#3 Functionality

Coaches Corner #3:  Functional movements, why we need them and how we lost them.

My goal for this post is to transition our talk about intensity, into part two of the definition of CrossFit, functional movements.  More specifically how functional movements are the best training tools for all human beings and how they can make us more healthy.

Most people wanting to join CrossFit have the goal in mind of becoming “healthy”.  But what exactly does healthy entail?  Losing weight?  Gaining muscle? Sure, but how about things that are less aesthetic?  Like dropping your 400m run time from 5 min to 2 min? Or going from never having done a pull-up to cranking out 10 in a row? All of these things sound great right?  In the world of training you should not be able to have one without the other.  This is a big problem amongst our society today, we want the results, and we want them now.   You must be patient and results will come. Now how can we check in on results without weighing and measuring ourselves everyday?  All that you need to do is check the results of your workouts.  Did you do more work today than yesterday?  Did you move more efficiently?  Did you learn a new skill?  Move a heavier weight then you ever have before? If you can answer yes to any of these questions on any given day, you are becoming a more functional human being then you were before.

When we break down the ‘everything’ that people want to get better at, that simply means moving better, which in turn leads us to a healthier lifestlye.  Every movement that is a core to extremity movement, that we can generate high amounts of power output through, remember our equation PO= Force x Distance/ Time, is a functional movement.  All you really need to know about core to extremity is that it is a movement initiated by the big movers of the body i.e. the hip or shoulder joint and finishes through the extremities or little movers.  These are movements like squatting, pressing, throwing, jumping, etc.  The great thing about functional movements is that each one helps the other!  For example, doing a set of back squats will in turn help you run faster.  This is a simple fact of functional movement.

So how did we loose track of this seemingly simple idea that every functional movement helps everything?  I went something like this.   Some smart people sat down in room and began discussing what makes people strong and fast and all that good stuff that people can be, and this is what they came up with.  Exercise physiology.  This muscle moves this way, therefore if you have a big strong ‘this muscle‘ you will do that movement well.    Here is an example,  we have all felt our glutes be very sore after doing a heavy squat workout, so we know that squatting makes your glute muscle strong.  Very simple.  But this is what exercise physiology will tell you.  If you want to improve said squat, you must train your glutes, and hamstrings by isolating them on this machine or that one and it will in turn make your squat much stronger.  But let me tell you something, this is backwards thinking!  In order to squat more you must, SQUAT! Crazy, I know!  So here is your definition of functional movements, they are compound but cannot be broken down! That is the key to functional fitness.  Add the concept of intensity that was discussed last week and you have the very definition of CrossFit.  Constantly varied functional movement performed at high intensity!  (We will discuss constantly varied next time.)

Now, getting back on track with our definition of health.  We can assess our health through a prolonged level of fitness.  Our fitness again, entails all things that make us move better, perform work better, and see significant changes in things that doctors would use to tell use we are healthy or not.  In order to sustain fitness we need to be constantly training.  Just remember to keep moving, keep getting better, the results will come!   And please keep in mind that aesthetics are a SIDE-EFFECT of your overall health and are not the main goal!  Just because you have a ‘nice body’ does not prove you are healthy (i.e. steroid users) and just because you do not have a six pack does not mean your cholesterol levels, and blood pressure, and insulin production are not moving into a more healthy range!  Don’t get caught up in looking in the mirror or staring at your scale .  These are very POOR indicators of your actual health!  What matters to me, as your fitness consultant if you will, is how much work you can do!  And we test, and prove this every day!


Keep doing what you guys are doing, the payoff will be there, no matter what your goals may be.  And please please never forget this,  “anything that is easy, is not worth doing.”

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