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    Microevolution in action wonderdude2's Avatar
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    Intro to Function

    The Thought Process of Training for Function



    Functional training is a system of logic that thinks about how to exercise in a way that enhances things that we do in everyday life. So, for example. Walking.

    A conventional approach (that I used to ascribe to) says that you would look at the muscles being worked when you walk and then do exercises that specifically target those muscles. So, under a very strict conventional viewpoint, they would try to isolate each muscle through specific exercises. For example, since walking works the whole lower body, the conventional thinker would probably think of exercises for the butt, front of the thigh, back of the thigh, and calves. So, they would pop out sets of glute presses (for the butt), leg extensions (for the front of the thigh/quads), leg curls (for the back of the thigh/hamstrings), and standing calf raises (for the calves). The movement is analyzed for which muscles work, and then they will prescribe exercises based on the individual muscles involved.

    A functional approach (how I currently think) says that you will look at the movement involved. How does someone walk? One leg at a time. How many joints are involved? Three. The hip, the knee, and the ankle. Do all the joints work at the same time? Yes.

    Then, based on the analysis of working one leg at a time while using the hip, knee, and ankle all at the same time, we will develop our exercises. So, with functional training, we're really focused on training the movement of walking rather than on training the individual muscles involved. The individual muscles involved are still certainly worked, but they aren't the focus. The focus is, “How do I get one leg to swing in front of the other to create this movement known as walking?” Under this system of thought, the trainer would prescribe movements that mimic the movement of walking. Like single-leg squats, split squats, and lunges.

    The greatest short-coming of conventional thought is that you're performing exercises that you'll never do in real life. For example, a leg extension. You're sitting and taking your knee from a flexed position to a straight position while keeping the hip and ankle locked in place. How often do you do that in real life? In a lying leg curl, you're laying face-down on a bench taking your knees from a straight position to a flexed position while keeping the hip and ankle locked in place. Again, how often do you do that in real life? Probably never.

    Now, how often do you stand up from a chair in real life? How often do you take steps in real life? Probably fairly often. Therefore, the functional trainer will assign squats, lunges, and their progressions. For example, let's say that you can't do a single-leg squat. Most people can't. You can start doing limited range of motion single-leg squats. Start by going down to where your butt touches your bed. If that's too hard, put a few books on your bed or something. Anything to add height so that you don't have to drop your butt as far from the starting position. Then, as you get stronger and stronger, take away some of the books one by one until you can do full range of motion single-leg squats.



    Seated all day anyway....

    Also, I don't feel that it makes sense to sit down during all of your exercises. We sit around for eight hours at the office, and then we sit down to work out. It just doesn't make sense. Add to that the fact that as most people age, their hip flexors (the muscles that allow them to lift their thigh up) are tight simply because when you're sitting your hip flexors are in a shortened position. So, because their hip flexors are used to being shortened as a result of sitting, they will physiologically shorten after a while. This is why older people in our society hunch forward as though their body wants to be in a sitting position. Their hip flexors are tight. So, we bring them into the gym and tell them to sit on the machines in order to get into better shape. In my mind, that is not rational.

    What we need to be doing is giving them exercises and stretches that allow them to stand upright again. This means doing most exercises in a standing position and lengthening their hip flexors in order to train their body to stay upright.



    Lower back pain

    With so many people experiencing lower back pain, it seems rational to go ahead and try to do whatever we can to alleviate that pain. I had a long period over a few years where I would have on and off mild lower back pain. I used to have to massage my lower back before each workout in order to keep it from getting tight. Looking back on it, I'm seeing that my heavy squats and deadlifts were probably the culprit. So, how do we get around that? We look at the function of the body.

    Squats and deadlifts are pretty much the same movement. In both of them, you bend at your knees and hips to get to a lower position. Then, you powerfully straighten your knees and hips to get back to the top of the position. The primary difference is simply that in a squat you have the weight on your back and in a deadlift you pick up the weight from the floor.

    However, these both seem like pretty functional exercises, right? They both work three joints at once (hips, knees, and ankles), and they both seem to do so in a way that closely emulates walking. The major short-coming of these exercises is that they use both legs at once. This puts more strain on the lower back than it was designed to handle.

    The body is designed for walking, running, jumping, etc. one leg at a time. Since we're using both legs in conventional lifting, we have to put twice the load on the lower back. For example, here's a comparison between a two-legged squat and a single-legged squat.

    The two-legged squat. Let's look at a squatter who is barbell squatting 200lbs. Let's say that he also weighs 200lbs. So, that's a total of 400lbs.

    The load on each of his legs is 400/2. 400 pounds total divided between two legs. 200Lbs per leg.

    The load on his lower back is 400/1. 400 pounds divided between his only spine. 400Lbs on the spine.

    Now, the single-legged squat. Let's look at the same 200lb squatter who wants to put 200lbs of load on each leg like he did with the two-legged squat. So, since he already weighs 200lbs, he'll be getting his 200lbs of load on each leg without using a barbell if he just uses one leg at a time.

    The load on each of his legs is 200/1. 200lbs total divided by only one leg. 200Lbs per leg (the same as in a two-legged squat with a 200lb barbell).

    The load on his lower back is 200/1. 200lbs divided by his only spine. 200Lbs on the spine.

    So, the magic of single-legged squats is that in order to get the same workload on a leg as you would while doing a two-legged squat, you only have to use half the weight. This puts your lower back at a tremendous advantage! It no longer has to bear twice the load it was designed for!

    This has been huge for me personally because when a buddy of mine from college and I were prepping for a powerlifting meet, we both had to bow out due to low-back pain. We were both lucky because we felt the pain coming on slowly, so we decided to call it quits before we received long-term injury. Some guys aren't that lucky. My longest-term workout partner continually has to fight lower-back problems because a disc in his back ruptured suddenly when he was re-racking his deadlift weight between sets. He messed up one time by slacking on his form, but he has been living with the consequences for years.

    So, the question becomes, are the benefits of two-legged squats and deadlifts worth the extra risk? Unless you're a powerlifter or Olympic weightlifter, I don't think so. If you're simply lifting for bodybuilding/aesthetic purposes, save your lower back. Go single-legged.



    Calorie burning

    Functional training will allow you to burn more calories during your time in the gym because it takes away all of the external supports that bodybuilders typically employ. For example, the bench press vs. the push-up. In both exercises, when you're at the bottom of the exercise, your upper arms are parallel to your body. That means that your humerus (upper arm) is in the same position relative to your body in both exercises. In addition to that, in both of the exercises your elbow goes from a flexed position at the bottom to a straight (extended) position at the top. The bench press and the push up both work the same way in the shoulders and arms.

    The difference between the two is that during a push-up, you have to activate your core to keep you from collapsing. So, it's kind of like doing a plank and a bench press at the same time. Since you're activating more muscles during the push up, it will result in a greater calorie burn both while performing the exercise and during recovery. You have fatigued more muscles, so it takes more calories to refuel and repair those muscles.

    The same principles hold true for a lat pulldown vs a pull up. In the lat pulldown, your body is stabilized as you're locked into the machine by your knees. In the pull-up, your core is firing like crazy.



    Stability Limited Training

    Lastly, I want to make a distinction between Stabilization Limited Training and Balance training. SLT simply means that your limiting factor is likely due to your lack of coordination. This will typically include any kind of exercise on a single arm or leg that is performed on a flat surface.

    The bane of functional training has been people going off and calling their ridiculous balance exercises “functional”. Remember, the definition of functional training means that you're attempting to train how the body moves in real life. Unless your client has to stand on a BOSU ball in real life, it's not functional to put them on one. The BOSU and Swiss balls have their applications. However, those applications have been abused and have made functional training something of a laughingstock in many circles.

    The proper applications for BOSU/Stability training are neurological stimulation and joint stability. When lifting, we have a few factors limiting our strength. While having a small muscle is an obvious culprit, what lifters typically don't know is that we're also limited by how many motor units we can fire at once and how quickly those motor units can fire per second. One way to train the muscle to fire more efficiently is through using stability exercises. Also, stability exercises also force smaller muscles that surround our joints to work in ways that they typically don't. The smaller muscles are strengthened because of this. So, when you're doing a push up on a stability ball, you're teaching small muscles in your shoulder joint to stabilize your shoulder more effectively and thereby reducing your risk of injury.

    That said, I don't believe that balance/stability training can truly be called functional because it doesn't actually make an attempt to copy what we see in real life. Not many people are running on or pushing on unstable or wobbly surfaces. So, while stability training has its place, it is not functional.



    In Closing

    Functional Training is simply a description of an alternative thought process to conventional training. While conventional training is good for simple hypertrophy, functional training has its own set of benefits that should be taken advantage of as well. These benefits include coordination, neurological adaptations, injury prevention, and calorie burn.
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  2. #2
    Registered User Jonline's Avatar
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    Fantastic post! Especially the lower back and calorie burn stuff. But I've never heard of a one legged deadlift?
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  3. #3
    Microevolution in action wonderdude2's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Jonline View Post
    Fantastic post! Especially the lower back and calorie burn stuff. But I've never heard of a one legged deadlift?
    Thanks!

    Ha. Yeah, they're pretty tough. I've done them a few times and gotten up to using around 60lbs in each hand. However, balance is definitely your limiting factor. You'll feel it a ton in your butt/stabilizing muscles of the hip.
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    lift hard, recover harder Iron Rain's Avatar
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    Excellent post. I used to be able to do one legged squats but for some reason as I have gotten older my balance has tanked. Regardless, reps for you.
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    Microevolution in action wonderdude2's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by Iron Rain View Post
    Excellent post. I used to be able to do one legged squats but for some reason as I have gotten older my balance has tanked. Regardless, reps for you.
    Thanks for the input, man.

    Also, your balance would come back pretty quickly as long as you still have the leg strength. Those neuromuscular/coordination gains are pretty rapid.
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    Originally Posted by wonderdude2 View Post
    The Thought Process of Training for Function



    Functional training is a system of logic that thinks about how to exercise in a way that enhances things that we do in everyday life.

    functional training? Any exercise which increases any ability is functional.

    The greatest short-coming of conventional thought is that you're performing exercises that you'll never do in real life.

    I have never done single leg squats (as you suggest) in "real life" ever


    Also, I don't feel that it makes sense to sit down during all of your exercises. We sit around for eight hours at the office, and then we sit down to work out. It just doesn't make sense.

    What does "making sense" have anything to do with scientific validity. Seated or standing is a preference and has no bearing on results

    So, because their hip flexors are used to being shortened as a result of sitting, they will physiologically shorten after a while. This is why older people in our society hunch forward as though their body wants to be in a sitting position. Their hip flexors are tight.

    source? The hunch is associated with eventual compression of the spine, due to nothing more then age. This will cause elderly people to hunch

    I had a long period over a few years where I would have on and off mild lower back pain. Looking back on it, I'm seeing that my heavy squats and deadlifts were probably the culprit.

    form maybe? Causation =/= correlation.


    However, these both seem like pretty functional exercises, right? They both work three joints at once (hips, knees, and ankles), and they both seem to do so in a way that closely emulates walking. The major short-coming of these exercises is that they use both legs at once. This puts more strain on the lower back than it was designed to handle.

    When jumping, you land with a force several time greater than your body weight. You give your body less credit than what it is capable of.

    ruptured suddenly when he was re-racking his deadlift weight between sets. He messed up one time by slacking on his form, but he has been living with the consequences for years.

    so one again, form was the culprit, not the exercises you are demonizing

    So, the question becomes, are the benefits of two-legged squats and deadlifts worth the extra risk? yes
    Unless you're a powerlifter or Olympic weightlifter, I don't think so. If you're simply lifting for bodybuilding/aesthetic purposes, save your lower back. Go single-legged. and if you are remotely interested in strength, you know.... squat and deadlift.


    Functional training will allow you to burn more calories during your time in the gym because it takes away all of the external supports that bodybuilders typically employ. For example, the bench press vs. the push-up. In both exercises, w..... What? No, the higher your VO2 during exercise (regardless of type of exercise), the more glycogen you burn. This includes HIIT and Heavy lifting. This puts you closer to a fat oxidation position.

    Stability Limited Training
    Lastly, I want to make a distinction between Stabilization Limited Training and Balance training. SLT simply means that your limiting factor is likely due to your lack of coordination. This will typically include any kind of exercise on a single arm or leg that is performed on a flat surface.

    The bane of functional training has been people going off and calling their ridiculous balance exercises “functional”. Remember, the definition of functional training means that you're attempting to train how the body moves in real life. Unless your client has to stand on a BOSU ball in real life, it's not functional to put them on one. The BOSU and Swiss balls have their applications. However, those applications have been abused and have made functional training something of a laughingstock in many circles.

    The proper applications for BOSU/Stability training are neurological stimulation and joint stability. When lifting, we have a few factors limiting our strength. While having a small muscle is an obvious culprit, what lifters typically don't know is that we're also limited by how many motor units we can fire at once and how quickly those motor units can fire per second. One way to train the muscle to fire more efficiently is through using stability exercises. Also, stability exercises also force smaller muscles that surround our joints to work in ways that they typically don't. The smaller muscles are strengthened because of this. So, when you're doing a push up on a stability ball, you're teaching small muscles in your shoulder joint to stabilize your shoulder more effectively and thereby reducing your risk of injury.

    That said, I don't believe that balance/stability training can truly be called functional because it doesn't actually make an attempt to copy what we see in real life. Not many people are running on or pushing on unstable or wobbly surfaces. So, while stability training has its place, it is not functional.

    Huh, synaptic facilitation is done in nearly any static exercise, heavy lifting and extreme calisthenics. It increases the neural capacity of a muscle. In effect, you dramatically increase the efficiency of the muscle and benefits include a much higher strength to weight ratio. Who would want that?
    Sorry, this is way to much like opinion and preference.
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    really fantastic post thanks!
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    Microevolution in action wonderdude2's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by acrawlingchaos View Post
    Sorry, this is way to much like opinion and preference.
    Thanks for the input, man. I sincerely appreciate it, and I'll do my best to correct any misunderstanding.

    First off, I think you may be missing the forest for the trees in order to nit pick about semantics. That said, here's my response.



    "functional training? Any exercise which increases any ability is functional."

    Ok. Additional clarity is in order here, and I left out a cumbersome analysis of the word "functional" because I was simply writing a short article. Regardless in order to address this, we'll first define "functional". Webster seems to be good at defining things.

    http://www.webster-dictionary.org/definition/functional

    My favorite one on the list defines "functional" as "Fit or ready for use or service; useable; in working order; as, the toaster was still functional even after being dropped; the lawnmower is a bit rusty but still functional. Antonym of out of order and nonfunctional."

    In order to say that something functions, we have to define the purpose for which it was built. As in Webster's definition, a functional toaster is a toaster that toasts. A dysfunctional toaster is a toaster that doesn't toast. In the same vein, a functional body is a body that is able to operate in its operational environment. A dysfunctional body is a body that is unable to operate in its operational environment.

    Now that a definition is in place for the word "function", and an emphasis has been placed upon seeking the purpose of the body, we must further expound upon the purpose of the body. In other words, we must ask the question, "What makes a body dysfunctional?" So, what operational environment must we prepare the body for?

    Our operational environment is composed of 360 degrees of motion, ground reaction forces, momentum, and gravity. Consequently, this is the environment we must prepare for in order to make a body "functional" based on its natural environment. However, if you want to make the case that what's functional for one person's sport or desired morphology is going to be different than for another person who desires to excel at a different sport or attain a different morphology, then I absolutely agree. It's asinine to be training a football player like a golfer. However, my entire article is only about preparing the body for its natural operational environment (360 degrees of motion, ground reaction forces, momentum, gravity, etc.)

    In summary, while one can argue semantics and say that since a sprint is functional for a football player but a sprint is not functional for a golfer, we should throw out the word "functional" entirely, it's far more rational to use it but to understand its context. In the context of my article, "functional" was entirely used to describe how a human body operates in its natural environment. I did not intend to define function for the entire array of human activities.



    "I have never done single leg squats (as you suggest) in "real life" ever"

    Yes, you have. Think about it. Seriously, think about it. You're intelligent enough to understand. Wait a few seconds and then move down to my next line.

    If you have walked/run/skipped/bounded/jogged, you've done single-legged squats. You've done them in the initial range of motion, but you have done them. Running for example. Think of a sprinter as they take off from the starting block. You have to generate power from your leg that is in contact with the ground as you push off to propel yourself to land on the leg that is currently swinging forward. In order to generate that power, you had to extend your hip (take the hip from a flexed position to an extended position) with the hip extensors (primarily glutes and hams). In addition, you had to extend the knee (take knee from a flexed position to an extended position) with the knee extensors (primarily quads). And lastly, you had to take the ankle from a dorsiflexed position to a plantarflexed position with your calves.

    And in that running/walking/skipping/bounding/jogging motion, you did the hip extension, knee extension, and plantarflexion all in combination rather than in sequence. You also did it one leg at a time. It's a type of single-legged squat!



    "What does "making sense" have anything to do with scientific validity. Seated or standing is a preference and has no bearing on results"

    True. I agree that science trumps what is held as a society's common sense. Hence, why we currently believe the earth is round rather than flat now. However, I strongly disagree that seated vs. standing is a moot point when training the body for its natural operating environment (as previously mentioned). In our natural environment, locomotion is incredibly important. The human who's unable to move would surely starve if they were out on their own due to an inability to gather food. However, if you're training a rower, then yes. It's functional to train them in a seated position akin to what they'll be in when they compete in their events.

    Also, I have to mention that making sense certainly plays some part on scientific validity. We must first use "making sense"/reason in order to create the hypothesis that we then prove or disprove through the scientific method. To throw reason out of the equation would result in entirely random hypotheses that are ridiculously less likely to succeed when put through the scientific method.



    "source? The hunch is associated with eventual compression of the spine, due to nothing more then age. This will cause elderly people to hunch"

    My source was class notes. This will get you started, though. Research lordosis and kyphosis.

    http://www.backtrainer.com/Williams-...Back-Pain.html



    "form maybe? Causation =/= correlation."

    Yes, form potentially may have been the culprit. I'm typically very analytical about form, but it's still a possibility.



    "When jumping, you land with a force several time greater than your body weight. You give your body less credit than what it is capable of."

    I'm not arguing that the body isn't an incredible machine. I'm simply stating that we typically over-work the back by constantly doing two-legged work. Hopefully the math I introduced adequately portrayed that concept.



    "so one again, form was the culprit, not the exercises you are demonizing"

    First off, who said anything about demonizing? I'm simply saying they aren't functional for our operational environment. I squat and deadlift both single-legged and two-legged. They're not to be avoided, but they aren't to be mindlessly abused either. It's an issue of injury prevention.

    And secondly, yes. Form was something of a culprit. However, my friend David typically has excellent form. It's just that when he lifted the bar farther away from his body in order to rack it rather than pulling the bar towards him as in the case of a deadlift repetition, it threw off his center of gravity and blew out a lumbar disc.


    "So, the question becomes, are the benefits of two-legged squats and deadlifts worth the extra risk? yes"

    It depends on what your goals are. What function are you preparing the body for? Also, we always have to create our own risk/reward analysis of every exercise. That's not something you can answer for anyone else and hence why I wrote in reply to my own rhetorical question, "Unless you're a powerlifter or Olympic lifter, I don't think so". I avoided an absolute statement, and I don't believe that anyone is in a position in which they could answer unequivocably for all situations, "yes".


    "and if you are remotely interested in strength, you know.... squat and deadlift."

    Sure. They're excellent strength-building exercises. However, one should have a full understanding of the risks involved.



    "What? No, the higher your VO2 during exercise (regardless of type of exercise), the more glycogen you burn. This includes HIIT and Heavy lifting. This puts you closer to a fat oxidation position."

    I'm not totally sure what you're trying to say here, but I'll give it my best shot.

    First off, yes. The higher the VO2 during exercise, the higher the calorie burn because the amount of oxygen consumed during exercise directly correlates with the amount of kcals expended (1L O2 = 5kcals).

    Next, it sounds like you're referring to the concept of the body using different energy systems in order to accomodate for different intensities/durations of activity. For low intensity exercise, the body uses fat substrate. For high intensity exercise, the body uses carbohydrate.

    However, the statement "the higher your VO2 during exercise (regardless of type of exercise), the more glycogen you burn" needs qualifiers. The OBLA (Onset of Blood Lactate Accumulation. Also known as anaerobic threshold or lactic acid threshold) varies among individuals due to their level of fitness. For untrained individuals, you typically see OBLA at around 60% Functional Capacity. In trained individuals, OBLA can occur at levels over 80% FC. Consequently, at a level of 70% for an untrained individual, they'll be burning almost purely carbohydrate. However, at the same FC (70% for this example), a trained athlete could still be burning almost purely fat.

    It's highly individual.

    My only point with functional training burning more calories is that since you're involving more muscle groups, you must fuel those additional muscle groups as well. Consequently, when an individual is performing a pushup they involve more muscles than an individual doing a bench press. Here, I'll break it down.

    Muscle groups involved in a bench press:
    1. Protractors of the scapula
    2. Horizontal flexors of the shoulder joint
    3. Extensors of the elbow joint

    Muscle groups involved in a pushup:
    1. Protractors of the scapula
    2. Horizontal flexors of the shoulder joint
    3. Extensors of the elbow joint
    4. Flexors of the hip
    5. Extensors of the knee
    6. Plantarflexors of the ankle

    Granted, 4,5, and 6 only play a stabilization/neutralization role in the pushup, but they are still far more heavily involved than in a bench press. The greater their involvement, the greater the body's VO2, and the greater the kcal consumption.



    "Huh, synaptic facilitation is done in nearly any static exercise, heavy lifting and extreme calisthenics. It increases the neural capacity of a muscle. In effect, you dramatically increase the efficiency of the muscle and benefits include a much higher strength to weight ratio. Who would want that?"

    It's a matter of preference. My only point was that it shouldn't be termed functional for the human body's operational environment.
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    Registered User Juliojones's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by musclespro View Post
    really fantastic post thanks!
    Yes...Really fantastic post. Much informative.
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    Great article, thank you!
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    Very good, thanks.
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    Have you tried kettle bells?
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    Originally Posted by meggie00 View Post
    hi there everyone.. just had my ass fixed, damn after my two kids, i could not feel my ass any more, have u guys heard of hydrogel buttocks injection, it works well, ya it does.. i had my butts administered by a nurse, mikey, he is great and he sells the whole kits at a good price though, it hurts a little, u know beauty is pain.. now i have my ass fixed and sexy like nikki minaj.. contact him @ mikey009@rocketmail.com
    lol, wut?
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