Thursday, September 06, 2012

So You Hurt Your Back Tying Your Shoe?

The term "functional training" is thrown around by a lot of people and has several meanings. The common meaning the first one that people think of, is connected with using an unstable surface - standing on a ball or on one foot. The second meaning, the actual meaning, is training in a way that fits the function of life. The "function of life" is different for everyone, but the bottom line is that we should train our bodies to complete a variety of tasks in an efficient and coordinated manner. If we train our bodies to be competent at a variety of things, we are less likely to hurt ourselves doing simple day-to-day tasks. We are also more likely to experience long-term success in our training.

There is certainly a place in the gym for training on unstable surfaces. It provides good proprioceptive feedback from our extremities and allows our torso to react to varying stimuli, but it is important that we are also training on solid surfaces, on one foot, and in every and any way we can come up with, within reason, so that our bodies become adept at a number of different things. A general rule is: "if we cannot lift it while standing, then we should not be lifting it at all" ) and, yes, body builders will freak out when they hear that one, but body-building is not functional training. It has a totally different purpose).

One of the most underused and yet most important elements of training is tempo control. We often lift things at a pace that is comfortable and we put little thought into the functionality of the pace. Generally, if we are eccentrically loading a muscle (loading it at full length or while lengthening), we should be working at a slower pace. When we do this, we allow the muscle to control its extension which is very helpful when we are landing from a jump (lengthening the quads) or catching (lengthening the bicep). Conversely, if we are concentrically loading a muscle (loading it while shortened or while shortening), we should train to be quicker. This is important for jumping (shortening the quads) or pushing (shortening the pectorals). Of course, there are several other accessory muscles working in these motions too, but the ones I mentioned are just examples. Typically, if you follow the tempo of slow eccentric and quick concentric, you will be teaching the muscle to be more functional. There will be, no doubt, people who jump all over this because of some special circumstance, but that is what an experienced and qualified personal training coach is for, to help you figure out the best way to train for your body and your activities.

If we are training our bodies to be “functional”, we are training them to function. We minimize our chances of hurting our back while tying our shoes or some other menial task that our body rejects because we have been training it to bicep curl while sitting in a chair.

When we are training our bodies, we should always be breaking down movement patterns so that our bodies can move in a variety of different ways. If we go to the gym and simply perform the same tasks over and over again, we are not developing good function for we are simply developing muscles. More often than not, we go to the gym and do whatever feels good. This invariably is working on things at which we are already good, thus reinforcing a muscle pattern at which we already are good. In order to be truly functional, we need to work on things at which we are not good. The goal should always be to build a functioning and athletic body that can tie shoes without injury until we are old and grey!
          ~ Yoshia

1 comment:

Jessica Gomez said...

True! The objective should always be to develop a performing and fitness system that can tie footwear without damage until we are old and grey!

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