I consider there to be 4 dimensions to Functional Fitness programs. This is not a standard accepted definition, however, I have come to define it this way. Feel free to download my free ebook, Functional Fitness Defined, if you want to read more on the subject, but for the sake of this post, I want to focus merely on why muscle isolation is not a part of Functional Fitness (1 dimension is we work movements, not muscles).
In case you aren’t sure what I am referring to when I write “muscle isolation,” I’ll explain it some more. Think of a Preacher Curl, where you place the back of your arms on pad and curl a bar up to your chest. The Preacher Curl bench is designed to make sure when you curl your arms up, that you are only using your biceps and not recruiting other muscles. Hence – muscle isolation. This exercise, as well as tricep extensions, leg presses, etc. are great for building muscles and strength.
Why these exercises are not part of a Functional Fitness program is because we are not targeting muscles as body builders do. We are focusing on muscle patterns, hoping to recruit as many muscles as possible with each exercise. The more of your body being used the better. This develops neural connections between your brain and your muscles, so when you are out doing something in real life, your body will be effecient and effective in using everything you have (all the mucles available) to achieve the activity. This reduces the likelihood of injuries and soreness.
Get ready for the take-home sentence of the post. Ready? Here it is: “YOUR BRAIN RECOGNIZES MOVEMENTS, NOT MUCLES.” I know…awesome.
If you don’t believe me, download the ebook, see the references I have used for research, and do your own research. This is not controversial stuff. Why not everybody exercises this way is not because they are ignorant, but because they have differing goals. Functional Fitness is not a goal for many people. Bodybuilders need a specific program to achieve their goals. Their program is functional for them, but not a “Functional Fitness program,” which refers to a program that meets the 4 dimensions. Runners need to run and so their program will be different as well.
Yes, yes, I feel everybody should have a Functional Fitness program because they will enjoy a healthier life. That is a fact because I say so 🙂
I get emails and calls every now in then asking me which of the hundreds of exercises we have here that would help strengthen a knee or an ankle or <insert body part here>. If you are using Kemme Fitness for new exercise ideas, it may be a bit overwhelming to scroll down the Exercise Page, seeing we have literally hundreds and hundreds of exercises. You could spend an entire day watching all the video demonstrations.
The problem with those questions is this: I have tons of experience creating workouts, developing movements, and writing awesome, creative, and totally mind-blowingly entertaining blog posts, but I have never studied in depth how to isolate any muscles. Despite your first thoughts, this is not because I am too lazy to do the research. It is because I feel it has little value in a Functional Fitness program. The most I get into typically is upper body versus lower body.
Exercises such as Side Lunges of course target abductors and adductors, but I don’t stress about which all muscles are utilized with each movement. The questions I have to have an answer about a specific exercise are: Is this safe? Is this a useful movement? Is this fun to do? Does it add variety to the workout? If the answers are yes, then it is in. But no, I am not an expert on how to improve strength with one little area, although I can get some general movements that would help.
Therefore, let me answer your questions now.
You: “What muscles are we working today?” Me: “All of them.”
You: “Are we doing cardio or strength training?” Me: “Yes.”
You: “How do I strengthen my back?” Me: “Do our workouts, which are core-centered. Your core is key to overall strength and will most likely give you that strong back.”
You: “Can I do a bench press?” Me: “Sure, but put the weight only on one side of the bar.”
You: “Can I do a curl with a dumbbell?” Me: “Sure, but stand on 1 leg and use 1 arm.”
I think you get the idea of it. Functional Fitness is a change in thinking for some of you, but I dare say it is the most efficient and effective way to be healthy for life. Use your muscles…all of them!