing spears, pumping the upper body when running from danger, and fighting for survival.

These muscles also connect into multiple kinetic chains and when we move, they function together with the rest of the chain to produce more power and efficiency. For example, the pecs share functions with the nearby oblique muscles and function more often through rotational mechanics, like throwing, instead of exclusively pressing motions.

Traditional chest training like the bench press and pushups will make your pecs stronger, but not the rest of the chain your pecs connect to. Therefore you’re only strong at the bench press and not functional activities that require you to use your pecs the way they were designed.

The bench press is one exercise we were taught to make our chest stronger, but the chest predominately functions in different patterns than the bench. When we go to use our pecs the way nature designed them, but we’re unnaturally training them, they aren’t prepared for reality and injury risk goes up.

Come work with trainers who know the way your muscles need to be trained, and how to teach exercises that go hand in hand with their natural function(s). At our gym, your muscles are prepared for real life so your body can function without pains and injuries, the true meaning of strength.

Come As You Are

We aren’t the typical gym that advertises chiseled abs and huge muscles. We welcome the unfit. That’s why we exist to help you become a fitter, and better functioning, version of your current self.

If you can’t function well, then your ability to thrive in your environment (the definition of fitness) is diminished. That’s why we emphasize the importance of using your muscles the way there were designed to function.

In the process, weight loss, muscle mass, strength, cardiovascular health, flexibility, and mobility come along for the ride. As your body relearns functions, old injuries, aches, and pains also get rehabbed simultaneously.

Chiseled abs and appropriately sized muscles are what we work toward, but not until the prerequisites of fixing your mechanics have been established. This sets your body up for achieving these goals, without pounding your joints and compressing your spine in the process. First things, first.

When you want a trainer that prioritizes the same goals as you, without hurting in the process, then we’re the gym to help you!

Note: this is a process and not a magical over night fix. It takes time to undo the damage your body has been through from dysfunctional exercise habits, injuries, and pain that comes on from both of these. Once we undo the dysfunction then the possibilities are endless. Just ask our current clients!

The Body’s Interconnectedness

As we get older, we’re often told that aches and pains are just a part of aging. A twinge in your knee, restrictions in your shoulder, tightness in your lower back are all common, but not normal.

Pain in one area of your body potentially stems from another region, because of the interconnectedness of your fascial web and kinetic chain linking everything together.

The unexplained problems in your joints are likely a result of your muscles not supporting your joints. Strain in your shoulder may come from dysfunction in the pecs or the lats. Knee pain results from lack of the glutes working properly. The point being, that where you’re hurting, might not be where the problem is.

Our trainers work to get to the root of your chronic pain by addressing dysfunctional movement compensations, allowing you to simultaneously build muscle to provide your body with the strength it needs to keep aches and pain from creeping back in.

If you’re spinning your wheels spot treating pain at the source, then come meet with us to learn how everything in your body works (or doesn’t work) together to influence how you move, and how your movement plays a critical role in pain and injury if you’re moving incorrectly.

Functional Exercises

In order to classify an exercise as functional, it should carry over to everyday life. Squats, pushups, and pull-ups are often lumped in the functional category because they integrate multiple muscles at once and display bodily strength. However, how often in your day to day movement (away from the gym) do you really use these movements?

Day to day, the human structure moves through contralateral patterns, like walking, more frequently than a squat or push-ups and pull-ups. From a biological standpoint when the body encounters a flight or fight scenario, mechanisms activate in your body that cause you to run from danger- another contralateral movement.

Instead of categorizing exercises as functional just because you aren’t doing yoga or meathead bodybuilding and powerlifting, you should consider how much carry over that exercise will have in life outside of the gym. Will it help your mechanics when you walk and run, or will it sound and look cool but really not have much impact on how your body moves most?

Functional training, when done correctly, will build muscle and strength that translates to movement patterns that your body uses on a daily basis. The stronger you are at what you do most, will result in more efficiency and less wear and tear on your body.

Posture 2.0

Posture is often associated with standing upright with the shoulders pulled back and the chest opened up, but posture is more than just standing straight.

Your body can’t hold one particular posture when it moves, so your muscles need to learn how to change “postures” when it changes positions.

When you think about what it means to have “good posture,” consider how that relates to your body in motion, and the changes movement produces in your body’s alignment.

When you bend over to pick something up, your pelvis is going to be in a different position while you’re bent over, than when you’re standing upright.

Therefore, your posture changes. It’s not about staying stacked a certain way 24/7, because certain functions require certain positions. Your muscles need to learn to drive your skeleton into those positions and get you out of them, so you don’t get stuck in a certain posture.

Posture changes constantly, and it goes deeper than what your posture looks like when you’re at rest. It’s one thing to be aware of your posture when you’re sitting, standing, or lying down. But have you ever given any thought to what your posture looks like when you’re moving? Exercising, golfing, walking, hiking, boxing, dancing, running, etc.?

Good posture means your body can maintain integrity throughout its structure, when at rest and when moving. Structural integrity is achieved when your muscles are functioning correctly to support your alignment and intrinsically stabilizing your body from external demands.

The better your structure can withstand external demands, like gravitational forces and daily activities, the better your alignment will become at rest. Your body won’t be beat into a certain posture, or “comfort zone,” because it will be strengthened to withstand those effects and align into a “neutral zone,” always ready to change and adapt to balance the demands placed on it.

Not all training is going to respect the concepts described above, some exercises may even cause your structural integrity to weaken- making your body more vulnerable to the forces acting on it. The exercises you perform should enhance your body’s capability to withstand gravity and daily activities, without adversity.

If you want all the gravitational gains, without the compressional pains, set up your consultation with one of our biomechanics trainers today!

Reciprocity

What goes up, must come down, what goes left, goes right. Basic principles that can be used to train functions for the body, specifically with exercises that reinforce basic human movement patterns.

One pattern that accounts for moving your body is referred to as contralateral reciprocation. It’s primarily explained as your arms and legs working in uniform opposition- right arm swings forward as your left leg kicks forward, while your right leg kicks back and your left arm swings back, to rhythmically propel yourself through space; as in walking.

Watch any person walk or run (and even throw) and you’ll see reciprocal functions taking place throughout their body. Ipsilaterally and contralaterally. It’s a trait that the human body has developed as a result of its movement patterns.

Since the human body primarily operates through a series of reciprocal actions, you can use the principle of reciprocity and apply it to exercises in a way that replicates how the body moves in reality.

Realistically, walking is a, taken for granted, movement that your body does the most. If you want to get “strong” in a way that matters for the world you’re living in, get better at strengthening your body to master the mechanics behind walking, and running… (and throwing). That way you built your body to be resilient for what it endures on a daily basis, and to better withstand the damage from gravity and the force it places on your body.

Let’s reign this back in to, the title of this post: Reciprocity, and why it’s a piece of the puzzle to overall better movement.

If you study the patterns of human movement you’ll find that the body is constantly reciprocating, from basic examples like agonist and antagonist muscles- as one muscle contracts, the one opposite of it it, stretches. And the  timing of the inhale and exhale of your breathing mechanics. Then to the mechanics of contralateral reciprocation like walking, sprinting, kicking, punching, a golf swing, even a baseball pitch. And to more advanced reciprocation, like the micro sequences within oppositional motion. Like the Yin and the Yang, without one, you’d have too much of the other, and that would throw out the balance.

Let’s circle that back to exercise and “training” the body. Training doesn’t always need to be referred to as physical. With the right kind of exercise you should be training your brain and body, and using stimuli to condition the desired response you want for your body, or brain. If you understand that mechanisms in the body work in reciprocation then you can use exercise as form of stimuli to condition more harmony within the body. Exercises that revolve around the principles within gait (walking, running, throwing) involve contralateral reciprocation patterns of movement that communicate to the brain, that the body is in harmony with its biology- how humans evolved to move.

Think about it this way- an upright chest press, with a step, is reinforcing movement patterns that align with human movement, and reconditioning the neuromuscular system to achieve a more rewarding response. Versus, squatting with a bar on your neck, and lifting the weight up and down, or using a dumbbell to pump out 20 reps of curls for big arms- with no regard to what’s going on with the rest of your body. Have you consider that because the body works in harmony and integrates muscles to work synergistically at once, that isolating one muscle to work one at a time, creates disconnections in your neuromuscular system. So, which form of exercise do you think would create more symbiosis versus division in the body? No more Yin and Yang together.

While there is still much more to account for in terms of exercising, training, principles, function, and reciprocity, this was written with the intent to create a different way to think about exercise. And the effects it has on your body, function, wellbeing, and longevity. As we learn more about the human body and how it operates, we can finally become more intelligent with the way we exercise. No longer for sport or ego, because those aren’t healthy for your body and more importantly you can’t sustain the behavior.  So you spend a few years looking good, maybe even feeling good without joint pain, but eventually it’ll catch up to you and you won’t be able to move, you’ll hurt, you’ll put on weight, turn to dysfunctional behavior for comfort, and enter the hard to get out cycle of self sabotage. What if you could use exercise to get healthier as you age? Not to look good like when you were younger but to feel youthful, energized, and functional like when you were younger! It’s a red pill to swallow but one that can be rewarding in terms of wellbeing as you age. All the fears and self fulfilling prophecies of hip replacements, back pain, and immobile joints can all be avoided, if you decide to train smarter instead of harder. Set yourself up for the long run. The world needs strong and capable humans!

Yours in Health,

Michael

A Different Kind Of Gym

What makes our gym different from other gyms? Why do our trainers utilize the Functional Patterns training system? We’ll answer that by looking at the way humans were conditioned through evolution.

Over millions of years the human body evolved to do 4 things with precision, that other animals can’t do. As humans, we stand upright on both legs, we walk and run upright on both legs, and we throw overhead.

These functions were necessary for survival- running from predators, throwing spears to kill prey and feed ourselves, and walking long distances to migrate to better climates, all while standing upright.

As a result of these movements in our early years, our muscles learned to contract a specific way to support these necessary actions and the repetitive contractions shaped our muscles and gave them the tone that we have today.

The reason our trainers learn and teach Functional Patterns is because the foundation of this training system, recognizes and respects these 4 fundamental functions with all of the exercises. It’s a system that was created for humans that reinforces the way the human body evolved to move and exist.

As we train these fundamental functions, our bodies learn to move in line with our ancestral movement patterns. The result is strength on a wide scale because the body is learning to create muscle to support the way it moves everyday- the same way humans have moved everyday for several million years.

We run into trouble when we perform exercises that break the mold that shaped us. Our muscles learn functions that it doesn’t need and forgets functions that supports the way the body naturally moves. This results in aches, pains, and injuries because the body is out of its element and muscles fight through and compensate in ways they didn’t evolve to.

Working out, exercising, training, lifting, whatever you want to call it should NOT cause pain or only make you strong in the gym. It should enhance your natural functions, so other functions come along for the ride, and without all the drama. It’s not normal to wake up with aches every day, live with pain, or chronically work around injuries.

The right kind of training (backed by the 4 fundamental human functions) will provide strength, mobility, and endurance for any scenario. Once your body is functional (by the above standards), that function carries over to activity, performance, and general movement to support your body without fearing pain or risking injury. That is what fitness is.

If you want to be functional and fit for your life apart from the gym, now and in the long run, train with the above in mind. If you need help figuring out what exactly that means, and you want to feel what an exercise feels like when executed correctly, instead of just copying the movement from YouTube or a “fitness” app then contact us today. Call, stop by, or book online to try your first introductory session!

Human Biomechanics

We have said it before and we’ll say it again, we are not your typical gym with your average personal trainers. We incoproate Functional Patterns training methodology to train the human body the way it was designed to function. Our approach aims to undue the damages inflicted on the body from all traditional means of exercises and mobility that don’t respect the physics and tensegrity of human biomechanics.

Traditional training includes weightlifting, bodybuilding, olympic lifting, crossfit, cycling, yoga, pilates, gymnastics, animal flow, isolated stretching, functional range conditioning, H.I.I.T. training, spin class, and group classes with the objective of burning max calories and gaining (dysfunctional) muscle.

All these forms of exercise are the antithesis of optimal biomechanics and makes it very hard to create the muscle associations we need to make to alter your structure to the degree we could if you weren’t doing those types of training.

If you’re wanting to learn or do Functional Patterns training you’ll get the best results when you aren’t engaging or plan to return to any of the above mentioned methods, as none of them aim to enhance human biomechanics and therefore create a direct hinderance towards you getting the best and fastest results.

While the intent behind all of these methods is good, the application doesn’t deliver. All of the above mentioned methods cause a disconnect from human movement. When you think of “human movement” think of walking as a basic example, and then think about what all of the above mentioned forms of training look like, and now think about how they don’t align with the motions of human movement. So the deeper you go into those forms of training, the further away you go from the fundamentals of how the human body was born to move. And the further you go away from how you were born to move the less optimally your body moves and the more likely your body will suffer from pain and breakdown from injury.

We aren’t saying that these forms of training are terrible and that you should never do them, but what we are saying is that your body wasn’t made for these forms of training, which is often why people get injured, experience unexplained aches and pains, and become less inclined to move well the more they participate in these. If you are experiencing some of these symptoms and are participating in these styles of training, then in that case, we would recommend not doing them. At least for some time to decide if its causing you harm. In other words if you’re participating in them and then stop and your body starts feeling better, then you can see the correlation between these styles of training and the outcome on your body.

If you really want to heal your body, take it a step further and start participating in a training style that matches the way the human body moves, and accounts for all of the intricacies that make up human motion. Enter Functional Patterns training. A system that makes your muscles work (contract/ engage/ activate) during exercise the way they work in the real world. Translating the work you do in the gym to a stronger body in reality. But the key is that you need to train your body accordingly instead of just participating in exercise for the sake of exercise.

Exercise is good, but not all exercise is created equal or produces the same outcome. Some of the above mentioned training styles become just a social hour (albeit a healthier social hour than drinking at the bar) or a way to fit in because everyone else is going to the local gym or workout class. But you should ask yourself, just because those people are working out, are they absent of pain, are they capable of moving without restriction, are they only good at exercising or can they perform in any given scenario?

Hopefully after reading this you’ll walk away with a deeper understanding about how exercise can benefit you if you exercise in a manner that respects the way the human body was designed to move. If you don’t, then sure exercise will have some superficial benefits that your doctor may recommend like lowering your blood pressure if you’re a couch potato and stimulating your muscles as opposed to letting them waste away, but if you don’t exercise the right way then the harms can outweigh the potential benefits. For example, sitting on a spin bike 5 days a week disconnects your upper body from your lower body, places your spine in a kyphotic posture, and doesn’t strengthen your core muscles. This can result in lower back pain from lack of core support, problems when you walk because your only training your body in a seated position, severed muscle chains because you aren’t training your kinetic chain for the way your entire system operates naturally, and a poor posture that makes it look like you’re depressed because you’re always hunched over, eventually maybe leading to some form of depression because your posture will influence your mood- via the emotional links with your fascia… see how health and fitness goes WAY deeper than just exercising your muscles?

These are just examples to start making you think about why we are still such an unhealthy society, with obesity and type 2 diabetes, and still have to have joint replacement surgeries and live with lower back pain even though people are exercising. It’s because nobody is taking the time to educate how complex exercise really is and the way the human body should be trained. Most of us are still working out with a structure from P.E. class or collegiate athletics or what your doctor recommends or what you see on T.V. The problem is that these exercises just keep you running in circles on the hamster wheel instead of solving problems with your body to make you a better functioning human without pain and risking injury when you move, play sports, move furniture, walk your dogs, chase your kids, grocery shop, do yard work, and live life.

If you’re tired of exercising without any applicable, noticeable benefit then contact us to take the first step toward exercising with a purpose so the results extend beyond body composition, weight loss, muscle tone, and cardiovascular health, but start to include a stable posture, a strong body for doing what you do most, and most importantly achieving fitness without pain so you can have a body that handles the demands of real life!

Chase Function

If you don’t have function you don’t have a strong body. Period.

Your “strong muscles” eventually won’t be able to muscle through the same exercises you got away with in your youth or with your genetics. The way your body naturally moves will need the appropriate muscles working to facilitate movement or you’ll start allowing your body to compensate at basic tasks, allowing pain and injury to “sneak” up on you.

In reality the pain and injury stems from poor exercise habits that don’t train function. You can’t cheat your way or “muscle” your way through the mechanics of human movement, like when you walk or run, because there are too many variables occurring  to facilitate these movements that your brain can’t coordinate them while you’re doing them.

Instead it is beneficial to dissect specific functions that happen during walking or running and training the variables of those specific functions. This will allow your body to carry over the functions learned into the real world when your body naturally moves through those functions. So start executing functions that your body needs to do instead of executing exercises that you see in magazines and YouTube videos.

If you need help distinguishing what functional exercises really should accomplish then start training with our biomechanics trainers so you aren’t just exercising for the sake of exercising, but exercising to enhance function outside of the gym!

Muscle Power

A muscle will produce more force when it is used in integration with the other muscles in its fascially connected chain/sling.

To add to that, if you focus solely on “lifting heavy” weights on a limited range of motion exercise like the bench press (as evident by the picture), you’re packing on unfunctional muscle that can’t reach its full length potential when you need it to, away from the gym.

This can alter the tension relationships between your muscles and cause postural imbalances and injuries/pain further down the road.

It’s important that muscles function as they’re designed to and that exercise respects and enhances those functions.

We’re less about exercising and more about functioning. If you work to enhance the function of a muscle then as a byproduct you’re exercising, because if your muscle doesn’t function the way it should, then the simple act of trying to teach the muscle to perform that function will be a challenge on your muscular and nervous system, and produce the same benefit as exercise but with the added benefit of enhancing your muscle function.

The exercise pictured, the bench press, is not an exercise that you can learn or even relearn function for the pecs because it doesn’t allow the pec muscles to function the way they need to. It only isolates the pec muscles in one plane of motion, and with a limited range of motion that they rarely ever go through in the real world. Think about it, how often when you’re walking down the street or running when you play sports do you drop down to the floor, lie on your back and push weight off your chest? Or even drop to the ground and do a pushup for that matter? The answer is obviously, never! So this is an example of an arbitrary exercise that really doesn’t serve a functional purpose. Maybe for an offensive lineman on a professional football team, but even then they are standing upright when they are pushing someone off of them so the context of the bench press lift doesn’t carry over as much as we think it does.

The bench press lift itself is fairly limited and doesn’t train the rest of the fascial chain/sling that the pec muscle is a part of, so it’s not going to produce as much force or power because it’s just the pec muscle activating by itself.

Try this. Tap your index finger on your desk and feel/listen to the sound it makes when it contacts your desk. Now use your other hand to pull your index finger back (essentially winding it up) and then let your index finger slam down on the desk. It should produce a louder sound and feel more powerful than just tapping by itself. This example is showcasing how weak the muscle is when it works in isolation, but by pulling it back with your other hand you are involving more of the nearby muscles and stretching the fascia that houses it so when you let go it’s ready to produce more force because of more muscle recruitment achieved from a fuller range of motion.

So when you train your pecs, absent of their fascial connections, you’re missing out on the nearby muscles that the pecs attach to resulting in less power output. Additionally you aren’t getting a full range of motion (like your finger pulling back more) to get the pec fibers to stretch more, so that you can get a deeper contraction after the stretch. Although we’ve focused on the pecs as the example, the same can be said of every muscle on your body. The more muscles you can connect with a movement, and completing a larger range of motion will allow better force production and power from that muscle, resulting in overall better function.

When you have been used to a certain way of training and exercising your entire life, whether from high school athletics, body building magazines, commercial gym culture, or YouTube videos it can be hard to grasp the concepts of what real functional training aims to do. So if all of this doesn’t make complete sense, don’t fret, this is on the cutting edge of where the fitness industry is shifting and it challenges the brain and body at the same time. We’re here to help provide clarity and direction for those wanting to workout to enhance their function in life outside of the gym. This approach is different from general exercise to just get a workout in, versus exercising to improve the function of a muscle and a muscle chain/sling as described above. The latter will have the body in a healthier state and improve the overall fitness of the body, as opposed to becoming better at exercises we’re teaching your body how to become better at functions so it can perform in any given scenario.

For more visual examples demonstrating this concept, be sure to follow us on social media, @safunctionalfitness, to see exercise videos showcasing how we train entire muscle chains through entire ranges of motion.