Exercise Priorities

There’s a lot of different training styles that clients are exposed to in the fitness industry. Some work, some don’t. Some are good, some are better, some are bad, and some are just plain wrong. In this gym we don’t try to keep up with the latest trends, but instead focus on the function of the human-being to know our training is relevant and beneficial to our clients.

We measure function as it relates to gait (ie; walking) because it’s what we do most as humans. If what you do most is dysfunctional, a cataclysm of problems will follow in other functions you perform. They will be restricted and imbalanced, leading to asymmetrical movement and compensation.

Consequently, pain and injuries will present themselves because your fundamental movement is wiring in bad habits. If every step you take is in a compensatory manner then your muscles start to learn that it is normal, even if it isn’t right.

Our goal when training clients is to expose their compensations to see what their body is doing wrong so that we can reprogram better function and build strength as it relates to the gait cycle. Thus circling back to what we do most as humans, if you have a strong body you should have a functional gait cycle. Strong individual muscles may look nice and serve some purpose, but if those muscles don’t know how to function together at a fundamental level then it’s a waste of mass. Then you start teaching your body to move around rigid and clunky because your muscles don’t know how to work together in harmony.

Isolating your muscles when you exercise (picture the exercises you see in most commercial gyms) and expecting them to magically translate to functional body mechanics is like not studying for a board exam and expecting to get your license. You need to prepare your body with the right stimulus for the outcome you want it to achieve.

That’s why in this gym, we train functions (through exercises) and not just exercise for the sake of saying you worked out. It’s a different breed of fitness and it produces a different outcome on the body. An outcome that translates to life away from the gym and better function when you’re living life in the real world.

So if you don’t want to be a gym rat, but you recognize the importance of exercise for your health, then you might want to consider learning the right way to exercise to get your body built for the world and not just a body that can perform exercises- that may or may not carry over to functioning well in real life.

If our philosophy meshes with your view on exercise then don’t wait to start functioning better today! It’s a long road but the body can be re-trained to move and function better!

 

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!

Functional Training

Your functional capacity is a byproduct of your exercise regimen, or lack thereof. Lifting weights up and down to build big muscles is shortsighted when you don’t consider the function of the muscle.

Muscle mass built on a compromised structure turns into dysfunctional muscle because its main function(s) isn’t its only job anymore. It’s having to hold your body upright in positions that aren’t preferable but it’s stuck there, because you have trained the muscle to associate its function “this way” instead of the way nature intended.

Lift weights to train your muscles in the context that your body uses them most. You walk on a daily basis, so a unilateral stance progressed with stepping patterns translates more to reality than a squat because you’re learning how to transfer and distribute weight every rep with a step, as opposed to keeping your feet fixed in one plane during the simplicity of a squat.

Is the way your train relevant for what you want your body to be capable of, in life outside of the gym?

The Limitations of Traditional Stretching

Flexible muscles are crucial for multi-purpose function, but your muscles also need to activate as soon as they stretch, so you can move efficiently. Stretching, with the intention of reaching your muscles as far as you can and holding that position as long as you can, promotes a flaccid muscle function. If your muscles are flaccid then they can’t activate effectively. An ideal way of stretching would promote a stretch in a specific track of muscles and an activation along the opposing track of muscles. This way prioritizes the stretch and activation phase of muscle function.

Taking it a step further, the same concept of stretching is applicable during well sequenced exercise. When you position your body for a movement, one track of muscle is activated and the opposing track is stretched. When you initiate the movement, the stretched track begins to activate, and the previously activated track begins to stretch to facilitate the movement. When you walk for example, during a step, one leg is forward and the other is back. Then, during your next step, the leg that was back travels forward as the forward leg stretches into position behind. And the sequence is repeated as you walk down the way. If conventional stretching techniques are prioritized without respect to muscle function then your entire body structure can become flaccid. Then you lose your resiliency to gravity forcing down on you when you sit, stand, or move! So your body compensates instead.

Those compensations, when repeated repetitiously, train your body to accept the compensations as the new normal. When you move with poor body mechanics, whether you’re walking down the street, exercising, or doing what you do most, your body reinforces these improper  compensations. So how do you build your body to move efficiently? Implement exercises that prepare your body for life outside of the gym, while respecting human anatomy. In other words, every exercise should incorporate the activation/stretch sequence while moving in a way that integrates the entire body, through a pattern that translates to movement in the real world. Then the chronic need for stretching is alleviated and tight or achey muscles can be better managed through proper myofascial release/trigger point therapy.

Flexibility is a good thing, but flexibility without muscular tensions associated with extreme ranges of motion are problematic. Contorting your joints, compressing your spine, and manipulating your body into positions for the sake of getting a “deeper stretch,” may not work for you, the way you intended, in the long run. Our muscles are like rubber bands, when they stretch they immediately sling shot to propel our body through space. Over stretching causes our muscles to lose their elasticity, the ability to “sling shot,” and we’re left with muscles that don’t function the way they were designed. If you want to improve the flexibility of your muscles and the mobility of your joints, while respecting the way your body is connected, then book your consultation with a complimentary introductory workout.