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 To Move Better

Tension built in the muscles takes pressure off the joints, ligaments, and bones and allows the muscles and tendons to work as the support system for the body.

This all sounds ideal, especially if you’re someone suffering from pain and restrictive movement because of pain. However it’s not guaranteed to happen if you do exercises that compress your structure. Squatting with a bar on your back causes compression on you vertebrae, bench pressing limits the range of motion of your shoulder girdle and disconnects the pec muscles from the powerful oblique muscles, deadlifting causes your lower posterior chain to work but neglects the upper and causes your lumbar spine to overwork.

All of these are very common exercises that are prescribed to build strength, but often what you aren’t aware of is it’s at the expense of your joints, spine, bones, and ligaments. The physics behind these movements causes the muscles to load exclusively through one direction of force, whereas in reality, the same muscles are constantly being used through multiple angles of force.

There are a few problems with this way of training. The movements themselves don’t allow the force to be balanced out through other angles, and so while the muscles are being worked, the nearby joints and ligaments are also being strained. The movements also don’t allow other muscle chains to integrate with the targeted muscles, which leads to overuse and fascial disconnection from the rest of the chain. Finally, since the movements only train one force at a time, when you go to use your body in the real world, the muscles aren’t thoroughly prepared to be resilient against the multiple forces acting on it.

These movements do make your muscles stronger, but only within the context of the exercise itself. Once your body is off the bench, or the bar isn’t on top of it, your muscles have not been conditioned to withstand other forces. Additionally your muscles have not been conditioned through integration and all the built in connections are not linked efficiently so muscles are working on their own to help support you. Like you’re in a canoe with a group and you’re the only one doing all the paddling- the group should work together to make the paddling easier and the water more enjoyable. Your muscles should learn to work the same way.

Another point to consider is that the exercises themselves cause strain on the joints, ligaments, and bones from the dysfunctional mechanics during the movement. But the exercises can indirectly affect the joints, ligaments, and bones later down the road, by not offering the right support from your muscles when you move in the real world. In other words, the exercises aren’t preparing your body for reality.

Exercise should be used to build resiliency to life outside of the gym. This concept is one that our trainers always remind our clients of when we teach them exercises that align with this principle. The result is a stronger body, leading to less pain and old injuries being resolved in the process.

Come to our gym and learn what is best for your body and how you should be exercising to promote longevity and sustain your fitness.

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 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.

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?

Unlock Your Movement

How much thought do you put into your training? Are you addressing your mechanical issues or are you working around them?
Are you trying to optimize the way you move or are you just beating yourself into more problems?

There’s a smarter way to do things. A way that makes moving from point A to point B effortless. The Functional Patterns way.

Let’s say, for example, you have chronically tight hip flexors. In other words your hip flexors are locked in a shortened state. That means that every movement you do, whether it’s walking, squatting, deadlifting, sleeping, or standing, you will be doing so using your contracted hip flexors. At times, your hip flexors will be required to lengthen depending on the movement you’re doing, and if they aren’t capable of doing so, then you’re ingraining a compensational tendency to work around the fact that your hips are locked up.
Even if you’re attempting an FP exercise and you’re not addressing the fact that your hip flexors are locked in a shortened state then you are just applying your current dysfunctional mechanics to a different exercise.

The reason FP training is gaining so much traction is because we focus on getting results. And we get those results by being meticulously specific in the way we stimulate tissues.
The exercises are not arbitrary, they are not designed to be different to look cool. They’re designed to solve a problem as it relates to human movement. Every single time.

Come and check us out and feel what it’s like to unlock the shackles and move without pain!

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?