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Understanding Functional Strength & Mobility Training

ultimate sandbag

Why do we place such focus on moving well for greater strength? I’d like to think it is obvious, but what I often see is actually the opposite. They say that movement is important and they might do a pretty decent warm-up, but then their actual strength work reinforces all the aspects that causes compensatory movements in the first place! Sounds like the definition of insanity right?! 

Let’s face it, we’ve all had injury and when you hurt getting motivated to go to the gym and train hard is tough! You start to get frustrated that you don’t feel like yourself, you can’t do what you want, and if you don’t have a good understanding of how the body works it can feel like it is almost impossible to do anything productive in training. 

sandbag squat

Having a degenerative spinal disease I’ve had to re-teach myself how to come back from the most devastating of injuries to regain both my mobility and strength! 

That is why in DVRT we focus on not just getting you better mobility, but using that mobility to help develop smarter strength. Let’s look how the two SHOULD be related and the connection of your mobility training to greater fitness and strength gains!

What Should Be The Focus Of Mobility Training

There are A LOT of mobility training programs out there and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. However, we get often stuck as seeing our mobility training as disconnected from our strength training. They actually have a lot more in common than people think! In order to really understand the relationship we have to gain a better understanding of what is limiting most people’s mobility. 

mobility training

Getting my mother in-law more mobility in her surgically repaired shoulder in 5 minutes vs. 2 years of physical therapy is what motivates us to share these mobility training and strength ideas. 

While there are plenty of complex theories, the reality is that most people aren’t very active. I’ve shared stats in the past from the CDC saying that less than 5% of adults get the recommended amount of physical activity recommended. That’s activity, not exercise! While a lot of fitness pros can wrap their heads around the idea that sitting isn’t the best for our bodies for long and long periods, if we ask them why they can’t really say other than “muscles get tight”. The question should be WHY do they get tight?!

Most assume it is because muscles are in a shortened position when you sit. Maybe a little, but unlike being in a cast, you aren’t in the same position for weeks upon weeks at a time. You do move and you do change positions and postures. So, we have to think a bit differently. 

If we look at what functional training means, we may start getting a better idea of what is actually happening. I love this definition from spinal expert, Dr. Stuart McGill, “Functional training incorporates the goal of enhancing strength throughout the body segment linkage. This means the strength be generated quickly, throughout complex motions and postures, and in an environment that preserves balance and joint stability, and avoids injury, risks, etc.”

That’s a lot different from what I hear from several people that give a much more philosophical statement of “training that gets you ready for life.” While that may sound great, it doesn’t tell me specifically how functional training works or how it differs from other methods. When we use Dr. McGill’s statement as guidance we have to ask, “what are we trying to connect in this idea of linkage?” This is why in DVRT we speak about both mobility training and strength in terms of myofascial connections. 

Um, okay, but what does this have to do with mobility training and our strength? Going back to our sitting example, when our body sits, lots of muscles take a “nap” because our body is about being efficient and being artificially supported it can afford to let some muscles relax. Once we go to stand up, these muscles don’t have an alarm clock and stay kinda lazy and more importantly “disconnected” from their partners. 

That means the dominant flexors take over like the hip flexors, and we see “tightness” in lots of the common areas of our body like our shoulders and hips leading to discomfort often in the low back. If we understand that functional training is about creating connection, then it makes sense that if we want to actually improve our mobility training, we don’t do it by stretching, or isolating the individual muscle or joint, but by teaching the muscles that work together to do so more efficiently so the body allows those areas to open up and move so much more efficiently.

And Strength?

The same should go for our strength training. Even those that consider themselves “functional training based” focus on muscles. Maybe better muscles like glutes, obliques, rotator cuffs and more, but they do so individually. Sadly, that makes people tired and sore, but doesn’t make them better. Why? If these muscles don’t learn to work together with the areas that they are meant to create this “linkage” with we don’t actually improve our real world strength and performance. 

healthy shoulders

When you look at our DVRT exercises, we work muscles, we work A LOT of muscles, we just do so by focusing on making those important connections. The “magic” we get in DVRT with our mobility training and strength comes from having this intent behind our training and we get so much more done in less! Sounds pretty good right?! 

The videos and examples I have placed in this blog I hope you look at through this pair of glasses. Once you realize how the body works you begin to realize how much more effective and efficient our training can be! That is the power of what we teach in DVRT and hope you get the methods, concepts, and techniques, more than just “another” mobility training or strength based exercise. 

Want to learn more about how we make these connections and how they change everything? Don’t miss our upcoming game changing summit HERE and save 30% on our DVRT online education with code “fall” HERE