This past Friday I had the opportunity to present at the NYS AHPERD Nassau Zone Conference at Adelphi University. The event was hosted at Adelphi’s Center for Recreation and Sport, and while I’m in the building on a regular basis, it was nice to be on home turf for the event. I presented last year and was lucky enough to be selected again; I’d like to make this an annual occurrence.
This year’s discussion was titled “Form and Function: Choosing the Most Effective Exercise for Our Students”, and included a colloquial definition of the textbook definition of “Functional Training”, basics of the Joint by Joint approach, how it dictates planning an appropriate warm-up and exercise selection. Regular readers may be familiar with most of what I spoke about, but I’ll provide a quick recap and then touch on the things that I forgot to say. I’d like to think about it as reflective practice, so I can improve on what I’m doing.
To set the stage for this, I’ll share my introduction. I discussed the epidemic of poor posture that we see, and how strength training can help reduce posture related injuries, improve movement quality, and general quality of life. Even though I use the term “functional training”, I like to create a working definition of it because it’s become such a garbage term these days. It’s a buzzword, sure, but it makes people think about juggling torches while hopping on pogo stick. I’m not really sure about this:
I emphasized the basics of the Joint-by-Joint approach, and noted that most of our students and clients will have mobility restrictions at the ankle, hip, thoracic spine, and shoulder. A proper warm-up should include soft tissue work, active mobilization drills, and movement drills to ‘activate’ muscles or prepare the body for exercise. In the context of a physical education class, I noted that this should be taken care of before each and every class session; as far as training goes, it should happen before each of your training sessions. Even for those who are racing the clock, it’s important to get into the gymnasium or your training facility and get cracking on the warm-up. Instead of dillydallying and hanging around, students and clients can get right into their training. You can get that I’ll have lacrosse balls, tennis balls, PVC pipes, and foam rollers all around my office in the future.
After detailing the importance of the warm-up, I emphasized the use of compound body weight and free weight exercises to reinforce the range of motion and postural imbalances that students/clients address in their warm-up. Now that we have a ‘new’ range of motion, it’s important to strengthen through that range of motion. If we don’t, the brain may very wellshut down the ability to move in this expanded end range.
It’s much easier to think about movement patterns than individual muscles, and this generally leads to the inclusion of better bang-for-your-buck exercises. These ‘functional’ patterns should include hinging patterns, squatting patterns, pushing, pulling, and core stability patterns. It’s important to train both bilateral and unilateral variations of each of these patterns, and I’m a believer that the single-limb variations offer greater benefits per-rep than the double limb variations. As soon as an exercise becomes asymmetrical, your brain kicks into overdrive, basically saying “Let’s get this done without tipping over.” Segmental stabilizers start having a party. There’s a big difference between the inherent instability of single leg squats or a single arm press versus wobbling around on a BOSU ball or using a Shake Weight.
The bilateral deficit explains the finding that the total force exerted by two limbs is less than the sum of the forces produced by the left and right limbs acting alone. Simply put, one limb at a time is stronger than both limbs together. Unfortunately, this isn’t typically seen in commercial training facilities, probably because people use terrible technique with the ‘big’ lifts and are half-assed with the single limb lifts. If you’re doing it right, your unilateral lifts should be stronger than your bilateral lifts. In reality, the ones you can’t pronounce are probably more important than the ones you can:
In addition to an emphasis on unilateral exercises, programs should also be biased towards pulling exercises rather than pushing exercises. I’ve addressed this in a recent post, Pull > Push, and it’s important for everyone. When we think of the computer guy, or stereotypical office worker who spends their entire day at a desk, it’s normally middle aged person who has fallen into bad postural habits because of their 9 to 5. Even more important than correcting this poor posture is preventing it in the first place! School children, from elementary school through high school graduation,spend most of their days stuck at desks, and the resulting postures and movement compensations are astounding. Just as their parents do, young athletes and students need to spend more time pulling than pushing; strengthening the upper back musculature, the glutes, and the hamstrings. Face pulls, rows, deadlifts galore.
Finally, I think that conditioning can probably be left out during classes that take place during school hours. Students are frequently active outside of school (albeit not enough), and can better spend their time doing other things, such as fixing their postur eand getting a little stronger. If you have athletes that are in-season, they’re probably doing plenty of conditioning at practice, and when given the option of foam rolling and strength training, or taking the dog for a jog, students will be better off focusing on movement quality and strength during the day, and then following that up with their sports practice or recreation activities.
There are plenty of items that I mentioned during my presentation that I could discuss for hours at a time. I breezed over some topics that I’d go into more depth on for different populations, and I also spent more time on some things that wouldn’t require the same emphasis. All in all, I had a blast presenting and passing along some information to professionals and pre-professionals, and I hope to build upon this opportunity in the future.