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.

Evolutionary Muscles

Throwing is an integral function that shaped human’s innate musculature.

The same way we developed muscles from running to survive, we developed muscles from throwing spears to kill prey and feed ourselves.

For example, the chest muscles developed from throwing and not pushups or bench presses, the same way the glutes developed from running and not squats and leg presses.

Evolutionary characteristics played a defining role in what are muscles look like and how they function. Training is best for the human body when the exercises respect the blueprint of how our muscles work to move us.

This allows exercise to translate outside of the training room into sports, performance, and everyday function.

Learn how you can benefit from exercising in respect to your natural function, with our team of Functional Patterns Biomechanics Specialists.

How Do You Train Your Pecs?

Did you know your chest muscles (the pecs) dominate movements like punching, throwing, and even running?

The pecs were designed for these functions via human evolution- throwing spears, pumping the upper body when running from danger, and fighting for survival.

These muscles also connect into multiple kinetic chains and when we move, they function together with the rest of the chain to produce more power and efficiency. For example, the pecs share functions with the nearby oblique muscles and function more often through rotational mechanics, like throwing, instead of exclusively pressing motions.

Traditional chest training like the bench press and pushups will make your pecs stronger, but not the rest of the chain your pecs connect to. Therefore you’re only strong at the bench press and not functional activities that require you to use your pecs the way they were designed.

The bench press is one exercise we were taught to make our chest stronger, but the chest predominately functions in different patterns than the bench. When we go to use our pecs the way nature designed them, but we’re unnaturally training them, they aren’t prepared for reality and injury risk goes up.

Come work with trainers who know the way your muscles need to be trained, and how to teach exercises that go hand in hand with their natural function(s). At our gym, your muscles are prepared for real life so your body can function without pains and injuries, the true meaning of strength.

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.

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

A Different Kind Of Gym

What makes our gym different from other gyms? Why do our trainers utilize the Functional Patterns training system? We’ll answer that by looking at the way humans were conditioned through evolution.

Over millions of years the human body evolved to do 4 things with precision, that other animals can’t do. As humans, we stand upright on both legs, we walk and run upright on both legs, and we throw overhead.

These functions were necessary for survival- running from predators, throwing spears to kill prey and feed ourselves, and walking long distances to migrate to better climates, all while standing upright.

As a result of these movements in our early years, our muscles learned to contract a specific way to support these necessary actions and the repetitive contractions shaped our muscles and gave them the tone that we have today.

The reason our trainers learn and teach Functional Patterns is because the foundation of this training system, recognizes and respects these 4 fundamental functions with all of the exercises. It’s a system that was created for humans that reinforces the way the human body evolved to move and exist.

As we train these fundamental functions, our bodies learn to move in line with our ancestral movement patterns. The result is strength on a wide scale because the body is learning to create muscle to support the way it moves everyday- the same way humans have moved everyday for several million years.

We run into trouble when we perform exercises that break the mold that shaped us. Our muscles learn functions that it doesn’t need and forgets functions that supports the way the body naturally moves. This results in aches, pains, and injuries because the body is out of its element and muscles fight through and compensate in ways they didn’t evolve to.

Working out, exercising, training, lifting, whatever you want to call it should NOT cause pain or only make you strong in the gym. It should enhance your natural functions, so other functions come along for the ride, and without all the drama. It’s not normal to wake up with aches every day, live with pain, or chronically work around injuries.

The right kind of training (backed by the 4 fundamental human functions) will provide strength, mobility, and endurance for any scenario. Once your body is functional (by the above standards), that function carries over to activity, performance, and general movement to support your body without fearing pain or risking injury. That is what fitness is.

If you want to be functional and fit for your life apart from the gym, now and in the long run, train with the above in mind. If you need help figuring out what exactly that means, and you want to feel what an exercise feels like when executed correctly, instead of just copying the movement from YouTube or a “fitness” app then contact us today. Call, stop by, or book online to try your first introductory session!

Human Biomechanics

We have said it before and we’ll say it again, we are not your typical gym with your average personal trainers. We incoproate Functional Patterns training methodology to train the human body the way it was designed to function. Our approach aims to undue the damages inflicted on the body from all traditional means of exercises and mobility that don’t respect the physics and tensegrity of human biomechanics.

Traditional training includes weightlifting, bodybuilding, olympic lifting, crossfit, cycling, yoga, pilates, gymnastics, animal flow, isolated stretching, functional range conditioning, H.I.I.T. training, spin class, and group classes with the objective of burning max calories and gaining (dysfunctional) muscle.

All these forms of exercise are the antithesis of optimal biomechanics and makes it very hard to create the muscle associations we need to make to alter your structure to the degree we could if you weren’t doing those types of training.

If you’re wanting to learn or do Functional Patterns training you’ll get the best results when you aren’t engaging or plan to return to any of the above mentioned methods, as none of them aim to enhance human biomechanics and therefore create a direct hinderance towards you getting the best and fastest results.

While the intent behind all of these methods is good, the application doesn’t deliver. All of the above mentioned methods cause a disconnect from human movement. When you think of “human movement” think of walking as a basic example, and then think about what all of the above mentioned forms of training look like, and now think about how they don’t align with the motions of human movement. So the deeper you go into those forms of training, the further away you go from the fundamentals of how the human body was born to move. And the further you go away from how you were born to move the less optimally your body moves and the more likely your body will suffer from pain and breakdown from injury.

We aren’t saying that these forms of training are terrible and that you should never do them, but what we are saying is that your body wasn’t made for these forms of training, which is often why people get injured, experience unexplained aches and pains, and become less inclined to move well the more they participate in these. If you are experiencing some of these symptoms and are participating in these styles of training, then in that case, we would recommend not doing them. At least for some time to decide if its causing you harm. In other words if you’re participating in them and then stop and your body starts feeling better, then you can see the correlation between these styles of training and the outcome on your body.

If you really want to heal your body, take it a step further and start participating in a training style that matches the way the human body moves, and accounts for all of the intricacies that make up human motion. Enter Functional Patterns training. A system that makes your muscles work (contract/ engage/ activate) during exercise the way they work in the real world. Translating the work you do in the gym to a stronger body in reality. But the key is that you need to train your body accordingly instead of just participating in exercise for the sake of exercise.

Exercise is good, but not all exercise is created equal or produces the same outcome. Some of the above mentioned training styles become just a social hour (albeit a healthier social hour than drinking at the bar) or a way to fit in because everyone else is going to the local gym or workout class. But you should ask yourself, just because those people are working out, are they absent of pain, are they capable of moving without restriction, are they only good at exercising or can they perform in any given scenario?

Hopefully after reading this you’ll walk away with a deeper understanding about how exercise can benefit you if you exercise in a manner that respects the way the human body was designed to move. If you don’t, then sure exercise will have some superficial benefits that your doctor may recommend like lowering your blood pressure if you’re a couch potato and stimulating your muscles as opposed to letting them waste away, but if you don’t exercise the right way then the harms can outweigh the potential benefits. For example, sitting on a spin bike 5 days a week disconnects your upper body from your lower body, places your spine in a kyphotic posture, and doesn’t strengthen your core muscles. This can result in lower back pain from lack of core support, problems when you walk because your only training your body in a seated position, severed muscle chains because you aren’t training your kinetic chain for the way your entire system operates naturally, and a poor posture that makes it look like you’re depressed because you’re always hunched over, eventually maybe leading to some form of depression because your posture will influence your mood- via the emotional links with your fascia… see how health and fitness goes WAY deeper than just exercising your muscles?

These are just examples to start making you think about why we are still such an unhealthy society, with obesity and type 2 diabetes, and still have to have joint replacement surgeries and live with lower back pain even though people are exercising. It’s because nobody is taking the time to educate how complex exercise really is and the way the human body should be trained. Most of us are still working out with a structure from P.E. class or collegiate athletics or what your doctor recommends or what you see on T.V. The problem is that these exercises just keep you running in circles on the hamster wheel instead of solving problems with your body to make you a better functioning human without pain and risking injury when you move, play sports, move furniture, walk your dogs, chase your kids, grocery shop, do yard work, and live life.

If you’re tired of exercising without any applicable, noticeable benefit then contact us to take the first step toward exercising with a purpose so the results extend beyond body composition, weight loss, muscle tone, and cardiovascular health, but start to include a stable posture, a strong body for doing what you do most, and most importantly achieving fitness without pain so you can have a body that handles the demands of real life!

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 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?