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Why Fitness For Life Is Silly

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After almost 25 years of writing blog posts, it can feel as though I don’t know what else to write about. Fortunately, social media keeps providing me endless ideas as bad ideas get espoused faster than I could possibly write blogs. One of the most common ideas that goes wrong FAST is, “you should train for what you do in life!” 

Now, on its face, fitness for life makes a lot of sense. We want to train in a way that will transfer to everyday life, who wouldn’t want that versus being strong in the gym, but weak when you really need it? However, fitness for life is NOT about replicating what we do in life in the gym. This idea falls apart pretty fast when we examine it. Here are a few quick examples…

-How many times during your day do you lay face down on the ground and push yourself up? So, push-ups are out!

-How many times in your day do you hang from something and have to pull yourself up? Guess pull-ups are out!

-How many times during your day do you find yourself lunging around? Not much, so no more lunges (don’t get too excited!)

-My favorite, how many times do you have to pick something up, you set yourself up in a perfect deadlift position, the weight is perfectly balanced, it has handles, and is about shin height off the ground? Most of all, how often would you pick up that object just to your hips and then stop? No more deadlifts right? 

fitness for life

You see the fitness for life when it comes to replicating what we do in real life crumbles on the most basic levels. It isn’t the concept that fitness for life isn’t good, it is how it is applied. What we REALLY mean about fitness for life is that we train QUALITIES that will enhance how we live and perform. 

This means looking at what we need in everyday life. Here are just a few of MANY qualities we should train if we really want fitness for life. 

Frontal Plane Strength & Stability

A lot of knee and low back issues can come from lack of frontal plane strength and stability. Mostly the ability to RESIST frontal (lateral) plane movement. You can see this ALL the time in every day movements like walking and running. If you lack frontal plane strength and stability this places huge stress on the knee and low back. I can’t think of too many activities that reflect fitness for life like walking. 

low back pain

However, we have way more than side planks we can use. Half kneeling exercises, lunges, step-ups, progressive deadlifts and squats, as well as just using our sprinter stance plays a huge part. 

Coach Robin Paget shows just some of the many ways we train frontal plane stability

Diagonal Patterns

Most people still look at the muscles used when deciding if an exercise is “good” or not. So, recommending that people use diagonal patterns might sound silly. However, diagonal patterns are foundational to how we move in life and are another great example of true fitness for life strategies. We see this motion most obviously when the opposite arm and leg swing during walking and running. 

fitness for life

Research has shown even more value to using diagonal patterns. A study in The Journal Of Orthopedic Sports Physical Therapy found that PNF patterns (diagonal patterns) led to greater strength and performance than bench press and leg press workouts. This is pretty amazing if you consider the load used during PNF patterns is usually much less than we would see in a bench press or leg press, so, we see we can build more strength and performance by training true fitness for life. 


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Focusing On Chains

It saddens me that in the late ’90’s many of us in the industry were excited to learn that the body worked in chains, not individual muscles. This was SUCH exciting and interesting new information we worked hard to change how we saw training and creating solutions for people. I say it saddens me because we are clearly going backwards with a renewed focus on individual muscles. 

Chains refer to how one segment impacts another. For example, during a squat you need good movement from the ankle, knee, hip, and good core stability. If anything in this chain is off, it impacts the movement negatively and it doesn’t matter what muscle you try to train individually because these areas are meant to work together. 


When someone lacks ankle mobility in a squat, don’t wedge the squat, that changes the chain. Reduce the range of motion and work on integrated ankle mobility drills like we show with physical therapist, Jessica Bento. Remember, great training that actually helps fitness for life has nothing to do with replicating what we do in life, but rather, understanding the qualities of human movement and how we can develop solutions to better address them.

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