One of my favorite books as a young coach was the late Dr. Mel Siff’s “Facts & Fallacies of Fitness”. Dr. Siff was an amazing scientist and someone who got under weight all the time himself, so he knew what he was talking about on both fronts! It was such an important book because the internet was a relatively new at the time and social media really wasn’t a thing yet (I know, I sound REALLY old!).
I say it was important because things were really exploding for fitness professionals as far as being more aware of the science and education of a professional. Yet, it was hard to know who REALLY knew their stuff and who just made things sound good. Dr. Siff’s book really took on the popular ideas of the time and analyzed them to see if they really made sense.
There is no way I would compare myself to Dr. Siff, but I do always try to keep in mind honest and thoughtful insights into training. It is so easy to use a lot of jargon, pseudo science, and even bullying to get a point across. We don’t need that nowadays, we need truth and the most honest information we have at the time. With that in mind, I wanted to tackle 3 really common myths especially that holds to the movement patterns we discuss in our new L.I.F.T. modules, rotation and lunging!
Myth 1: These Movements Don’t Build Muscle
Truth: I think functional training often gets a bad wrap for not building muscle. The WHOLE point of functional training is to be as efficient with our training as we can be and that includes building muscle! Some of the biggest and strongest people I have ever met largely perform functional based workouts. So, where does this myth come from?
For one, when we look at movements like rotation there isn’t an obvious muscle that we are “working”. Not like a biceps curl, a dumbbell flye, or as such. In fact, rotation is one of the best representations of having beautiful harmony of your muscles. They have to work in perfect synergy to create proper rotation. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t work muscles!
Research after research paper discusses how much muscle activity from the lower body and trunk are necessary for throwing athletes (those that use rotation all the time). Your glutes, hamstrings, trunk muscles (even those lats) all get lit up during rotational exercises. I even remember years ago speaking with Bret Contreras (known for his glute fame) at my facility in Scottsdale about this very thing.
I was showing him some of our rotational training concepts and I was sharing with him the huge metabolic costs we saw in people’s heart rates with them. He paused, thought about and said that makes a lot of sense. Even he spoke about how our fascia is set-up for rotation and the amount of muscles worked explain why we see heart rates go through the roof. People love exercises like squats and deadlifts because they hit so many muscles at once and in a big way. Probably means you need to do the same for rotation!
Myth 2: These Exercises Don’t Build Strength
Truth: This one probably gets more targeted at lunges because c’mon, no one makes lunges the “star” of their workout programs. Classically, people put lunges AFTER they’ve done their “real” strength work. The bias doesn’t stem from any research, it largely just comes from the idea that the load is lighter so therefore the strength can be as great. That MIGHT work if we were comparing apples to apples, but we are not!
Lunges have a split position obviously that requires us to have to stabilize and produce strength at the same time. That’s important because in life we have to do that very thing! Rarely, even researchers point out, do we perform with our feet in line with one another, we do so more split!
This brings in the elements of acceleration and deceleration that are see have a HUGE impact upon strength. In fact, we have written a great amount of why declarative strength is so important in building more resilient to injury! Loads in the lunge should be challenging, but if you think it is JUST about load you are missing out on a much bigger picture!
Myth 3: These Exercises Will Hurt My Low Back & Knees!
Truth: Okay, the most simple truth is that pretty much any movement done badly can cause problems or even injury. Yet, when it comes to rotational and lunging movements people tend to have two big worries, low backs and knees! Both of these are actually relatively simple issues to fix.
Rotation can be one of the more surprising as still, most people think that rotation is twisting through the low back, it isn’t! Proper rotation happens at the hips, which is why we have such a mobile joint (the hips) under our more stable lumbar spine. Teaching people how to pattern rotation with the hips is the KEY to learning how to save your low back. That AND bracing your core, how do you do it? So glad you asked……
Lunges and bad knees is something I get asked about ALL the time since we are such lunging fans. This can be a bit more challenging because people have often had more experienced lunging than anything in rotation so fixing old habits can be difficult. That and people are pretty well convinced that lunging will hurt. Before we go further I must say that if doctors have told you that something is wrong with your knees then you may have some discomfort, but I think we can make some headway.
Step 1: Both feet are active in a lunge. This is obvious for some and not so much for others. The importance of using both knees is that it will take pressure off just using the front knee or creating what is known as excessive shear force into the knee.
Step 2: Sounds silly, but being in the right footwear is key. I have really bad feet, but when I train, I do so in minimal shoes. That is because we want you “gripping” the ground when you lunge.
Step 3: Go the right direction! Most people never think of it, but choosing the right direction can save your knees, especially at first. For example, if you don’t have the strength to lunge forwards, lunging backwards is easier. There is less of our own body mass to decelerate and for many it can be easier to load the glutes which will help our knees.
Check out some more of our progressions below!
I hope these idea open you up to not only how accessible these exercises can be, but also how powerful if used correctly. My hope is you don’t see things so simply, but are willing to delve deeper to reach your success.
Learn more about how we use these movement patterns to open up a big world of functional fitness. Get $50 off AND get some special tools and a 30 workout program by DVRT Master, Cory Cripe, for FREE when you use coupon code “rotation” HERE.