Have you noticed a ‘coming back in vogue’ with exercises?
In fact what is interesting to observe is how traditional exercises are now so fashionable that if you are not doing chin ups, push presses, Kettle Bell, plyometric training and flipping a tyre, you are simply not really exercising. This has all been in the name of functional training, which is a highly debated concept as to what one person thinks is functional, another expert is sure to disagree.
To further the argument, is that there is nothing technically wrong about any of these exercises. In fact, there is much research quoting the benefits of high intensity training – increased cardiovascular, bone density and fat loss benefits to name a few. What seems to be overlooked is that most of the research has been performed on fit, well trained bodies. The summaries of each research piece usually includes a recommendation that this type of training requires more recovery, and also places considerably more joint stress and load on the body.
BUT… is it appropriate for the 2013 sedentary body?
Where is the balance between using traditional exercises for the bodies that we are dealing with now?
How to do a traditional exercise to make it more appropriate and effective in light of what we now understand about the body? The main focus should be on what does the 2013 body need now and understanding that those needs are different from the body used to require even 20 years ago.
1. Extension exercises – back extension, hip extension and shoulder extensions combat the constant flexion that the body is in because our lifestyle movement patterns. Exercises like back extensions from the floor or bridges, work against gravity and easy to perform correctly. Standing exercises are more challenging as the body needs to maintain good form when lowering down towards the floor, especially if the individual is also lifting a weight.
2. Rotation – our bodies are designed to rotate, and with the small amount of rotation that is performed in day to day activities, when rotation is required, our muscles are unable to provide support to the spine or joints. Shoulder and hip rotations are not common in most training programs even though these ball and socket joints are designed to perform this functional range of motion.
3. Intensity – there is a point when intensity is effective and when it leads to poor technique and form. The challenge is create enough intensity without leading to poor execution of the exercise. This will vary depending on the individual and prior exercise and injury history, as injury changes how the body biomechanically functions.
4. Use different planes – planes of motion are saggital, frontal and transverse. Most traditional muscle conditioning exercises moved in either the saggital or frontal plane. With the influence of functional training, transversal movement has become more popular as it often requires rotation, but it also mimics a more natural range of movement.
The fitness world is currently being bombarded with research, information and opinions from many opposing points of view. My recommendation to the trainer and instructor is this – always be in a position to be able to justify what you deliver. If your only justification is that you saw someone else do it, then it is not a strong enough reason to deliver the exercise. Have the reason and understand the implications on the client. If the only reason that you have is to cripple your client so that they cannot move the next day and remember every muscle that they own, this will not inspire most inactive people to keep coming back and could also lead to injury.
Exercise is becoming a necessity for everyone because of our lifestyles, if we want more people to enjoy and part take in physical activity, we need to consider what we are delivering and ensure that they are getting the best of the traditional and up to date with exercise.