Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Taking the next step toward Functionalism

There are those who describe workouts based on MUSCLES and those who describe workouts based on MOVEMENTS. How can you tell who is who? It's quite obvious actually. If you hear someone list body parts when they talk about their exercise session - they align themselves in the "Muscles Camp." If someone talks in terms of Pulling, Pushing, Trunk Extension, Squatting, Lunging -- then you have a Functionalist in the "Movements Camp."

It's been more than five years since I abandoned the "Muscles Camp" for something better. (You can read about my journey in either the Illinois Tactical Officers Association's ITOA News "Get Functional" or the CrossFit Jounnal's "SWAT Shapes Up.")  That something better began with Firefighter Jim demonstrating a couple of exercises with his kettlebell. I was immediately hooked. From that day on, I completely ignored everything I thought I knew about fitness, weightlifting, and cardio-respiratory endurance.

My transformation from that day with the kettlebell revolutionized my approach to physical training. My quick switch is definitely an anomaly. It's probably a little unrealistic to expect the same epiphany within those who haven't quite made the commitment to functional fitness. Most of those I know who have flipped sides towards functionalism have done so after gentle prodding, convincing persuasion, and endless pokes. So here are a few more pokes....

I'm going to list a bunch of "Muscles" movements and then list some "Movements" counterparts or substitutions.  Keep in mind that we functionalists don't worry about what muscles or body parts are used in many of the exercises, as most are multi-joint-multi-planar moves that cannot be simplified by isolated body parts. If you will not trust the intensity of the programs, at least try these movements for a few weeks. If you don't know them by name, then search this blog for a video or tutorial. If you don't find it here, it'll surely be on YouTube.

STOP: Situps, Crunches, Abdominal Isometrics. START: Hanging-Knees-to-Elbows (HK2E), Toes-to-Bar (T2B), L-sits.

STOP: Curls of all kinds, Lat Pull Downs, cable rows. START: Pullups, ChinUps, Inverted Rows. Then weighted pullups!

STOP: Shrugs, Upright rows. START: Farmers Walk, Power Cleans. Sumo Deadlift High Pulls (SDLHP).

STOP: Triceps work of all kinds. START: Dips, Ring Dips.

STOP: Bench pressing, dumbbell benching, butterflies. START: Pushups, Ring pushups, Plyo pushups.

STOP: Leg press, Leg sled, Leg extensions, Leg curls. START: Air squats, Back squats, Walking lunges, Kettlebell lunges.

STOP: Military press, Shoulder raises. START: Standing Push Press. Push Jerks. Clean-and-Press.

STOP: Stationary bike, Elliptical machine. START: VersaClimber, Concept2 rowing machine.

STOP: Complaining, Bitching, Making excuses. START: Deadlifts, Turkish GetUps, Back Extensions, Burpees.

I concede it is best to learn these starter movements without the added burden of sucking wind in a blistering circuit. Instead, first practice these exercises alone -- and focus on maximizing Range of Motion.  Scale or adjust them so you can operate in the full ROM. Each of these movements can be adjusted to account for whatever you want out of your workout program. For example, add weight until you can only perform three to five repetitions if you are looking for strength. Add more weight until only one rep is possible for power. Subtract weight and do a ton of reps without rest if you want to build stamina or cardio-respiratory endurance.

Whatever your physical fitness goals are, you will not be disappointed if you try some of these new exercises. I promise you that a MOVEMENTS approach is more efficient and more effective than a MUSCLES approach. I make the same argument if you are looking to drop your marathon time, increase your 100m sprint speed, gain muscle size, lose fat, jump higher, or (as George Demetriou says) "look better in a t-shirt." I'm not saying this is a cookie-cutter approach. To attain those listed goals, there are different ways to program in those exercises -- but the differences are in weight/load, reps, rest, intensity, and duration.

The MOVEMENTS are the same whether you are a grandma or a Navy SEAL.

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