Functional Fitness

You're made to move.

It's how we approach it, with body awareness, deliberate action, and range-of-motion.

Let's rehab the body through what we have neglected, correcting our movement and posture and building durability. Learn to move more efficiently while strengthening, increasing flexibility, balance, agility, and lubricating the joints, which can be done with just your body weight. Increase your overall work capacity. This is different from the common usage of the term "fitness" because commonly people are exercising in pursuit of this idea or thing called "fitness" because we're told we need it for health or to have a visibly attractive body. While some non-practical exercise actions might result in increased characteristics helping with a sports performance, you're most likely still missing a lot. How about developing exercises based around our basic natural actions and the movements that are most practical to us, drawing strength and mobility across lines of action traversing our body?

These exercises I use draw from developmental movement patterns, calisthenics, yoga, and more,  activating reflexive strength, engaging the vestibular system, and stretching through range-of-motion.  Basically, we relearn how we are meant to move from the inside out, retraining our neuro-motor connections and coordination.  Does this sound wimpy? Are you strong enough to crawl across a football field? You will experience results.

Developmental movement patterns:

As human infants, we progress through a general pattern of movements to learn our mobility. Simplified, we start with rolling over from back to front, then we crawl, then we sit (on the floor!), then we stand up. In progressing through these movement patters we learn our sense of body position in space (proprioception and vestibular function). We start movements by activating our core muscles. We use this core strength to draw together the actions of different parts of our body. All of these functions learned in early life developmental patterns get forgotten because we stop utilizing our many different body positions possible. We stand up stiff and sit in chairs way too much. This makes all the rest of our movements much harder.

Vestibular system and Vestibular Resets:

The vestibular system of the body is best known for our balance. In larger, it's our general sense of awareness of our body in space. It's our sense of awareness of the positions, angles and distance, of our different body parts in relation to each other. It's our sense of awareness of our body's position in relation to ground and gravity, which is something continually happening though at varying levels of intensity. Since we're always resisting gravity our vestibular system assists in our posture. When we move, this is our foundation for our coordination.

 

The vestibular system consists of a diverse range of organs in our body that coordinate together in the cerebellum of the brain.  The eyes and our eye sight, for example, is the most noticeable organ of the vestibular system. Eye sight give you information of your position in space, and if you want to balance on one foot you might fix your gaze on a single unmoving point in your field of vision to assist you.  Semi circular canals in the inner ears use fluids level angles that are influenced by gravity to understand the direction of gravity. This is similar to a carpenter's bubble leveler. We have proprioceptor nerves from our extremities to our vertebrae that give important information that coordinate as well for body position understanding.

These functions just like everything else in the body do not remain sharp tools unless they are utilized and exercised. Vestibular resets can be done as deliberate exercises when we move through different body positions, especially when we change the direction and level of the spine, change our head position in pose like rotating the neck, and challenge the ways our limbs work together. This also activates our reflexive strength.

Reflexive Strength:

Automatic control over the body in all the ways you want to move. "Core strength/muscles" is a buzz work in fitness. What are core muscles anyway? It's more than your 6 or 8 cans of abs and it's more than a sit up. Reflexive strength is the functional definition of understanding our strength that starts in the center and pulls our limbs together.  Geoff Neupert with Original Strength TM says "Reflexive Strength is the body’s ability to anticipate, prepare, and respond to movement before and as it happens." Tim Anderson with Original Strength TM draws attention to the "X-factor" or X-lines that run across our torso, lines of functional tension, related to our opposite side (contra-lateral) limb movements that are deeply rooted in our developmental movement patterns that he then commonly instructs in exercises. Another example of reflexive strength is the pelvic floor diaphragm of muscles coordinating with your abdominal diaphragm to hold you upright as you transition through different standing poses, or from a standing pose to a hand balance.

Most people are familiar with the word "stretch" and associate that with increasing "flexibility," but may not understand how that leads to improved function and reduction of aches.  They also aren't aware that "stretch" and "strengthen" aren't completely separate things, so they then avoid stretching altogether. Many people exercise at the gym, or perhaps run a trail.  Their routine is limited to strengthening performed on bars, bells, and handles, often isolating muscle groups using motions not related to practical function, and then the dreaded cardio (as if that's an isolated function). I am offering my approach of a fully integrated body for real strength with durability from our center/core outward.

From the Mayo Clinic website:

What is functional fitness training?

Functional fitness exercises train your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by simulating common movements you might do at home, at work or in sports. While using various muscles in the upper and lower body at the same time, functional fitness exercises also emphasize core stability.

Functional exercises tend to use multiple joints and numerous muscles. Instead of only moving the elbows, for example, a functional exercise might involve the elbows, shoulders, spine, hips, knees and ankles. This type of training, properly applied, can make everyday activities easier, reduce your risk of injury and improve your quality of life...to improve balance, agility and muscle strength, and reduce the risk of falls.

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