No one goes into training thinking, “hey, I want to create a really bad workout program.” That would be silly and why would anyone want to spend energy on something they knew was flawed. I wanted to put that out there because not all functional strength training programs are equal. Some aren’t that good at all, but people don’t know what they aren’t doing right by their own training plan. Believe it or not, it doesn’t have to be that complicated to create a really smart and thoughtful training plan.
What are three strategies anyone can employ to get much better results from their training? Let’s check out these three as just following these simple recommendations will make your functional strength training programs in the upper level of most.
Start with the Movement Patterns
Renown physical therapist, Gray Cook, has said that movement patters “are the combination of our parts and our nervous system working in perfect harmony.” What he is referring to is the fact that our nervous system can control A LOT of what happens to our parts and sometimes we can overcome limitations in the quality of our parts if our nervous system is working at a high level.
I’ve talked quite a bit about movement patterns in our DVRT blogs and to be honest, looks like the message is getting through. More and more I’m seeing people be more thoughtful about this concept. Now of course, once in awhile some social media contrarian will ask, “what wrong with training parts?” Of course nothing is “wrong”, well that depends how we think about what wrong means.
If I offered you two different jobs, they both required a good amount of work, but one paid you three times as much as another would you say one job is “wrong” or would you think if it was as good? That is why in functional strength training one of the delineations of the methods of functional training is focusing on movement patterns. Are we going to train your muscles? Oh heck yea, but way more of them and in a more efficient manner. So, I’ll leave up “wrong” to you.
What are the movement patterns we are looking to develop in our functional strength training programs? They are…
What makes us uniquely human? That is right! The ability to walk and run in such complex ways that seem effortless to the level of complexity of the movements.
Will every workout have all seven pattens always represented? Nope, but that tells us what to exactly to do next time. What focusing on patterns does to our functional strength training is ensures we have balance in our training and we avoid redundancy. For example, I’ll see workouts like this all the time…..
Those are three hip hinge movements. Not only do they fail to bring in other movement patterns, they put a lot of work through the low back. That is going to take a toll on our recovery and may cause one or all three of those exercises to suffer. Balance of our movement patterns gives us far more effective functional strength training programs.
Seeing workouts like the above always makes me understand how much we miss the most foundational of program design methods. Above are four rounds of 40 reps of a hip hinge, 20 squats, and 20 flexion based core work. That leaves out a bunch of movement patterns and has a heavy imbalance of those movement patterns they offer.
If you were to focus on using movement patterns in your programs you will probably be in the top third of workout programs. However, we can take it to another level with a very simple strategy. We can expand on the patterns to get even more out of this concept.
Each pattern can be done unilaterally or bilaterally (except really lunging and gait). So, we have to ask if do we want to press or pull, squat or hinge with one leg or two legs. If two legs for example, do we want a small stance or a big unstable stance? In pressing and pulling are we going to do alternating, supported on one side, or completely unilateral?
DVRT Master, Cory Cripe, shows how we have a movement pattern in the upper body pulling and a hip hinge in the bent row. However, we can manipulate it in some very important and unique ways.
These simple questions help us understand that very simple changes to an exercise can bring us all new results and we can have purposeful variety to our training. While this may confuse some (I really don’t think the questions we just asked are that difficult) they do open the door to another important idea in functional strength training.
Which Way You Going?
While some think functional strength training programs mean we aren’t building muscle, nothing could be further from the truth. What we would call “functional” in today’s fitness landscape was actually very much a part of old time bodybuilders in the early 20th century. Before the age of massive drug use, most of these athletes could build physiques and perform feats of strength and athleticism that would have most of us very happy today.
There would be gymnastics, one handed work, and what we call today, multi-planar training. That refers to the fact that ever movement we have in the real world and sport works in three planes of motion. The sagittal plane is up and down/front and back, the frontal plane is side to side, and transverse is rotation.
Peretz Scheinerman shows how we use this functional strength training concept of DVRT to not just give you more variety in your hip hinges, but better ways of progressing.
In every days life we have a careful balance of all three. If any one is off, we become more prone to injury and don’t perform our best. Research has shown that when we move in these different planes we work many muscles that our typical “parts” methodology misses. One of the big reasons is to focus on functional strength training programs is that with such a method, assuming we use it correctly, we don’t miss any muscles. The same can’t be said with the parts mentality.
How do we use this in our functional strength training? We start everyone in building some foundational movement competency in the sagittal plane. That wouldn’t make our programs seem too different yet. That means a lot of your more familiar up and down movements. After build that proficiency we would use the sagittal plane, but try to resist the other planes of motion. This need to requirement to produce and resist motion is how we help our strength training transfer to the real world and how we make sure we have better balance and control of the body.
Eventually, that leads us to moving through the frontal plane and finally the transverse plane. This means that we look at each movement patterns with are we using one or two sides? Are we moving just up and down, laterally, or in rotation. If we JUST ask these three questions we can have programs that take us from the top third to the top 1%, not exaggerating! Our MAX Lunge is a great example of this concept and that is why DVRT Master, Steve Holiner, breaks down some important concepts of making sure you don’t lose the movement in effort to do the lift!
That is the benefit of understanding the concepts of functional strength training. Maximizing both the time and energy we have to achieve our fitness goals and make a REAL difference!
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