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

Functional Flexibility- defined.

Functional flexibility: being able to achieve a range of motion that your muscles drive you into, and can get you out of, (not as pictured). Passive stretching to reach an extreme range of motion causes problems on your joints, tendons, and ligaments because you’re using external means (absent of muscle contractions) to do so. Since you didn’t utilize any muscle to reach that ROM, your body has to lever off of a joint to get you out of it. Like gravity just dumping your body (and your joints) wherever it wants to and then you have to figure out how to get out of that position because your body (muscles) didn’t actually do anything to get you there.

The fact of the matter is that your muscles are designed to lengthen (stretch) and then shorten (contract) and continue through this reciprocal function to produce movement. When you hold a stretch position you disrupt your muscles elasticity and they lose their ability to recoil (shorten/contract). So when we train clients to exercise correctly and recognize what a muscle contraction feels like, they use the contraction to move their body into a range for a few seconds and then they use the same muscles, differently, to move out of that range, and repeat for reps. With this intention, they’re building strength in one chain of muscle, while the opposing chain is stretching.

This allows the body to reach a safe range of motion without strain because when the muscle contraction disappears, you know you’ve reached a range of motion your body isn’t ready for. Never mind the stretch, remember if one muscle is contracting another is stretching. So focus on the contraction and the stretch will come along for the ride.

Stretching Doesn’t Fix Anything.

If you are stretching or doing any kind of mobility work to help alleviate an ache or pain, read on.

Have you ever wondered why medication gets a bad reputation? Aside from the fact that the pills cause side effects that didn’t exist prior, the real reason medication isn’t widely accepted is because it doesn’t fix anything. The pills only help you manage the symptoms. And yes we realize some medication may be necessary but the disease that caused you to have to take the medication in the first place should be looked at as the culprit and effort put in to eradicate the disease instead of just accepting the disease as normal and taking pills to “live” with the symptoms.

If you are stretching or doing mobility exercises to eliminate aches and pains, you’re only managing the symptoms. They don’t fix anything long term. Just like the disease you’re taking the medication for, you still have the disease when you take the pills, you just don’t have as many symptoms. But if you stop taking the pills, your symptoms return. Just like if you stop doing your stretches and mobility drills, your pain and stiffness returns. So that should tell you that those exercises aren’t truly getting to the root of the problem (like a doctor who doesn’t get to the root of what’s causing high blood pressure but just prescribes pills because it’ll make living with the issue doable) and nothing gets fixed from the stretches you’re doing.

Not only do they not fix anything, they’re likely doing more harm than good to your body because you’re over stretching tissues that hurt but the cause is likely rooted elsewhere. This is why we use movement to fix aches and pains because once the body is operating efficiently homeostasis can be achieved and balance restored through the structure.

We want you to know there are better exercises to do than stretching and mobility drills that only provide temporary relief. You see, stretching away tension doesn’t work as intended because your body needs tension to support itself, otherwise you become like a wet floppy noodle. Knowing this, our objective is to teach your body how to properly distribute tension to the right parts of your body, to relieve tension in unwanted areas of your body. Then you don’t feel the need to stretch because your body is operating in a state of balance.

If you’re truly tired of constantly moving with pain and discomfort. If you’re truly tired of having to rely on some sort of half step protocol to give you some quick but short term pain management. If you’re truly looking for a way to fix your dysfunctional body for the long run. Contact our gym today and set up your last physical evaluation. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to rely on medication the rest of your life and would rather treat disease with dietary and other holistic changes, then think about your body the same way. Do you really want to keep spending time out of your day on stretching if you’re only counteracting the effects of the imbalance in your body that’s causing the problem, or would you rather spend a little extra time, initially, figuring out what’s causing the problem and fix it effectively so you can get back to living life on your terms!

What Does Functional Training Look Like?

We often get asked “what exactly does your training look like?”

“Is it stretching?”

“Is it mobility work?”

“Is it rehab… or exercise?”

“Is it strength and conditioning?”

“Is it performance or injury prevention?”

Simply put, it’s all of the above!

When you move well, you are “stretching” parts of your body, while “strengthening” another.

Learning to move well also means that you learn to position your joints in a way to produce maximum mobility, while still being safe and beneficial for your body.

When you train your body to move well, you are in fact doing “rehab” while still building strength and training to perform better.

You can’t separate flexibility from strength and you certainly can’t separate rehab from performance either.

Training your body to separate those elements won’t get you long term physical wellbeing because your body operates as one complex system. Train it according, and if you can’t, we can!

How To Tell If Your Workouts Are Paying Off

No it’s not just that your losing weight (that’s mostly diet anyway), or that you’re lifting more weight, or you can touch your toes. All of that should come along for the ride, but what if all of that happens at the expense of your well-being, and you can lift more weight but you blow out your knee joints, or shoulder joints, or you’re losing weight by beating your body up with chronic fast paced interval workouts that you won’t be able to sustain when your body finally crashes (hence why dietary habits are more important for sustainable weight loss), or you’re more flexible but touching your toes is over stretching your hamstrings and now you can’t contract them like you should and they no longer support your body.

The way our trainers educate our clients to know if their workouts are actually yielding a return on their investment is if they’re able to move without guarding or restriction, they no longer have chronic pain when they exercise or move about in the real world, and they can function the way they need and want to without having to avoid certain activities. Of course all of this is a process and not an overnight event, but those are the goals our trainers have for all of our clients, our intentions behind every workout is to build muscle and strength that carries over to life away from the gym. After all, the gym shouldn’t be where you spend hours a day but instead get in, do your work, and get out to enjoy other activities that our gym has prepared your body for!

We are a unique boutique fitness studio that focuses on human biomechanics and our niche does’t entertain all the fluff in the fitness industry because we’ve been there and we’ve done that, and we finally realized that it was ego driven and unsustainable. We beat our bodies up at the expense of looking good, and we realized that if we continued on that path, we’d be right where the rest of gym goers were, wearing knee braces, avoiding certain lifts because it hurt, working around problems, on the path to knee replacements and back surgeries, and eventually blaming old age on a problem that was created years prior from bad fitness habits. We realize not everyone is about longevity and sustainability but for those of you who want something different, and something that will last, we’re here for you!

Once we can undo the damage done to your body from past exercise habits and old injuries, then the fun can start and you can obtain that rush of endorphins and the higher intensity cardiovascular workouts but you won’t injure yourself because your body will have been primed for advanced movements. And if it’s not, your body will tell you and we’ll stop and correct what needs correcting before blindly proceeding with an exercise that you might need more coaching on. The difference is by that point you and your body will know what feels right and what is going to produce damage, because we like to educate you along the way so that you learn the purpose of an exercise and how it should carry over to your overall function- inside and outside of the gym.

We spend time in the beginning learning foundational concepts to apply to basic exercises that involve structures like your pelvis and ribcage, that effect other structures like your arms, shoulders, and neck, as well as your legs, knees, ankles, and feet. When you learn the functions of these structures and how to move them to contract muscles and then what those muscle contractions should feel like, then we can go on to the next level. We don’t like to get ahead of ourselves or rush your progress, but we do want to push you to get your body functioning the way it needs to be. How ever long it takes, we have patience to safely progress you and ensure we aren’t going to force you into exercises your body isn’t ready for. As we keep moving you through the levels, that’s when efficiency starts to manifest and we are able to make the most of your time in the gym. Rather than keeping you in a routine that works on stretching first, then strength training, then cardiovascular exercises, then core strengthening, then mobility, then endurance and time under tension, we are able to do all of that at once. Not in one workout but in one exercise! Then not only does your time become efficient but so does your body and the way it moves.

Efficiency is key because in the real world your brain and body don’t have time to think of how to move, it just happens automatically. So the idea of mentally “squeezing” a muscle breaks down at some point and your body needs to learn how to contract a muscle by positioning your bones at the correct angles. Don’t worry, we teach you this. And we take it a step further by matching those angles to the angles that replicate basic human movements like standing, walking, running, bending over, and even throwing, so when you go to perform these movements, you don’t have to think because your muscles already know how to contract during those functions. Again, all of this takes time, depending on how dysfunctional your body has become from improper exercise habits, arbitrary workout classes, old injuries, chronic pains, and whatever else we have to fix to start retraining the brain and body to connect better.

If you’re local to San Antonio and the surrounding areas, we’re your future gym. Not to toot our own horn (because we’re humbled everyday by unique cases like scoliosis clients, clients with chronic pain that hasn’t been helped by physical therapy so they turn to us as their last ditch effort, and other problems that the fitness industry prefers to avoid or work around), but we’re the only place that trains this way. Sure other gyms might claim to do this or have the same intentions, but chances are they are not providing the same service and techniques. The human biomechanics field is a very small, up and coming one, and the Functional Patterns institute that teaches these techniques doesn’t promote weekend or online training seminars, but instead we spend weeks learning these methods to ensure that first, we get them right, so we can properly teach our clients.

So, stop getting stuck in the stretch, lift, cardio, stretch routine and start learning how to become more efficient with exercise, to become more efficient in the real world. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation/ evaluation and learn what your body does well so we can build off of that, and also what it doesn’t do well so we can correct that! You have your entire life ahead of you, are you going to spend it in pain and unable to move like you used to (what your doctor says is just old age) or are you going to do something about it? It’s time to regain your freedom to move and take control of your lifestyle and the way the human body was meant to move, no matter your age! This gym exists for that reason! Come find out what we do differently from the rest of the fitness world, and why we do it!

Stretching, Evolved.

Evolve the way you “stretch” your muscles 


We condition muscles, along with the fascia that surrounds them, to lengthen and shorten through an entire rep. Thus we are stretching and exercising all in one move


The benefit to this simultaneous coordination is that the muscles are preserving their elasticity (ability to elongate and then recoil to their original position) which is key to moving well and without joint damage.


We know that flexibility is important to overall function, but the way we push extreme ranges of motion in a static stretching position (pictured) is damaging this function of your muscles. The range of motion achieved in a pose does not automatically translate to improved flexibility when you’re actively using your muscles to move.


That’s why we train the kinetic chain to actively contract (shorten) and then stretch (lengthen) muscles while the body is moving. Then we improve flexibility by gently testing the spectrums of available range of motions that the body is capable of getting into and then out of, using the muscles. This is important because the body can achieve a range of motion (sometimes forced and painful as in a deep stretch, other times accidentally just by moving the wrong way) from the force of gravity alone. So instead of leaving ranges of motion to chance, we teach the muscles how to guide and control those ranges. 

 

The exercises we utilize are built around the core staying engaged, while the surrounding muscles go through their series of contractions and stretches. A basic explanation of a more effective way to “stretch” while still respecting the functions of the human body.

Stretching Tight Muscles

Stretching aims to get rid of tension. But your body needs tension to support itself.

Not all tension is bad, your body needs to learn how to properly distribute tension to the correct muscles.

When tension is redistributed to the proper areas of the body, muscles don’t feel the need to stretch because the body is in a state of balance.

This concept is a basis for correcting muscle imbalances.

Unique, Different, Relevant

A lot comes to mind when users experience the style of training we implement, it’s “weird, unconventional, confusing” yet “applicable, practical, sustainable, and for a purpose.”

We utilize Functional Patterns techniques and methodologies to produce changes on the human body that forms of traditional training and therapies aim to do, but can’t. It boils down to what is relevant and what is not… aka useless.

Are back squats, bench presses, mini band walks, and clam shells making the most of time spent exercising or rehabbing? From personal and observational experience, no. They might help, a little bit, for some strength and general movement to avoid being a couch potato, but the risks outweigh the benefits, and the carry over is minimal compared to what the human body actually needs.

As pictured, the way humans move most is via contralateral reciprocation- opposing limbs connecting. When one leg is forward, the other is back. When the leg is back, that same arm is forward. Exercise patterns should aim to respect this fundamental concept of movement, as it relates to the human body. IF we only had an upper body, then the isolation of the bench press would be more appropriate. Rather our pec muscles connect through fascia across our body via the oblique slings, to the opposing leg muscles of the hip and inner thigh. Isolation destroys these connections and teaches the body to work in isolation, when in reality it integrates to function as an efficient unit.

The human body evolved to walk, run, and throw. Thus our muscular connections developed to support these functions, so training the body in isolation continuously without training the entire muscular chain, and the chains it connects to, is a recipe for a degenerated body.

Integrated movement is one thing, but integrating your muscles through exercise patterns that mirror the way the body moves in real life is the recipe for a fully functioning, high performing body in life outside of the gym.

Moving to stay healthy and avoid a sedentary lifestyle is beneficial, and as mentioned earlier, the benefits are enhanced when the proper training stimulus is implemented. The risks of training your body the way the mainstream gym culture advertises leads to some muscle strength and overall muscle mass, but at the expense of joint pain, lower back stiffness, having to wear a knee brace, and a general decline in your capabilities in activities outside of the gym.

Whereas movement that replicates the way the human body moves on a day to day basis enhances your quality of life in the real world. Recreational activities like golf and tennis can be played without aches and pains, your muscles learn to leverage your motion rather than unnecessary strain on the joints as levers, and an overall freedom with your everyday movement manifests. In other words, the benefits of exercise extend far beyond the exercise itself and last long after the exercise is over.

The way we integrate the muscles during movement has a lasting impact and carry over to reality is because our focus is on human biomechanics. Relevant movement that conditions the body according to your biological blueprint rather than arbitrarily lifting weights balancing on one foot and raising a dumbbell out to the side at the same time. There are multiple ways to train multiple muscles at once but only one way to train the muscles for a purpose beyond exercise.

The arbitrary exercise pattern has minimal carry over other than simply challenging your coordination, balance, and some multiplanar muscle activation. The intent is right but the execution won’t support the desired outcome. Creating a movement sequence to build tension from the ground up, rotating your body to create a lever to lift the weight overhead at the end of the rotation, and raising an opposing leg to the weight over head to counter balance the tensions and produce contralateral connections throughout the body. While maintaining proper core pressure, leg, arm, pelvis, and ribcage alignment before, during, and after the movement. Following a sequence to produce the right muscle tensions at the right time. All through patterns that your body moves through daily, so your muscles are programmed to work automatically rather than having to consciously be aware of your glutes firing properly during a run or on the tennis courts.

Wow that’s a lot to think about! And it’s necessary, if you’re legitimately concerned about aging well, performing optimally, and living life without working through pain. We don’y mindlessly count reps, every rep is corrected to make the most of the movement and connect your brain and body in new ways. Over time your body learns to self correct the fundamentals of human movement and we are able to add more variables to the mix and maximize the muscle function and carry it over to your daily living.

This isn’t your typical gym, we educate our clients on the importance of why moving intentionally is necessary, how to manage your pain by reprogramming better movement capabilities, what parts of the body connect with other parts to make up an efficient whole, when to move a muscle to create a contraction and a pairing with the opposing muscle, and who is in control of it all- your mind and your body.

Mindful vs. Mindless Exercise

More humans are starting to recognize and adopt the importance of regular exercise and general movement in their daily lives. With an increase in technology, transportation, and general automation there is less of a social requirement for being physically fit. However there is still, and always will be, a physical requirement for being fit and functional. If you are not, your body will let you know, in the form of aches and pains. Pain is not a normal sense that your body should become used to or learn to live with just because you’re getting older. Yes you may be getting older, but it’s important to realize that you’re not feeling worse as you age because another year has passed, you may be feeling worse because you’re moving less, moving inefficiently, exercising arbitrarily, and contributing to a poor posture with the exercise and lifestyle habits that you’ve created as the years pass.

It’s fair to say that age is only a number, and how you live your daily life is going to influence how you feel, no matter your age, or your physical condition. The human body is long over do for a relevant way of training that promotes wellbeing in life outside of the gym. Mindlessly exercising for the sake of performing a specific exercise better and getting stronger at a particular lift is irrelevant when it comes to enhancing your overall function in life outside of the gym. Sure, there is some carry over to general strength if you lift weights, but the carry over is minimal and the rate of injury or unexplained pains (“I’m just getting ‘older'”) usually increases. Unless you’re a genetically gifted human, the way most of the population trains is damaging in the long run.

Most of us know that weight machines are like training wheels for your bicycle and don’t really serve much of a purpose other than isolating muscles, but why would you spend time in the gym isolating muscles, when in reality, your muscles are programmed to integrate as a unit to facilitate movement. Hence the arbitrary, irrelevant way of training that the fitness industry has mis-created. Even the free weights are misused by most gym goers because the lifting patterns don’t respect human evolution- ie; walking, running, and throwing. The muscles of the human body were designed around these fundamental functions and every rep that you do of an exercise that doesn’t enhance these functions is detrimental in the long run. Detrimental to your overall health and wellness, from knee pain to poor digestion.

Most exercises prescribed in the commercial gym culture and traditional physical therapy practices is patch work for a failing structure. When gravity is compressing you all day long and then you go and squat with a bar on your back, that exercise only adds to the compression or your vertebral discs and eventually lead to overall compression- from your visceral organs (hence, poor digestion) to your muscles and tendons being a compressed mess (hence chronic muscle tightness and stiffness). If you can learn how to decompress as you exercise (hint: Sling Training) then you’re becoming more efficient at movement that matters and your body becomes less compensatory- physically and physiologically. No amount of digestive enzymes, knee braces, or arbitrary exercise will fix your body and your body’s problems, it will only treat the symptoms. Much like a band-aid on a gun shot wound would work…

If you’re the kind of person who priorities their health and wellness and wants to genuinely fix whatever issues you’re dealing with, whether chronic and nobody has been able to help, or acute and you are looking for long term relief, contact us today. Our consultation/ evaluation process is low cost and worth your time to evolve the way you exercise, recover, and live. We’ll teach you the difference between exercising to exercise, and utilizing exercises that actually translate your time spent in the gym, to being adequately prepared to adapt your body to the ever changing environment 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.