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How Good Functional Training Is Corrective Exercise

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Jessica Bento, Physical Therapist (Creator DVRT Restoration Certification, Knees Over Toes Course, DVRT Rx Shoulder, Knees, Pelvic Control, & Gait Courses)

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When I first began as a PT I basically thought everything and everyone was weak, most issues were strength issues in my opinion. Shoulder pain, weak rotator cuff. Low back pain, weak core. Knee pain, weak VMO. Over the years I have learned that weakness isn’t really the issue when it comes to injuries and or painful areas of the body. Sure, it can be part of the issue, but what I have learned is that if one area is weak then most of the time everything else is weak, not just one muscle or one area. I think that’s where a lot of practitioners go wrong. Treating the site of pain and not addressing the entire body, can lead to poor outcomes, delaying progress, or not even getting the desired results. Trying to isolate an area and to think that it’s just this one spot that’s the issue just doesn’t make any sense. What I have found it that the majority of the time, the issue tends to be a weak link, not a weak individual muscle.
What do I mean? Let’s take my own mother as an example. Back to back total shoulder replacements, first one failed due to incorrect size of the implant. This process lasted about 3 years or so. Months of a painful shoulder, months of PT that didn’t work, and finally the joint replacement. Followed by months of more PT and a failed outcome. Then another surgery with more PT. Finally just accepting the outcome, a “it is what it is” type of outlook on a not so great surgery.
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On the left is my mom’s range of motion in her shoulder with months of traditional physical therapy, on the right is 5 minutes of doing some of our DVRT core drills with her.
Three years…three years of pain and dysfunction. That’s a long time. Imagine the faulty patterns that started to occur due to pain and immobility. It wasn’t the shoulder that just suffered in this, it was the entire body but yet only the shoulder was addressed in therapy, isolated shoulder exercises to strengthen the joint. Now, don’t get me wrong, a lot of the exercises that she did was warranted due to her surgery, but not addressing the entire body left so much on the table in regards to her overall progress or where she should have ended up. Her entire chain was affected, her upper body did not know how to talk to her lower body and the entire kinetic chain was broken.
Now, what the heck do I mean functional training is really disguised as corrective exercise? Functional training is all about patterns, training movement and not muscles. It works on making stronger links in our body. Teaches about body and our muscles to work together as a team and not as individuals that is our movement works after all. In actuality, exercises I give my patients look often times like the exercises I give my coaching clients. I know that if I train patterns I am hitting everything, whether it’s mobility, strength, or stability. It saddens me to see the industry reverting back to 80-90’s body building, that’s what isolated work really is. It’s not how our body functions and I have said this numerous times, isolated work is dysfunctional work when it comes to trying the perform and move better.
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