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.

Our Trainer’s Aren’t Cheerleaders

At this gym you won’t find trainers that cheer you on to finish reps just to say you completed the set. Instead you’ll find trainers that coach you through the ins and outs of each rep to ensure your performing the exercise correctly.

You’ll be taught exercises specific to your body and what you need relative to the goals you have. You won’t be shown an exercise just to get your heart rate up and sweat pouring just to make you feel like you worked out hard.

We don’t see the point in getting your body moving fast and hard in the beginning, if you’re going to default to moving incorrectly and compensating your way through a movement. We take things slow to ensure that your brain and body are connecting on the same level and you’re learning how an exercise should feel, what muscles are working, and why you need to do it a certain way- when all your body wants to do is move through the path of least resistance, tricking your brain into thinking you’re doing it right.

So if you want learn how to exercise instead of just going through the motions (setting yourself up for pain and injury), book an initial consultation with our trainers today. This isn’t the Orange Theory’s, F45’s, CrossFit’s, or the Gold’s gyms of the city- we personalize our unique approach to training the human body. The way it was meant to be trained to prevent injuries and rehab existing ones, in the process of building strength and mobility that translates to the real world.

Top 3 Training Mistakes

When you start exercising you either see people around you doing an exercise and you copy them, you learn from a YouTube video, or you get guidance from a personal trainer. Sometimes these learning techniques work well- depending who you’re learning from. The problem is that not everyone learns the same way, or what you’re learning is wrong… or maybe not the “best” option.

We prioritized these top 3 mistakes beginners, and experts, often aren’t taught or forget about when training.

  1. Compromising your form just to complete “3×15” reps because what’s the sense of dong any reps if you’re compensating you’re way through the movement?
  2. Incorporating too many variables just to lose sense of the basics because without the fundamentals working, like a strong core and functioning glutes, to support you- your body isn’t integrating as unit.
  3. Going through the motions without *the correct* muscles activating because your body will compensate in ways that you don’t know or your trainer can’t see.

If you can relate to this, you’re like the cup in the image. Trying to function but everything you do, to treat it like a cup, is wasted because it’s broken. Your body breaks down from exercising incorrectly, sometimes it’s immediately, from an injury or sometimes over time, from wear and tear on your structure being exacerbated by these mistakes.

Get yourself a trainer that knows what they’re doing to progress you intelligently and why it’s important to avoid these top training mistakes.

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 back, and vice versa with the arm and leg on the other side of your body, to rhythmically propel yourself through space.

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

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.

Neuromuscular Exercise

Your brain naturally defaults to the neural pathway that represents what you’ve done before. These pathways are created based on habits and behaviors, ei; how you move, what muscles you use to move, what your muscles are doing when you’re not moving, etc.

The brain prefers the path of least resistance- the easiest route to avoid working hard. Since the brain (nervous system) controls our physical actions (muscular system), our function is at the mercy of this path. The way we move is determined on how hard the brain wants to work to coordinate the movement, dictating correct biomechanics versus dysfunctional mechanics based on how your brain is wired.

If your habits and behaviors wire in neural pathways that reinforce the easier path, then your body systems won’t work optimally and over time this becomes normal, and you aren’t even aware of the dysfunction. Using movement as an example… your daily habit of leaning on one leg and popping your hip out to one side when you stand creates a neural pathway, that your brain thinks is normal. Now when you go for a walk, this pathway that was created from your repeated behavior starts to manifest. Every step you take, your hip pops out to the same side as it does when you stand but you aren’t aware of it because your brain has wired this pathway as “normal.” Just because something is normal doesn’t make it right, because a hip that shifts asymmetrically when you walk creates a chain reaction that leads to compensations elsewhere in your kinetic chain. Causing force to pound into your hip joint leading to a hip replacement, unstable hips lead to an unstable spine and overworked knee joints, leading to neck and ankle problems, etc. Think about what else happens during other movements if all this is happening just when you walk.

This is why we prioritize the “mind muscle connection” during training because your body becomes blind to how it’s moving, when your brain has been controlling it a certain way for so long. Our trainers work to uncover if your movement patterns are serving your body for sustainable function or wrecking your body and expediting the aging process.

Contact us if you want to evolve your training to achieve a more practical outcome, instead of just exercising through that path of least resistance.

Fitness: The Ability To Adapt To Your Environment

At this gym we take the mind and muscle connection to a deeper level of understanding and coordination to ensure you get results and not an injury!

You see it’s not enough to think of one muscle while you’re exercising, because when you’re being human and moving your body around like a human body is designed to move (with all its neuromyofascial connections) you have multiple muscles working at the same time- in coordination with each other to facilitate motion. In reality, an isolated muscle contraction can’t do anything to cause better movement, because an isolated muscle contraction does not exist… except in the gym.

Training to stimulate one muscle at a time creates a broken kinetic chain, which is what your body utilizes to function, move, and perform in the real world. Instead of just focusing on the legs or arms, we teach you to integrate your lower body with your core, and with your upper body. Then you learn to use those muscles to move your body through a specific exercise pattern that makes integrating those muscles more feasible. You’re verbally cued to position your bones and joints a certain way to start the exercise, move through the exercise, and finish the exercise so your muscles learn to automatically contract when your body moves through certain positions. Then we pattern exercises to mirror the positions your body moves through most in the real world, so your muscles contract properly during activities away from the gym.

If you’re still blindly performing an exercise for the sake of exercise, and not sure what or where you should feel muscle activity then you’re selling yourself short and not making the most of your time in the gym. We all have busy lives and struggle to fit exercise into our schedules, so you might as well make the most of every minute by mentally controlling the physical actions of your body during a workout. The mental coordination to position your body to produce proper muscle activity can be overwhelming at first, that’s why we help guide you through the process to ensure you’re building your body up and not breaking it down. We show you how your body prefers the path of least resistance and will easily compensate it’s way through an exercise, but then we correct your compensational movements by retraining your brain to recognize the difference and ingraining the correct form of body mechanics to serve your body in the gym, and away from the gym- enhancing your fitness, aka your ability to adapt to any environment and fulfill the task at hand!

If this all sounds super intimidating, don’t worry, because this is what we take care of for you. We hash out all the technical difficulties on our end so you don’t have to figure out what exercises will help or hinder you. If you want results, thats what this gym is about! Contact us today to find the answers your body needs to make real changes that last.