Functional Fitness Part 2

We know by now that our body is one integrated unit, so repetitive movements that isolate it into sections cause disconnections throughout your kinetic chain. In our previous post Functional Fitness Part 1 we highlighted some exercise techniques that get a lot of hype, but don’t necessarily deliver the most bang for your buck. In this post we’ll explain why we believe there are better methods to ensure prolonged health and fitness for your body.

We know that the human body evolved to walk upright on both legs, so regressing your training to crawling movements won’t help your daily function. Yes, you’ll feel your muscles working and your brain will think you’re doing something good for your body, but since we don’t walk on our hands our shoulders need a different kind of support relative to our legs. So crawling movements won’t enhance or coincide with the functions of human movement discussed in our previous post- standing, walking, running, and throwing.

HIIT workouts are stressful on your body, and too much stress spikes cortisol and makes it hard to lose fat anyway (plus it’s cumbersome on your joints and hard to sustain for more than a few weeks without some form of pain or injury). So if you’re doing HIIT workouts to lose weight, do the longevity of your body a favor, and stop eating so much. Then just exercise to stimulate muscle tissue in a manner than mimics the way it functions in the real world, so you can sustain your fitness as you age.

Powerlifting can make you stronger but usually at the expense of hernias, stress fractures, disc herniations, torn tendons and ligaments, and compression on your spine. So it’s high risk, low reward because once you injure yourself it’s hard to recovery back to 100%. And in reality why do we need to lift such heavy objects? Humans have developed brains to work smarter not harder. We’ve developed pulley systems, levers, and machines to move objects and do the heavy lifting for us. Compared to other animals, like a silver back guerrilla, we are extremely weak. So the next time you need to move a piece of furniture use a friend to help, or on those rare occasions when you need to move a big rock or firewood, use a wheelbarrow. And get strong at what you do most, standing, walking, running, and throwing. This will help cultivate strength that you can use without damaging your joints.

We share these thoughts to spread relevant information about the human body and the repercussions of the way we treat it. If you like what you do and your body feels okay, keep doing it. But if not, we offer an alternative way to train and sustain your health and fitness.

*Hint; check out the picture from this post, and our last one. Compare how confined the squat pattern is, versus the running one. The bar on the back causes compression, and the running (assuming your joints are adequate- we can help with that) can engage the entire body through horizontal force distribution and create strength and mobility that you can use more often.

How Do You Build Strong Glutes?

Having strong glutes is crucial for a strong body, because your glutes play a role in all of your movements. As trainers, we work to build functional strength in the glutes to improve our clients ability to use their hips more efficiently in sports, like running, boxing, or golf, and for EVERYDAY use.

What does “functional strength” mean? Strength that translates to the way your body uses that strength in the real world. Most trainers or exercisers only use squat variations or mini band exercises to build their glute muscles, without considering how those exercise patterns translate (or don’t translate) to their movement patterns in real life.

In other words, context matters because the way the glutes function during a golf swing, for example, is primarily through rotation of the pelvis- a HUGE difference from what the pelvis is doing in squats (pictured) and mini band exercises. If we train our client’s glutes for rotational function, the muscle strength carries over to the way their body uses it during golf and daily movement.

If you train exclusively in the sagittal plane with expectations that you’re going to build functional strength, you’re missing the context that your body needs to operate smoothly. Did you know your glutes rotate your pelvis when you walk, run, and throw? Most athletes perform all of these functions at some point, and most humans perform at least one every day (walking), and it’s important to remember that if your training doesn’t factor functions that relate to the way you use your body in reality, into your exercises, your strength will be confined to the gym. Period.

Start training your body for the life it lives outside of the gym. Context matters. Our trainers recognize that not all exercises translate to the what your body needs, unless it’s specific to how your body moves. Squats would be more useful to us if we were kangaroos, but since our glutes primarily contract in a horizontal direction, as with walking, we need to train them and prepare them for what they do most. This is how strength translates to function!

Functional Resistance Training

Functional Patterns resistance training does not look the way resistance training looks in commercial gyms because traditional training isn’t functional. Pistol squats aren’t functional. Bench press isn’t functional. Deadlifts aren’t functional. How many times a day do you stop and squat on one leg, bench, deadlift, or do an isolated bicep curl when you’re moving in the real world? The muscles that these exercises train certainly function to help you move but not the way they’re being trained. It’s contextual. So you do need strong pecs and biceps as well as glutes and hamstrings but the way these muscles are being conditioned through traditional exercises doesn’t translate to how they need to function to help you move better in the real world. Your pecs and biceps help drive your arms and torso when you’re walking and strong glutes and hamstrings propel your pelvis and legs when you move. But since most of human movement is upright, on two legs, and horizontal in nature, vertical forces like squats, benches, and deads don’t have much transferability to realistic movements. Sure, those exercises will make you stronger but I say again, in what context? Are you squatting down the street or walking down the street?

Human Function

The human body has evolved to function in the way that it has through environmental stimulus from the natural world. In nature, a human would need to be efficient at walking, running, and throwing in order to survive. Just because we have changed our environment through technological innovation over the past several hundred years, does not negate the thousands of years that went into forming our body into what it is today.

There are specific ratios of movement, rotations, muscular tensions, and pressures that need to be coordinated in order to have efficient gait and throwing. Almost every movement that a human does is going to be a derivative of those patterns. By optimizing the length tension relationship of muscles through these patterns, you end up with a structure that is able to float in a sea of muscles and distribute force through entire kinetic chains as opposed to compressing joints and vertebrae with the impact of every step you take.

Our gym utilizes Functional Patterns training because FP seeks to codify and quantify the specific movement sequencing needed to optimize those patterns and get ordinary people to move in a closer approximation to an elite athlete.

Once these patterns are instituted, progressive overload can be utilized to build muscle that serves a functional purpose rather than isolated muscle that makes us clunky and inefficient movers.

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?

How To Prevent Pain When Exercising

Age is not only a product of time, but also lifestyle choices. How you live your life now, manifests when you’re 30, 40, 60, 80, etc.

Those achey knees from barbell back squats or faulty running mechanics may worsen and require a knee replacement when you’re 50. But it’s not because you’re getting older, it’s because time is catching up with you from the way you behaved/lived/exercised leading up to your present age.

Experiencing pain or a hurt [insert joint here] after activity is your body telling you something’s wrong. It’s not about pushing past it with the “no pain, no gain” mentality. Push past your ego and admit your body isn’t the specimen you thought… and get to work on fixing the problem.

If you’re trying to live the life you want, pay attention to the little details that cumulate over your lifetime. That bum ankle slowly causes dysfunction further up the chain and 5-10 years later you wonder why you can’t function and perform like you used to.

Remove yourself from the injury cycle of exercising foolishly, hurting yourself, not exercising for several weeks, then going too hard for your body to keep up, making the old injury worse, sitting out for a month, and repeating this as a “normal” way of life. Work on preventative measures that are sustainable, no matter how old you are or what your current fitness level is, to keep yourself in the game called Life.

Sling Training

Myofascial Sling Training is a way to train the human body that respects the way it evolved to move. It’s not based on arbitrary exercise tasks, but rather on movement patterns that translate to everyday function. Sling training refers to the Myofascial Sling Systems that connect the upper body with the lower body and are responsible for supporting the body during day to day performance. Whether you’re an elite athlete, amateur golfer, a 5K’er, weekend gardener, construction worker, walking the dogs, playing with the grandkids, and just existing in the real world. Whatever kind of movement you’re doing, your myofascial sling network is producing the movement. In order to move well, you must train the muscles in a manner that reinforce the way the sling systems function. Isolated movement doesn’t fulfill the requirement because when the body moves, it functions as one integrated unit- so total body integration will start to potentiate the muscles involved and teach them how to work together to produce efficient movement.

At first glance sling training is falsely mistaken as exercise that doesn’t accomplish strength gains. However once the proper foundation is built, slinging has the potential to build mass proportionally across entire chains of muscle, create strength during movements that replicate the way we function in reality, provide lengthened potentials (flexibility/mobility) for tight and overactive muscles, and unite multiple systems of the body to work together in harmony and promote a cardiovascular workout as well as strength that manifests in everyday movement. Obviously other modalities promote this as well, the issue that we’ve found is that the traditional means are often temporary gains riddled with aches and pains and are not sustainable.

The more efficiently you can move, the less energy you waste and the more muscles you have working for you at one time to provide a safer way to move your body while minimizing the risk of injury. As humans, we typically walk upright on two feet and other movements branch off of walking patterns, so when we train, we should be training the slings to become better during movements that we go through on a regular basis. While some argue that the squat is a staple movement because children often times squat when they play, they’re not recognizing that the way the squat is typically trained… with a bar on top of your cervical spine, compressing your discs, as you lift heavier and heavier weight, in a repetitious fashion… is damaging. The strength gained in the glutes and lower body is often overshadowed by lower back pain, knee pain, hip pain, or general tightness that, over time, begins to interfere with everyday movement. The squat can be functional, but it’s during movement patterns that promote connectivity between the sling system and the rest of the myofascial meridians. The more connected your muscles are, the less compression you’ll experience in the joints because the muscles are working towards a greater contractile potential to absorb the force.

Our gym offers training that enhances the human body and builds it up, rather than breaking it down through pointless exercise tasks. Instead of coaching you to become better at specific exercises, we teach your body specific exercises that are going to help you perform better in life outside of the gym. Our goal, as trainers, is to create a workout program for you that is sustainable as you age, while still allowing you to make progress and challenge the body as your muscles learn new motor skills to enhance everyday movement.

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.