Application of Functional Movements, Part 1

An Overview of CrossFit

A. Application of Functional Movements

CrossFit exercises strive to strengthen all the muscles associated with an exercise, not just an isolated set of muscles. This same concept can and does apply to almost every exercise imaginable. Additionally, an individual that focuses too heavily on isolation training could actually be considered weaker than a CrossFit athlete. Through isolating just the quads, a bodybuilder might improve those muscles a great deal. However, with functional movements one could stimulate change in a greater number of muscles. Therefore, post training, the CrossFitter would have a greater number of trained muscles, while the bodybuilder may have fewer trained muscles (typically bodybuilders make up for by exhaustive exercise routines that take hours in the gym to complete). Functional movements function to build strength in each muscle, each link of the chain at the same time. Additionally, the human body knows movement, not muscles. When doing any given movement, the human body will make instantaneous changes to the movement as dictated by the circumstances.  Isolating a muscle is very nearly impossible without a machine designed to do so. 

 Isolation programs build each link one at a time. In “real life,” muscles are called upon in chains, not one at a time. A great example of this, as written by Jeff Martin, “Duncan is nine... He lifts weights in CrossFit Kids classes but, more importantly, he lifts in his daily life. Every day, Duncan has to lug his…backpack to school. In the process he performs multiple lifts and strength movements. He lifts it from the floor (deadlift), carries it on his back (weighted carry), picks up the things that drop out of it (lunge/squat), climbs into the truck with it on his back (weighted pull-up) and delivers it safely to his classroom. When he returns home in the afternoon, he stows his backpack on the counter by overhead pressing/push pressing it into place. He routinely lifts half his body weight as a course of his normal activities…” (Martin 18). All of these movements the deadlift, farmers walk, lunge/squat, weighted pull-ups, and overhead/push press; are functional, multiple joint, non-isolating, “chain” movements. Why train using one muscle when you will be using multiple muscles simultaneously in everyday life or sports? If “practice makes perfect,” isolating programs are “practicing” the wrong concept.

B. Functional Movements in Daily Living

The vast majority of everyday movements are multi-joint movements.  Granted there are some single-muscle or single-joint movements. A single joint movement in everyday life could be the lifting of a glass up to one’s mouth to drink. There is very low strength required for a movement like that and consequently there is little reason to be able to strictly  curl a large amount of weight. Everyone uses functional movements every day. The only difference is the degree or intensity the movement is executed at. Functional movements are anything from lifting a bag of dog food and carrying it into the house, to climbing over a fence to chase a fleeing drug dealer, to knocking down a door to save fire victims.