The Body’s Interconnectedness

As we get older, we’re often told that aches and pains are just a part of aging. A twinge in your knee, restrictions in your shoulder, tightness in your lower back are all common, but not normal.

Pain in one area of your body potentially stems from another region, because of the interconnectedness of your fascial web and kinetic chain linking everything together.

The unexplained problems in your joints are likely a result of your muscles not supporting your joints. Strain in your shoulder may come from dysfunction in the pecs or the lats. Knee pain results from lack of the glutes working properly. The point being, that where you’re hurting, might not be where the problem is.

Our trainers work to get to the root of your chronic pain by addressing dysfunctional movement compensations, allowing you to simultaneously build muscle to provide your body with the strength it needs to keep aches and pain from creeping back in.

If you’re spinning your wheels spot treating pain at the source, then come meet with us to learn how everything in your body works (or doesn’t work) together to influence how you move, and how your movement plays a critical role in pain and injury if you’re moving incorrectly.

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 Anatomy Part 1

It’s important to know common terminology that we use at this gym to effectively teach you how to move well.

The benefits of learning the function of your anatomy and the way it’s capable of moving will help you adjust your body during exercises to produce proper muscle contractions, in the correct muscle.

The big benefit to having the right muscle contracting properly is that it alleviates strain in the wrong muscles, and prevents pain in your joints.

When you think about anatomy, picture the human skeleton from 7th grade science class hanging in the back of the room. All of those boney structures are supported by your muscles (not the other way around) and they are all capable of moving, when your muscles contract.

So, your pelvis, femurs, ribcage, humerus, scapulae, ankles, feet, shoulders, elbows, etc., are all meant to move. And the muscles on top of them, move them. So when your muscles contract properly, your skeleton moves properly. Each muscle/muscle chain has a job to do and is in charge of moving certain structures. When a muscle is taught to contract at the wrong time, in the wrong way, or the wrong muscle contracting, chaos ensues and you aren’t able to move as well as you should. That’s when compensations start to manifest and poor body mechanics caused by poor muscle function, control your movement and eventually create a pull on your skeleton (which exacerbates muscle dysfunction) causing it to get stuck in a certain position.

When your skeleton can’t move out of a position then the muscle that’s causing it to be stuck there, is chronically contracting (tense) or is chronically flaccid (weak) and not strong enough to move your skeleton between spectrums of movement. That’s where the hard work comes in of reprogramming muscle function to change your posture (skeletal positioning) and allow your body the freedom to move in a multitude of directions- to handle the multiple forces acting upon it.

A lot goes in to restoring balance amongst the musculoskeletal system. First, you have to learn basic structural functions like tilts, shifts, and rotations, as well as extensions and flexions. Then, you need to learn how those functions apply to the parts of your body, like your pelvis, spine, ribcage, and limbs. Finally, depending where your skeleton is stuck we work to move it in the opposite direction. Creating enough tension in another muscle to release the tension in the muscle forcing your skeletal misalignment, or learning to contract a muscle more effectively that’s weak or dormant, causing your skeleton to shift because it doesn’t have enough support from that muscle. All of this sounds simple, and it mostly is, but it’s not easy. Think about your current ailment (that you’re aware of) and how long you’ve been dealing with it. That has become your new “normal” and your brain has been conditioned to accept this as how things are going to be, even though it might be detrimental to your body and long term wellbeing.

Let’s face it, a misaligned skeleton caused by poor functioning muscles will cause aches and pains that can be sharp and debilitating or gradually cause more problems over time. And this causes stress to your body because it’s not able to achieve homeostasis. So your physical posture not only looks bad, but you start to feel bad and the wear and tear on your physiological wellbeing from the subconscious stress being induced isn’t good for your long term health. So actually, exercising for the sake of exercising might not be what your body needs to actually be healthy.

Think about it, if your misaligned, which most of us are- us included- every time you move, whether you’re walking a few feet from your car to the store or your vigorously working out, your muscles are not working properly and you’re just reinforcing the same shoddy mechanics that are already hindering you. So if you’re 20 and have a structural dysfunction and you don’t do anything to resolve it, then 20 more years of improper workouts and general movement and you’re 40… and you feel 40, or 60. That’s called expediting the aging process. But if you decide to spend some time on fully rehabbing old injuries, fixing dysfunctions that popped up from bad habits or maybe you were born with, then you start to move better, and better movement supports better posture in your skeleton, and better aligned skeleton doesn’t cause pain, which doesn’t cause stress to your innate wellbeing.

So if you want to function, well, into your late life, then it starts now, no matter your age. All the damage, self inflicted or just by chance, can be undone (overtime) and you can live a pain free life! This isn’t just a personal training studio, this is biomechanics training that revolves around human function- so you can actually learn exercises that transfer to your life outside of the gym.

For more information about the function of your anatomy (shifts, tilts, rotations, etc.) check back for our next blog, covering the details on why these are key to unlocking your movement potential and how to actually perform them!

Physical Fitness

If physical fitness only means big muscles and a 6 pack to you then you’ll likely encounter other detriments to your health over time. Fitness has more to do with your ability to function and perform in any given scenario without suffering from aches and pains- during and after.

Without prioritizing function in your training plan your health can suffer. Dysfunctional muscle mass compressing your ribcage can smash your intestines together and lead to GI issues. Or your lungs can no longer inflate properly so your basic nature to breathe becomes a big problem. Overly developed pecs compromise your posture, pulling your head forward out of alignment, leading to “unexplained” headaches that you’ll likely be prescribed meds for, entering the detrimental cycle of side effects that you’ll need another medication for…

You can’t have health without function. Prioritize function during your workouts to develop physical fitness and physiological well-being in the long run.

 

How To Prevent Pain When Exercising

Age is not only a product of time, but also lifestyle choices. How you live your life now, manifests when you’re 30, 40, 60, 80, etc.

Those achey knees from barbell back squats or faulty running mechanics may worsen and require a knee replacement when you’re 50. But it’s not because you’re getting older, it’s because time is catching up with you from the way you behaved/lived/exercised leading up to your present age.

Experiencing pain or a hurt [insert joint here] after activity is your body telling you something’s wrong. It’s not about pushing past it with the “no pain, no gain” mentality. Push past your ego and admit your body isn’t the specimen you thought… and get to work on fixing the problem.

If you’re trying to live the life you want, pay attention to the little details that cumulate over your lifetime. That bum ankle slowly causes dysfunction further up the chain and 5-10 years later you wonder why you can’t function and perform like you used to.

Remove yourself from the injury cycle of exercising foolishly, hurting yourself, not exercising for several weeks, then going too hard for your body to keep up, making the old injury worse, sitting out for a month, and repeating this as a “normal” way of life. Work on preventative measures that are sustainable, no matter how old you are or what your current fitness level is, to keep yourself in the game called Life.

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.