In the past years you might have heard a lot about functional training. Functional exercises, equipment, classes, etc. A massive business built on this concept, however most of the times participants, instructors and even fitness managers have difficulties to answer one simple question.
What makes functional training functional?
According to Wikipedia, “functional training attempts to adapt or develop exercises which allow individuals to perform the activities of daily life more easily and without injuries”.
I would like to add that, at the same time it should help you to achieve your goals and create harmony in your body. Static exercises are as important as dynamic exercises, strength is as important as flexibility, tension is as important as relaxation, and so on.
What are the “activities of daily life”? Walking, carrying, lifting, jumping, leaning, twisting, etc. So, you should do exercises that help you perform these movements better without injuries. The last part of the sentence is really important. Sometimes I see people doing overhead presses standing on an unstable surface (Bosu or Fitness Ball for example). We could talk about how the engaging works in the stabilizer muscles or about the functions of Thoraco-Lumbar Fascia, but instead of going too deep into science, simply just ask yourself:
How often do you need to stand on an unstable surface during your daily life, lifting or pressing something heavy above your head?
On the other hand, most of the time we hear that functional training must be multidimensional involving as many joints as possible. I totally agree with it, however you need to know that every joint has a different function. So, the logical step would be to first unlock the limitations in the body, isn’t it?
Little hint: According to the joint-by-joint approach by Gray Cook you should focus on the following:
- your ankle should be mobile
- your knee needs stability
- your hip should be mobile
- your lumbar spine should be stable
- your thoracic spine needs mobility
- your scapula needs primarily stability
- and the shoulder should be mobile again.
In the light of the above, if you don’t have acute or chronic injuries or any special conditions, I would recommend you to start your plan with a barefoot athletic training program. (Of course, always consult with your doctor, physio or trainer before you start a new program.)
Here are some interesting data you might not aware of your foot.
- It has 26 bones,
- it has 19 muscles in 4 layers,
- there are 33 joints help you to move perfectly,
- it has 10 nerves,
- according to Dr. William A. Rossi there are approx. 200/cm2 nerve endings
- and it has a fascia system as well.
Pretty amazing. As Cassie Dionne said
„Your feet are your foundation, your base of support. All of the force that you transmit through your entire body goes through your feet.”
However, to be able to create harmony between this complex structures you need to make sure that your brain has the chance to process all the information and send the right signal through your nervous system. It is really important to understand that the sole of our foot is a sensory organ. Unfortunately, there is no sensory input in shoes or socks and it affects the entire movement pattern. In simple terms, if the timing is wrong, the inter- and intramuscular coordination won’t be perfect, so the position of the joints and the tension in the muscles won’t be optimal…and doing jump squats with a bad posture is probably not the best idea.
And one more extra benefit, doing barefoot training (possibly in a natural surface) improves the speed of regeneration after training (Brown, 2010) and reduces protein degradation in the liver during training (Sokal, 2013).
In the book First Steps in Fitness we already talked about the primal movements, the “essence” of multidimensional movements. Your priority should be to be able to perform those moves elegantly with maximum control.
Here is an example. Take a look at the picture below. In deepWORK® we call this movement as the Parallel Swing. The movement starts with an overhead squat (tension) followed by an exhale with total relaxation.
There is no rush, the movement should be perfect all the time. Once you have mastered the movement you can add a jump to it, or a twist during the squat phase, etc. The general rule is to always listen to your body and take care of the correct breathing.
And last but not least, if you listen to music during your workout, try to do athletic training with “non-radio” music without vocals. You should always focus on yourself, not on the lyrics or on the latest news about the singer.
You should create harmony not just between your muscles but also between your body and mind.
I hope you found this article helpful. If you want to watch more examples of athletic movements, check out our YouTube channel.
In the next article I am going to talk about the importance of the correct barbell based training in the classes (with some recommendations, as usual).
Till then, just
“Take a deep breath and strike the IRON!” 🙂