Monday, July 11, 2011

What the heck is Functional Fitness?

What exactly is functional exercise? Simply, it's movements that mimic real life activities and requires multiple muscles and joints of the body to simultaniously work together.

In that same light there are nonfunctional and dysfunctional exercises. Nonfunctional exercises are pretty much just about building muscle mass and focuses onaesthetics of the body, not the functionality of it.

Dysfunctional exercises are movements that promote poor form and can be determintal to your body and alignment over time.

Let me give you an example or two. If you've been to a gym then you've seen the leg extension machine. Does this movement mimic anything in real life? Unless you like to play Cro-magnon soccer and kick around 70 lb boulders, this exercise is purely for building muscle of the quads and tightening the hip flexors. You don't have to engage any core stabilizers or opposing muscles. So, this is an example of a non-functional exercise.

Or how about the bench press. Guys especially love to do this exercise at the gym. I'm not sure how this activity will apply to real life. I guess if some really chunky person fell on you, you could push them off of you. In reality, another example nonfunctional exercise. 

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the gym and it's machines are all bad, but if this is how you predominately train you are missing out and running the risk of injury. Let me give you an example.

Let's look at Kyphotic Claire. She's been selfconscious about her height since she was a teen, she's your average desk jockey and her posture looks something like this. Did you just sit up straighter yourself? Yeah, I thought so.

Anyway, she's joined Big Box Gym and wants to get in shape! Her rookie trainer puts her on a program that he puts just about everyone on. (He personally love it for himself so it must be good for everyone else, right?). Claire's new program includes the two exercises above. She does her routine regularly, moves up the weights bit by bit over the next few months. But she finds she has pains in her neck, shoulders and low back and she thinks she's developing carpal tunnel syndrome. Why? Because these exercises are just enhancing her already poor posture, and she's getting tighter in all the wrong spots. She's quite possibly impinging nerves in her neck and shoulder girdle. Voila, her non-functional exercises have now turned into dysfunctional ones. 

I know I harp about this a lot with my clients. And it's hard to impress upon some that taking a look at our posture before hitting our gym/workout is key to getting in better shape. But that's what I do.

So if this sounds like good advice and you want to feel great in your body, stay tuned. I'll be offering postural assessments* soon at the studio. It can be an eye opening experience! If you'd like to learn more about upcoming events regarding posture and alignment, contact me at kristin at Take It Outside Fitness dot com.

* I always assess clients' posture when developing routines, but I now have tools to help clients see what I see, so they have more of an understanding of what's going on with their bodies and why we do what we do during training.


matildajoseph said...

Kristin, I cannot wait to be able to partake in this service. I know that I have issues (don't we all) but I would especially like to have this assessment done because as I've gotten older my parts to work like they used to. Even though my body has changed I am not equipped with the knowledge on how best to treat it now. I still stretch like a ballet dancer. I haven't done ballet in 15 years. I'm really excited to learn how to treat my body as it is now!

Kristin Jackson, CPT, LWMC said...

Stay tuned. I will be emailing folks soon regarding postural assessments. I'll offer free ones at first, and who doesn't like free!? ;-)

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