We all know the normal gym routines:
“Today is cardio day, should I run on the treadmill, or bike for an hour? Tomorrow is weights, do I want to do Back and Bi's? Or maybe I should do Legs because the sun is coming out and I want my legs to look good in shorts. But I hate the feeling after leg day, it always hurts to go up stairs or even to sit down! I really need to work on my abs, this whole ‘packing on the pounds' during winter thing went a little too far. Maybe I should do more cardio instead…”
We tend to stick with these types of routines for a few months, but after awhile they get boring. To me, these types of workouts aren't really productive for real life situations. If you want to stick to a routine, you need to have purpose, and if you don't see how these types of workouts directly correlate into your daily activities, then the routine isn't right for you.
What is Functional Movement?
Functional is the new buzz word in the fitness industry, and it is branching out into the health industry as well. It is being described as ‘being applicable to daily living”. If we look at CrossFit, most “functional fitness” programs are still utilizing heavier weights, higher reps of the same exercises, and higher intensity for short periods of times. They do add in more compound movements (exercise that engage 2 or more different joints), which is how they label it functional. If you go to a gym, the trainers there may define functional as exercises focused on balance applications (standing on a Bosu, single foot, etc.). These are true to some degree, but in my mind it isn't the full potential of your Functional Movement capabilities.
If we were to sit down and talk about the workouts I do for myself and my clients, I would tell you that each workout is pertinent to a goal or activity that is wanting to be achieved. Meaning, a ‘one size fits all' workout won't get you to your goals. Following the way Functional is described (being applicable to daily living), we need to know all aspects of your life in order to create a program. We would look at your goals, stress levels, how you eat, level of commitment, how much time you take for yourself, activities you love to do, etc. The Movement aspect defines how the exercises are created and what they are used for. If you are training for hikes in the summer, then the exercises should look and smell like hiking. If you want to be able to move faster in the kitchen, your exercises should be involving a lot of reaching and side shuffling. If you play a sport, exercises should be mimicking the movements you go through during the sport.
This means that every workout or rehab program should be very individualized. We have the ability to break down how each joint and muscle moves during every single movement, therefore when creating exercises, we can re-create the motion through joints many different ways. This way the proprioceptors (sensory receptors on nerve endings) learn the different pathways the joint/muscle/tendons can move safely. The more pathways created within the body, the less likely you are to get injured, and the more efficient the movements get. With how technical our training/rehab programs can become, it means that there are a million+1 ways to create a workout.
Is There “Correct Form” When Training Functionally?
About a year ago I had the fantastic opportunity to go around to local gyms and ‘meet' with trainers (unknowingly) to have them put me through a workout. With all my extensive training in movement patterns, I had forgotten what the industry standard for exercises and injury-prevention was. I felt like I was brought back in time 15 years when I heard terms such as ‘don't let your knees go past your toes'. Now, that isn't terribly inaccurate, especially if you are loaded with a lot of weight, but in most cases these are fears we need to move away from. Think about that statement for one second- Don't let your knees go past your toes. Go sit down on the toilet, but don't let your knees go past your toes. If they do, do your knees explode? No! Our joints are designed to move in space, and if we restrict how they move, then they become more prone to injury.
There was one conversation I had with a trainer that really stood out to me. He was constantly teaching me the conventional ways of training, with all the common sayings like ‘keep the knees behind the toes' and ‘make sure your back is straight and do not rotate through your spine'. At the end of the session when we sat down, I was trying to spark his imagination a little bit. I told him I wasn't clear on why I couldn't let my knees track away from my body because when I play soccer, my knees are going all over the place. He told me that yes they do move all over the place, but we must teach them how to be straight so they don't get injured. I then asked about my spine and not letting it rotate because once again in soccer my spine will rotate all game long, so wouldn't we want to train the same way? And the response I received was “well if that is the case, that would give us millions of exercise options we could do, but that isn't how training works!” Exactly! That is what I was trying to get him to see, there are so many more options out there than the traditional methods!
How Non-Contact Injuries Typically Occur
Going back to the knees example, try moving around your living room without letting your knee move past your toe. Pretty difficult to do right? If we train with that fear in mind, then we start teaching the body not to go through certain motions. The longer we do this, the more the tissue will adapt to this planned path that you have worked so hard to train.
Say your friends want to play a soccer game, and you haven't played in a long time. You are moving towards the player with the ball. They do a trick and get around you, so you cut really hard to change your direction. All of a sudden your knee goes pop and gives out on you. You go to the doctor and find out it is a meniscus tear. Most people blame these injuries on age, but the reality is it can happen to anyone of any age. If you aren't training your body to move through all the possible actions during any given activity, then there is an opportunity for your system to fail!
Where Does Functional Movement Therapy Come Into Play?
Whether you are recovering from an injury, wanting to prevent injury, or looking for overall movement optimization, Functional Movement Therapy is exactly what you need. We look at all aspects of your life to increase movement quality, from stress, digestive complaints, previous injuries, rest/recovery, goals, and daily activities to put together a precise and individualized program for you. Every single exercise or movement you go through will have a specific reasoning behind it; if you ask why you are doing a movement and we don't have a good answer, then we aren't doing our job properly!