Thoughts about the F-word

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When it comes to training prescription, the relation cost-benefit in any exercise is what defines its functionality. On the other hand, from a competitive perspective, any compensatory strategy is the cost required to obtain a given benefit. Or simply, the difference between Gold and Silver.

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However, it’s not a matter of “if” but “when” such physical abuse will end haunting a given “offending” performer (for instance, spondylolisthesis disease in female gymnasts). Having said that, in most training scenarios, 4 or 6 centimeters less of ROM wont give us medals but it might keep us Functional and less prone to injuries while training.




Would you bother talking to any of the guys in these pictures about “Valgus collapse”, “compensatory pronation”, Lumbar hyperextension" or “potential spondylolisthesis”?




To many, “Functional” (the “F-word”) can be defined as “whatever makes a purpose”. To others, in a fitness conditioning environment, “It refers to specific moments within a training session where given movement patterns are grooved to be transferred into a specific sport or daily activities”. As it turns out, those definitions might only describe the Extrinsic (external) viewing of the biomechanical function but ignore both the physiological & neuromuscular components of the Intrinsic (Internal) viewing and its potential imbalances when Human movement occur.

The Biomechanical viewing incorporates the osteokinematics and anthtokinematics inherent to human movement and the resulting force vectors imparted on body tissues. Understanding the Biomechanical function helps clinicians and coaches to comprehend how entire kinetic chains work and its involvement in both, movement and pathology.

The 3 views of functional imbalances (physiological, biomechanical and neuromuscular) are interdependent in the human body. As the pictures accompanying this post reveal, biomechanical unbalances (such as segmental compensation) could be caused by physiological or neurological dysfunctions.

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Physiological Function is the response of tissue to dysfunction and damage, as well as healing process itself. In that order, understanding the differences between Structural and Functional pathologies is essential with both therapeutic and athletic conditioning scenarios.

Neuromuscular Function refers to sensorimotor aspects of adaptation to movement (such as proprioception and reflexes). Understanding the process of motor control contributes to rediscover or correct motion patterns trough appropriate exercise prescription.

Sadly, unfair misinformation is the result of poor research. Yet our Health & Fitness Industry has been invaded with waves of laughable arguments against the value of some resources of neuromuscular adaptation (e.g., unstable surfaces, suspended-unstable-resistance and accommodation resistance.) However that’s a topic that I’m happy to discuss in a different post.

As an anecdote, a few weeks ago I was a participant in this course where the lecturer asked his assistant to demonstrate a push-up with 4 point of support: Both feet and hands. No issues. Then, he proudly requested the “ultimate exercise progression”: Three points of support or one arm push-up. In order to facilitate his feat, the assisstant set his feet as further apart as possible, dropped one hip, rotated both LS and TS and protracted the scapula. I stopped watching after 3 or 4 reps. Then, I couldn’t help myself but intervene to point out that such progression was unnecessary for most people including the person doing the demonstration given that excessive segmental compensation was very obvious . The lecturer turned and responded, “Yes, but elite gymnasts can do it correctly”. Then, I replied, “Precisely, enough reason to avoid it. That progression is useless if the goal is making someone better. In fact, I doubt one-arm-push-ups are suitable even for most elite gymnasts”… At that point, understandably, I wasn't considered anymore an inquisitive participant and suddenly became the smart-ass-workshop-crasher to the eyes of the presenter. It wasn't like i couldn't sleep that night though. I hope you got my point: Performance training is what you do to become better at something. Training Performance is where you show-off, sweat, might get tired but not necessarily getting good at anything. Performance training implies "Functionality". Training performance doesn't. Even if it might be "Fun", though. Thanks for reading. Will