Mind Muscle Connection

Neuromuscular reprogramming is just fancy jargon for training the brain/body connection via the correct exercise stimulus.

We have our clients utilize a mirror for most exercises to point out when their form is compromised leading to injury and understanding why the way they perform certain functions causes pain.

The consensus is that their brain thinks the way they’re already doing it is right. But when they get a reality check in the mirror they can finally see (and feel) the cause and effect from improper movement.

Your brain is always going to prefer to stay in its comfort zone and move through the path of least resistance, which is what prompts your muscles to respond with inefficient patterns. A pro tip we teach our clients is to slow down the movement and focus on controlling the details. Your body will learn how to use your muscles efficiently to move correctly and retrain your brain in the process.

Come feel what our gym does differently from the rest in the industry. Set up your initial (no obligation) consultation so we can get to know your body and you can get a feel for our style of training.

Alignment 101

The position of (fill in the blank) influences the rest of your alignment. Because our body is interconnected, one structure’s alignment will influence another’s. For example when your pelvis is out of alignment, it pulls your spine out of its natural alignment. The spine’s position effects the position of your ribcage, head and neck, as well as further down your chain in your knee and ankle joints. Basically your center of gravity is thrown off.

When you’re misaligned, muscles pull you in directions you otherwise wouldn’t be in, to fight for “balance” and trick your brain into thinking everything’s positioned where it needs to be. You’re alignment (or lack of) influences how well you stand and move, and that influences how your body responds to its environment, functionally or dysfunctionally. The latter leads to pain and injury.

Automated Muscle Contractions

Learn to move your pelvis and ribcage in multiple contexts, against multiple demands.

These structures influence function in the upper and lower extremities, alignment of the spine and head, and the ability to engage powerful muscles- like the glutes, pecs, lats, and core!

It’s one thing to consciously contract the glutes or your abs during an exercise, but in life outside the gym your muscles contract automatically based on the position your body is in.

Ergo, when we train clients in our gym we aren’t cueing them to squeeze this muscle or that muscle during an exercise, instead we cue them to align the structures of their body in a position to illicit an automatic muscle contraction.

As these positions become more efficient, we can tailor the exercise position to the specific context that it’s encountered in the real world to produce efficient movement, facilitated by the correct muscles automatically. That way when you’re out for a walk or playing a tennis match, you don’t have to think about what muscles are controlling your body and you can just go!

Control over these regions during exercise will enhance your movement potential in the real world because of their influence on multiple muscle functions, and how that contributes to efficient body mechanics.

You only have one body, learn what it needs and how to supply its needs with our team of biomechanics specialists training you on your journey to strength, function, and sustainable fitness!

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

Less Pain Is Possible!

Is pain keeping your from the activities you enjoy? Have you been told surgery is your only option?

At SA Functional Fitness our pain management trainers restore the function of your muscles to support the integrity of your joints!

This is important because without proper muscle functions, your joints take on the stress from the force that your muscles should be absorbing.

Over time this leads to inflammation in the joints and causes pain from the joints working in a way they weren’t designed to.

Each trainer plans exercises to get to the root of your dysfunction causing adversity on your joints, or pain in general.

Most of the time surgery can be prevented, delayed, or faster recovery after surgery, from the right kind of exercise.

We work with numerous clients dealing with knee pain, back pain, hip pain, shoulder pain, and neck pain. Our goal as biomechanics trainers is to fix the underlying issue that contributes to pain in the first place. Sometimes this isn’t always possible, so our next goal is to mitigate the pain, or set your body up to recover from surgery faster and fuller with exercise before surgery.

If this sounds like something your body is searching for, then call us today to get started with one of our trainers!

You Get What You Pay For

Sometimes the cheapest option isn’t the best option. Not just with your health but anything. For example, a cheap apartment might cost you less per month in rent, but when the landlord doesn’t take care of things and there’s bugs everywhere or something’s always broken and needing repairs, the inconvenience isn’t worth it. Just like a gym that cost $20 a month but you’re left to your own devices and training your own body, figuring out what works for you through trial and error. Or maybe you pay $80 a month for unlimited group classes but then you’re drowning in a sea of other people, forced to go through a workout that everyone else is going through, that might not be right for your individual needs.

This is when it pays, to pay a little more for personal training. You get one on one attention, exercises created for your unique requirements, and you can ask questions, offer feedback to your trainer, and the workout can be modified to best address what your body needs!

Sure, it costs more, but when you only have one body to invest in, make sure it is a wise investment. You want to see AND feel tangible results that are sustainable, rather than just paying someone to stand around and count reps while you do the exercise they just demonstrated. Our trainers do all of that, plus we let you know what to expect during the exercise, where you should feel tension, what is normal, and what is not supposed to be, and then while you’re doing it, we remind you of what you’re supposed to be focusing on to manifest what we described during the demonstration. You’re constantly being reminded what you should be mentally focusing on, so physically your body is doing what it needs to be doing to ensure you aren’t going to hurt yourself.

If you want to shut your brain off and just copy an exercise you see for the desired amount of reps without knowing what muscles you should be working or how to activate them, then use YouTube or a cookie cutter fitness app. But if you actually want to learn about your body’s function and how to put that function to use correctly, to mitigate pain, ward off injuries, and enhance your peak physical function- during exercise and in life outside of the gym, then follow us on social media, subscribe to our newsletter, read our blogs, check out FunctionalPatterns.com to see the type of training methods we utilize, and then you can decide if you want to spend your money with us!

No pressure, it’s your body, treat it the way you want to treat it.

Want Strong Muscles? Do This.

Most training and rehab methodologies have oversimplified the mechanics of the human body. When in reality, moving well is complex. We know that if you move well, your likelihood of injury decreases and developing pain from long term compensation diminishes because the body isn’t out of balance when you move. So to simply think that lifting weights is going to make you strong without any negative consequences is shortsighted. It boils down to how you “lift weights” and we aren’t talking about your form on a bench press or a dumbbell raise. We mean how your body looks when you’re lifting. Are you doing simple exercise to stimulate a muscle but then not teaching that muscle how to function when you, as a human, move (upright, on 2 legs).

It goes deeper than just this mindset and these arbitrary exercises:

Want strong glutes? —> do squats.

Want strong arms? —> do bicep curls.

Strong hamstrings? —> deadlifts.

Shoulder pain? —> banded scapula retractions.

This issues with these movements is that you almost never find them in real life.

Think about it for a minute.

How many times do you squat or deadlift when you run or play sports?

How many times do you isolate a bicep curl when you’re in your day to day life?

These exercise can make your muscles “stronger” but what ensures that those muscles will actually perform their job when you need them most during daily demands?

So if you want to build strong glutes and turn to an exercise like the squat as your main lift, then you’re not training your glutes to be functional, the way they need to be to move your body. When you walk, you’re upright on 2 legs and both legs alternate bearing weight and help push off the ground to move you forward. If we were kangaroos then an exercise like the squat might carry over more to life outside the gym, but if you look at the traditional squat all it provides is an exercise to make you feel like you’re working out. It doesn’t offer single leg weight bearing, weight transfer during movement, and the worst is that it builds your glutes through an up and down (vertical) motion instead of the horizontal motion that your glutes should be using when you walk or run. So if you rely on squats and think they’re your staple to build strong glutes, think again. They’re only building strong glutes to squat and while humans do squat it’s usually not repetitious and only for a few moments to complete a task. What is repetitive on the flute muscles in walking and so if you don’t build your glutes in that context then you lose your ability to walk well over time. And if you think about it, humans were born to walk. Babies squat before they learn the complex motor skills to walk because squatting is simple to coordinate. When it comes time to walk, more muscles (besides the glutes) contract to produce the motion and when your muscles lose touch with their fundamental functions then your body begins to fall into compensatory patterns and pain and injuries eventually set in. Of all the thousands of steps you take in a day (versus all the squats required of you in a day) the best way to build strong muscles and a strong body is to use exercise to enhance what you do most. To get better at the necessary functions of human movements, then if you want to squat you can work that in later as an accessory exercise. But it won’t look the way you used to train squats, with a bar on your back or a dumbbell between your arms as you squat down. A functional squat is one that respects the weight distribution of human mechanics, the reciprocal actions of muscle chains, the integrative actions of other muscles, and the timing of certain principles that circle back to human function.

So as you train the way you train, ask yourself; is this really paying off in my day to day function or am I just exercising for the sake of exercising? Do my muscles learn to behave more optimally as it relates to the way I move in life outside the gym or am I just packing on useless muscle mass that doesn’t function to help me move?

Auto Mechanic vs Body Mechanic

When your check engine light comes on in your car or you hear an unfamiliar sound when you’re driving it, you know something is wrong and you take it in to the shop for a mechanic to evaluate what’s wrong. You wouldn’t chance driving a malfunctioning car at 70 m.p.h. because there is a lot of risk if something is wrong with your engine or your brakes aren’t working properly when you’re driving at high speeds. So why do you treat your body any differently? When your knee hurts when you walk, or your shoulder hurts when you carry a bag, or your lower back is in pain every morning when you get out of bed, that’s your body’s “check engine light” and it’s telling you that something is wrong and you should get it checked out.

The same way a car mechanic addresses the problems with your car, that’s how our team of trainers views and treats the problems with your body. We don’t want you operating at “high speeds” when your body isn’t functioning properly to support your movement. We aim to correct what is wrong so that your function doesn’t create more problems in your joints from faulty body mechanics. The human body was born to walk, and eventually run, literally the way our species evolved was by using our muscles in this fashion. So if you can’t perform one or both of these fundamental functions without some form of ache or pain, then your body isn’t functioning optimally. When your body isn’t functioning optimally it can still find ways to move and mask the pain, learn to live with the pain, or avoid the problem entirely. But this isn’t conducive to overall health and fitness.

If you took your car to the car mechanic and they told you everything is fixed and working now…as long as you don’t drive over 50 m.p.h., make a left turn, or put your car in reverse everything will be fine. You’d likely except them to keep working on it until you can use your car safely on the roads. When we initially meet with you, we take an intake of what functions you have problems performing and we work with you to fix these dysfunctions in order to truly function without any consequences or restrictions. If someone comes in with shoulder pain, we wouldn’t say don’t raise your arm past your shoulder, drive with that arm, or carry your groceries with that arm and everything will be okay. That would be the same issue with your auto mechanic not fully fixing your car. We would be teaching people to avoid the problem and not getting at the root to fix it.

When working with us you should feel as though your mechanical dysfunctions, joint problems, muscle aches, etc., are on the path to getting resolved as we troubleshoot what is causing the malfunction rather than just having you avoid the issue. Avoiding the issue doesn’t do anything for your function in the real world, avoiding bending your knee, twisting your spine, or raising your arm overhead when you are performing exercise might make you feel like you’re getting stronger but it’s because you’re not allowing your body to encounter these problematic functions. But what happens when you need to bend your knee, or twist, or raise your arm up in real life? Dysfunction and pain! It’s time you start addressing these issues when you exercise to start creating a better path of movement without restriction.

Book your initial consult to start learning what muscles function and what muscles don’t, and how revealing this is the first step towards regaining your freedom of movement…without having to remind yourself not to use a part of your body so it doesn’t hurt, that’s not true function. You, or your trainer, or your therapist are avoiding the problem if you aren’t actively testing ways to address and correct it, and while we don’t guarantee an over-night fix of the problem, we will do what’s necessary for your body to start fixing the underlying issue and get on the path to healing. This is what separates us from your typical gym trainer, we have tools on our tool belt that nobody else does. The sharpest tools in our shed come from Functional Patterns! So stop spinning your wheels with what the mainstream fitness and rehab field dish out, hoping pain relief and function will come back when you need to start taking steps to make it happen, we will help guide your steps down a sustainable path towards health and fitness. Come check out the less beaten path at our gym!

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.

Joint Health

A joint is only as strong as the muscle supporting it.

A muscle functions to uphold the integrity of the joints.

A dysfunctional muscle impairs movements, misdirecting force transmission to the joints.

A joint wasn’t designed to absorb force. Train your muscles to fulfill their purpose.

A functional muscle equates to a healthy joint.

A training plan that reinforces the contralateral connections throughout the body instead of isolating the muscles is a good place to start. This will ensure the joints aren’t being used as levers and teach the muscles how to leverage weight.