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Functional Fitness Blog post


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A friend posted the link on FB, and I read it at home before leaving for work. Obviously, it's some dude's blog for "functional fitness." I wanted to see some thoughts from here on his view. The site is actually blocked for me at work, but there should be some links to see his workouts, so you can get an idea of his "functional" exercises.

This was my repsonse, "Compound lifts build a strong core, and that's functional. Much stronger than one would get from Pilates and Yoga... Doing the latter two simply makes one better at them. A500lb squatter might get sore from a Pilates session, but not because his core is weak. It's because Pilates provides a different training stimulus."  ...I think I exaggerated a bit much on the 500lb squatter part though.

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Original Post by cherimoose:

Original Post by cnichols2000:

Original Post by cherimoose: So walking around with a stack of plates will better prepare one for moving a box of books around than a deadlift will.   Moving a slosh tube might be a great prep for moving a wiggling kid around! 

I disagree. Moving a bulky or asymmetric load requires a greater proportion of stabilizer muscle strength. But the person with a 1.5x BW deadlift has a greater amount of total muscle strength, so plates, books, or kids are all easier...  I still say that compound lifts with heavy loads are still the best way to develop that strength.

Performing human movements successfully is not just about having strength, it's also about the neurological skills to coordinate the movement accurately in a dynamic and unpredictable environment.  This is well known in sports, where the vast majority of athletes' training time is spent practicing their sport, not by doing conventional barbell exercises. 

Skills do have some carry-over benefit to other activities, but the effect is limited.  Exercise science textbooks refer to this as the Specificity Principle.  For example, being skilled at lifting in the sagittal plane by doing barbell squats does not guarantee that one is skilled in the frontal plane, like with slosh tube lunges, for example.  If you take 2 people who can do 1.5x BW deadlifts, the one who practices slosh tube lunges will be better at it than the one who doesn't.  The way to get good at something is to practice it.

A good fitness program trains not just in an up-down motion with the feet glued to the ground (barbell exercises), it trains in all 3 planes of motion, and with a variety of training modes, since that better simulates the demands of the real world. 

That is just plain silly.  You just changed the goal posts.

Your original post was that someone playing with slosh tubes would be more functional for dealing with a squirming child than someone having a strong deadlift or squat.  Now you are saying two people of equal strength ie 1.5xbw deadlift.

And I don't care how squirmy your kid is, unless you weigh 80lbs, if you can deadlift 1.5xbw you'll have no trouble picking up a small child.  

The carryover from being able to deadlift 1.5xbw is far greater than the carryover from playing with sloshtubes for any task requiring strength, which, I would posit, makes a 1.5xbw deadlift more functional.

Original Post by michaelduff:

The carryover from being able to deadlift 1.5xbw is far greater than the carryover from playing with sloshtubes for any task requiring strength, which, I would posit, makes a 1.5xbw deadlift more functional.

Deadlifting 1.5x BW takes month, if not years, of training for the average, deconditioned American to achieve.  And some will never achieve it due to structural limitations.  So when you compare an advanced deadlifter with "playing with" a slosh tube - which implies an easy workout - you are making a faulty comparison.  That's why i leveled the playing field by comparing 2 people who both have 1.5x BW deadlifts.  According to established principles of exercise science, the person who trains using multiplanar movements is more likely to excel at those movements than someone who lifts solely in the sagittal plane.. other things being equal. 

Original Post by cherimoose:

Original Post by michaelduff:

The carryover from being able to deadlift 1.5xbw is far greater than the carryover from playing with sloshtubes for any task requiring strength, which, I would posit, makes a 1.5xbw deadlift more functional.

Deadlifting 1.5x BW takes month, if not years, of training for the average, deconditioned American to achieve.  And some will never achieve it due to structural limitations.  So when you compare an advanced deadlifter with "playing with" a slosh tube - which implies an easy workout - you are making a faulty comparison.  That's why i leveled the playing field by comparing 2 people who both have 1.5x BW deadlifts.  According to established principles of exercise science, the person who trains using multiplanar movements is more likely to excel at those movements than someone who lifts solely in the sagittal plane.. other things being equal. 

If a person can deadlift 1.5xbw they don't need to play with slosh tubes.

The carryover of a 1.5xbw deadlift exceeds any carryover that a slosh tube would bring to the table except for the rare person who is planning to turn pro and compete at the world slosh tube games.

The whole point of "functional fitness" is that you choose training that provides the greatest carry over to all the general fitness ability one would ordinarily require.

If I squat and deadlift to a reasonable level, I will be "fit" enough to go out and play a game of pick up football.  If I want to get a spot of the Giants roster, I will probably have to add in some specificity.

 brb trademarking professional slosh tubing before Crossfit HQ makes it an event at the 2012 Crossfit Games.

BTW I don't play with slosh tubes but often use sandbags etc for sports training.

Deadlifting 1.5 times bodyweight takes years? Huh. First time in my life I ever tried a barbell deadlift single I pulled 345lbs at a body weight of 209lbs, which by my calculations is about 1.65*body weight.

 I'd done some single-leg dumbbell deadlifting and a bit of high-rep training beforehand, but that was my first ever attempt at a single. But if you say it takes years to do that, well - explains why it pissed off my power lifting friend that I equaled his PR with my first ever pull I suppose.

 ETA: Finally got around to reading the actual blog post and his follow-up - and yeah, clearly written by someone who doesn't know anything about weight lifting  and makes up for it by creating his own definitions. It's this sort of thing that makes Michael Boyle who wrote "Functional training for sports"* wish he'd never done that as people who've never read his book have taken to stringing together a mishmash of misapplied yoga, half-assed pilates and some random exercises they cribbed off Dan John and calling that "functional", or worse yet some misapplied physical therapy and injury rehab exercises done on an unstable surface.

 *The cover picture is of someone playing around with a medicine ball on a Bosu, something Boyle now recommends that people not do.

Second addendum: Some of his youtube videos are interesting - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=njtHz2zx4Ms - he's clearly in shape and I do think he's got some interesting ideas. I just think he's setting up a false dichotomy to try to market his services as something unique.

Original Post by cherimoose:

Original Post by michaelduff:

The carryover from being able to deadlift 1.5xbw is far greater than the carryover from playing with sloshtubes for any task requiring strength, which, I would posit, makes a 1.5xbw deadlift more functional.

Deadlifting 1.5x BW takes month, if not years, of training for the average, deconditioned American to achieve.  And some will never achieve it due to structural limitations.  So when you compare an advanced deadlifter with "playing with" a slosh tube - which implies an easy workout - you are making a faulty comparison.  That's why i leveled the playing field by comparing 2 people who both have 1.5x BW deadlifts.  According to established principles of exercise science, the person who trains using multiplanar movements is more likely to excel at those movements than someone who lifts solely in the sagittal plane.. other things being equal. 

It's obvious you don't really know much about lifting.

1.5 x bodyweight doesn't take years lol and it isn't advanced either.

We've had these discussions before, you fail to recognise just how much carry over you get from basic barbell movements.

Why do you think strongmen who lift stones and all kinds of awkward objects still use the basics of squats, deadlifts and barbell presses to build a strong foundation for their events?

Cant really any more "functional" than moving cars, flipping tyres, picking up heavy stones and lifting other awkward heavy objects.

 

 

 


Cant really any more "functional" than moving cars, flipping tyres, picking up heavy stones and lifting other awkward heavy objects.

i dunno, but i don't often find myself in situations that call on me to flip a tire... and, am i wrong, or are most of those forward movements, as well? (idk, maybe they do some of that backwards or something.)

what about twisting while picking up a suitcase or garbage bag, or from a ladder, to get a box from a shelf... not genius moves, admittedly, but often done (sometimes unavoidably). a lot of our ordinary and spontaneous movement vocabulary doesn't fall within up-and-downy health and safety guidelines. (how many times have you had to remind yourself to 'use your knees' when not in a gym?)

or, walking up a rocky, hilly path, with ankles wiggling this way and that, is similarly simple/complex...

(i know the wood-chop's always there, and one could of course practice standing on the sandbag mentioned earlier, vs eg a wobble board; not saying the stuff on the blog can't/hasn't been covered)

 

 

Original Post by janelovesjam:


Cant really any more "functional" than moving cars, flipping tyres, picking up heavy stones and lifting other awkward heavy objects.

i dunno, but i don't often find myself in situations that call on me to flip a tire... and, am i wrong, or are most of those forward movements, as well? (idk, maybe they do some of that backwards or something.)

what about twisting while picking up a suitcase or garbage bag, or from a ladder, to get a box from a shelf... not genius moves, admittedly, but often done (sometimes unavoidably). a lot of our ordinary and spontaneous movement vocabulary doesn't fall within up-and-downy health and safety guidelines. (how many times have you had to remind yourself to 'use your knees' when not in a gym?)

or, walking up a rocky, hilly path, with ankles wiggling this way and that, is similarly simple/complex...

(i know the wood-chop's always there, and one could of course practice standing on the sandbag mentioned earlier, vs eg a wobble board; not saying the stuff on the blog can't/hasn't been covered)

 

 

You've missed the point completely. lol

 

 

@janelovesjam

Weight lifting would help all of the things you just listed.  Weight lifting strengthens your muscles and your tendons.  If your quads, hamstrings, calves, glutes, pecs, back, abs, biceps, triceps, shoulders, forearms, hands, knees, ankles, and hips are all stronger, then you will have an easier time twisting, climbing, moving on rocks.  You will have better posture, flexibility, balance, coordination and stronger bones.

The guy who wrote this "functional fitness" goes on about how his exercises allow him to keep his strength, so they must be better than weight lifting, but he never got that strong from weight lifting in the first place.  He boasts about being able to deadlift 240.  I'm a girl who's only been deadlifting for 4 months, and I can do that.  He has no basis to say that doing his program is better than getting stronger, when he never got that strong in the first place.  If he could deadlift 400, maybe I would give him a second thought, maybe.

Original Post by littlesimongeorge:

Why do you think strongmen who lift stones and all kinds of awkward objects still use the basics of squats, deadlifts and barbell presses to build a strong foundation for their events?

Having a strong foundation is only part of preparation.  The other part is training the neuromuscular skill sets (coordination, balance, agility, etc.) to succeed at specific tasks.  Someone who trains with stones will be better at lifting them than someone who doesn't, other things being equal.   Deadlifts are great, but they alone do not prepare everyone for every situation. 

 

Original Post by michaelduff:

The carryover of a 1.5xbw deadlift exceeds any carryover that a slosh tube would bring to the table 

You keep comparing deadlifts to slosh tubes, but i never made that comparison.  What i said was: "walking around with a stack of plates will better prepare one for moving a box of books around than a deadlift will".  I made that comment to Amethystgirl, who has a history of back injuries.  Expecting a female with back problems to deadlift 1.5x BW is an unrealistic short term goal, however almost any female can walk around with a stack of plates equivalent to a box of books in a relatively short period of time.  So it's a highly functional exercise for someone who wants to move boxes.   

 

Original Post by cherimoose:

Original Post by littlesimongeorge:

Why do you think strongmen who lift stones and all kinds of awkward objects still use the basics of squats, deadlifts and barbell presses to build a strong foundation for their events?

Having a strong foundation is only part of preparation.  The other part is training the neuromuscular skill sets (coordination, balance, agility, etc.) to succeed at specific tasks.  Someone who trains with stones will be better at lifting them than someone who doesn't, other things being equal.   Deadlifts are great, but they alone do not prepare everyone for every situation. 

 

Original Post by michaelduff:

The carryover of a 1.5xbw deadlift exceeds any carryover that a slosh tube would bring to the table 

You keep comparing deadlifts to slosh tubes, but i never made that comparison.  What i said was: "walking around with a stack of plates will better prepare one for moving a box of books around than a deadlift will".  I made that comment to Amethystgirl, who has a history of back injuries.  Expecting a female with back problems to deadlift 1.5x BW is an unrealistic short term goal, however almost any female can walk around with a stack of plates equivalent to a box of books in a relatively short period of time.  So it's a highly functional exercise for someone who wants to move boxes.   

 

Why would you walk with a stack of plates when, if the level of specificity is so great (not that I think it is), you could just pick up the box of books to start with?

I'm out... this is clearly silly. 

Original Post by michaelduff:

Why would you walk with a stack of plates when, if the level of specificity is so great (not that I think it is), you could just pick up the box of books to start with?

I'm out... this is clearly silly. 

Simply for convenience.  Most gyms don't have boxes of books.  A large medicine ball or sandbag would work too, but not every gym has those.  You use sandbags, so i'm not sure why you find training for a specific task silly. 

Why would you need a gym to walk around with a box of books?  If you had boxes of books then you could do it at home.  If you didn't have a box of books, then it would be silly to train for moving boxes of books.  

Original Post by cherimoose:

Original Post by michaelduff:

Why would you walk with a stack of plates when, if the level of specificity is so great (not that I think it is), you could just pick up the box of books to start with?

I'm out... this is clearly silly. 

Simply for convenience.  Most gyms don't have boxes of books.  A large medicine ball or sandbag would work too, but not every gym has those.  You use sandbags, so i'm not sure why you find training for a specific task silly. 

I know I said I was out but...

As I don't train people for the Sandbag Olympics, the use of sandbags is actually non-specific.  If the club could afford eight or 10 sets of barbells and racks or kettlebells or whatever, I wouldn't be using sandbags.

And I echo Smashley on the other query. 

Original Post by smashley23:

Why would you need a gym to walk around with a box of books?  If you had boxes of books then you could do it at home.  If you didn't have a box of books, then it would be silly to train for moving boxes of books.  

Moving a heavy, bulky object around is a fairly common occurrence for most people - maybe this month it's a box of books, next month it's piece of furniture, the month after it's a keg, etc.  The mechanics of walking with a bulky load in one's arms are very different than lifting a bar up & down without moving the feet, and since most injuries happen from unanticipated movements, the skill of carrying a heavy, bulky object around comes in handy for almost everybody. 

Original Post by cherimoose:

Original Post by littlesimongeorge:

Why do you think strongmen who lift stones and all kinds of awkward objects still use the basics of squats, deadlifts and barbell presses to build a strong foundation for their events?

Having a strong foundation is only part of preparation.  The other part is training the neuromuscular skill sets (coordination, balance, agility, etc.) to succeed at specific tasks.  Someone who trains with stones will be better at lifting them than someone who doesn't, other things being equal.   Deadlifts are great, but they alone do not prepare everyone for every situation. 

 

Original Post by michaelduff:

The carryover of a 1.5xbw deadlift exceeds any carryover that a slosh tube would bring to the table 

You keep comparing deadlifts to slosh tubes, but i never made that comparison.  What i said was: "walking around with a stack of plates will better prepare one for moving a box of books around than a deadlift will".  I made that comment to Amethystgirl, who has a history of back injuries.  Expecting a female with back problems to deadlift 1.5x BW is an unrealistic short term goal, however almost any female can walk around with a stack of plates equivalent to a box of books in a relatively short period of time.  So it's a highly functional exercise for someone who wants to move boxes.   

 

You cherry pick quite a lot don't you lol

Nevermind, you can play with your slosh pipe and I'll continue with my heavy lifting...

lol

Original Post by cherimoose:

Moving a heavy, bulky object around is a fairly common occurrence for most people - maybe this month it's a box of books, next month it's piece of furniture, the month after it's a keg, etc.  The mechanics of walking with a bulky load in one's arms are very different than lifting a bar up & down without moving the feet, and since most injuries happen from unanticipated movements, the skill of carrying a heavy, bulky object around comes in handy for almost everybody. 

But the box of books is still held in the arms and hands, supported by the abs, and moved with the legs. Bending down to pick up the box requires a significant amount of ab strength to protect the back from injury. Building greater total strength allows a person to use a lower percentage of absolute muscle strength, which means that s/he gets fatigued slower, which decreases the likelihood of injury and increases the amount of work that s/he can do.

All of these are things that deadlifting will improve. Greater grip and shoulder strength, so you can hold on to the corners of the box. Abs that can crack walnuts (if the force could be properly directed). Unbelievable leg strength.

Your point of neurological specificity completely ignores the fact that this is basic strength. I may not be able to do a single-legged squat, but I was able to deadlift one end of a 600 lb tabletop out of a basement last year. For a grip, I had a rope that was secured by a strap. I didn't have sufficient clearance for everything, so I was reaching and twisting. I lifted it one step at a time while the other guy pushed the bottom end forward. When we had it all the way up, I had to pull from the top of the stairs upward at a 45° angle. None of this was biomechanically efficient, there was plenty of potential for injury, and yet we got that thing up without a hassle.

And that is why I deadlift, squat, and press a barbell. I don't know what I'm going to have to lift tomorrow, but I know that I have a pretty good chance at being able to lift it, put it where it needs to go, and walk away without injury. And I feel light-years stronger than I ever did when I was doing any "functional" training, or only metabolic conditioning, or machine circuits.

Original Post by cnichols2000:

But the box of books is still held in the arms and hands, supported by the abs, and moved with the legs. Bending down to pick up the box requires a significant amount of ab strength to protect the back from injury.

Yes, strength is obviously important, but having strength in individual body parts does not guarantee that someone has the coordination skills to sequence hundreds of muscles in perfect sync, while moving through an unpredictable, multiplanar environment under load.  This is why sports players gain the most improvement by playing their sport, not by lifting weights (unless their sport is weightlifting).  The most functional exercise for a task is the one that most closely simulates the task.  That isn't just my opinion - it's an accepted exercise science principle.

Incidentally, most back injuries happen with submaximal loads, and in the horizontal & frontal plane, not the sagittal plane.

Have you ever done any heavy lifting?  If you have, you should know that heavy lifting develops the central nervous system, requires a lot of coordination, uses hundreds of muscles in sync, and can be unpredictable. Ever try to squat 250lbs and not grab the bar on center? You will be thrown off balance very quickly, and without coordination, you will fall right over.  Also, there are lifts that are not just in one plane.  I don't know why you keep acting like lifting is just in one plane. 

Also, there's a lot more to training for a sport then just doing that exact task repeatedly.  If you're a 1600 mile runner, you don't just train by running the 1600 every day.  People used to do that, and then they realized that there are much better ways of training.

There have NFL hopefuls training at my gym for months, and they do many things to prepare, not just play football on end.  They're weight training, agility training, doing plyometrics, core workouts.  I've seen them workout more than I've seen them throw and catch a football, and they're there every day.

In addition, weight lifting is one of the best ways to strengthen your muscles and joints and reduce your risk of injury when you are playing a sport.  I think that maintaining your bone density and reducing your risk of injury serve a very good function.

Original Post by cherimoose:

Yes, strength is obviously important, but having strength in individual body parts does not guarantee that someone has the coordination skills to sequence hundreds of muscles in perfect sync, while moving through an unpredictable, multiplanar environment under load.

By that logic, an asymmetric squat on a Swiss ball only trains you to do an asymmetric squat on a Swiss ball. Or, if a deadlift doesn't prepare you for moving a heavy and bulky object, then neither does wood chops with a slosh tube.

Original Post by cnichols2000:

Original Post by cherimoose:

Yes, strength is obviously important, but having strength in individual body parts does not guarantee that someone has the coordination skills to sequence hundreds of muscles in perfect sync, while moving through an unpredictable, multiplanar environment under load.

By that logic, an asymmetric squat on a Swiss ball only trains you to do an asymmetric squat on a Swiss ball. 

Uh, no, that doesn't follow from what i said.  I think we're having a communication difficulty.  I'll try to make this as clear as possible:

The closer an exercise simulates all the neuromuscular demands of a specific task, the better it will prepare one for that task.  

That's basically the Specificity Principle.  It doesn't mean an exercise only helps with one task, or that other exercises can't assist too.

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