Functional Training is a hot topic these days. “You need to be performing exercises that are functional.” You might have heard or read this statement but not fully understand what it entails. Functional exercises are classified as exercises that are training the body to perform daily life activities.
While I fully agree with this thought process, many forget the foundational pillars needed to perform activities like squat or deadlift (hinge). As a Physical Therapist, many clients come into the clinic with the presence of pain. Pain is often the last indicator in a system that is breaking down or lacks the appropriate quality of movement required to perform daily functional and recreational needs. While there is a need for exercise, there is a greater need for movement quality as a prerequisite.
The use of the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) in the clinic helps to determine movement integrity and is based on a hierarchy of movement patterns. Below is an at-home model of the FMS.
If you discover an inadequate movement pattern or experience pain, I suggest searching your area for a certified physical therapist through the Functional Movement Systems.
Step 1: Screen
Complete the screen above for a baseline measurement.
Step 2: Movement Hierarchy
The Functional Movement Screen is a systematic approach to fundamental movement patterns. Each test is scored on a pass/fail while accounting for painful movement patterns. The first hierarchy to clear up is any painful movement pattern, which would require a referral to a Physical Therapist/Chiropractor/Orthopedist.
Next, addressing mobility restrictions. Hindered mobility will lead to faulty movement patterns, hindered sport-specific tasks, and increased likelihood of injury. If a movement pattern scores a passing mark, then these movement patterns have the integrity to be loaded. Working with a certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist or Personal Trainer will help design the training program.
Due to changes in our habits and work/lifestyle, we have become creatures of sitting. While sitting has been termed the new smoking, we can use tools to combat these affected areas.
The utilization of the standing desk has become popular in the office setting. One may also utilize tall, or half kneeling on a pad at the desk and take frequent standing/walking/stretching breaks.
Mobility limitations in the shoulders, thoracic spine (upper back), hips, and ankles are commonly associated with prolonged sitting postures. A simple morning yoga routine, stretching, or movement based therapies can alleviate these issues and leave you more energized and productive for the day.
Motor control encompasses coordination, timing, and symmetry. It is the processing unit for our body. Sometimes what is perceived as tightness or mobility deficit can be a braking system to protect the body from a harmful or faulty movement pattern. The mind recognizes an at-risk subject and hinders movement that the person has not yet earned. This is seen especially a lot in regards to hamstring “tightness.” What is diagnosed as tight hamstrings are the body’s protective mechanism. Teaching someone to hinge through movement therapies properly, breathing techniques, bracing, or manual interventions can correlate to improved movement patterns. This quick turn around wouldn’t be an actual hamstring lengthening. Having access to an FMS certified clinician or trainer can determine the difference between the limitations.
Step 3: Movement Patterns and Loads
Once the above areas have been cleared or addressed, we are free to move towards the movement patterns and appropriate loads. There are various ways to load the squat. Which we see with use of a barbell, both back (low and high bar) and front squat; loaded with a medicine ball or kettlebell in a goblet squat position; or even breaking the movement down into a right versus left sides, such as with the lunge or split squat.
In order to load, we want the movements to be unhindered in a nonexternal load pattern, such as the bodyweight movements with FMS. Beyond the FMS, there are tests and measures to assess running form/dynamics, jumping mechanics, pivoting/twisting mechanics, speed, agility, and power metrics.
Once the movements are unlocked, we can explore various postures, various loads, and increasing external and internal stimulus to challenge the body.
As the necessary foundational work is performed to address underlying mobility or motor control deficits, we can load movement patterns more efficiently, leading to greater gains in the gym and under the barbell.
- In order to lift more, need to move well and often first and foremost.
- Prioritize gains to be made in the gym: mobility > load.
- Movement integrity ensures proper recovery and minimizes risk of injury, which in turn leads to more training days.
- Greater availability allows for more significant stimulus to be reached, leading to long term and structural gains.
- Training is not meant to be a form of punishment, but a means to test our body, and it’s capabilities.
- When the mindset is created that moving well is far greater than moving more, our body adapts to these stimuli in a positive manner versus a negative overtraining stimulus. Allowing for greater neural adaptation and promoting better health through the system.
- Use of movement prep exercises, ramp up sets, and constant and consistent self-assessment to note changes/regressions and/or progressions.
- Regressions in training program does not necessarily equate to de-loading.
- Use a variety of postures, training equipment, movements, and rep/set/recovery ranges.
- Train all systems equally.
- Keep if fun. Keep it simple. Move well. Explore new ranges and movements.