Step 4 of 4 to Eliminate Pain & Improve Mobility

Step 4 of 4 to Eliminate Pain & Improve Mobility

Functional Integration: Transfer Gains to the Gym, Life and Sport

By Coach E

Functional – capable of serving the purpose for which it was designed

NOTE: this is Part 4 in a 4-Part series. If you've missed any of the previous articles, here they are:   PART 1   |   PART 2   |   PART 3

The critical point in the definition is that functional is relative to something else, not an absolute or inherent quality.

That’s why every time I read or hear the word used to describe the benefits of an exercise, "Do burpees because they’re functional!" my blood pressure goes up by at least 20 mmHg.

Here’s the truth:

No Exercise is Inherently Functional nor Dysfunctional

Yes, it works both ways.

Here are some concrete examples to destroy the myths of labeling an exercise as either functional or dysfunctional:

  • Doing pullups because they’re more functional than the lat pulldown machine is nice in theory, but if you’re sailing and you’ve got to pull the rope down powerfully to raise/lower the sail, the lat pulldown is more functional because it better matches the activity
  • Doing lunges and driving through the heel to ascend is a great fundamental strength exercise, but if you’re a sprinter you want to land and drive off of forefoot, making lunges done the traditional way a less functional movement pattern than lunges done on forefoot only, which some trainers might even say is wrong
  • One of the top 2 most criticized exercises of all-time – the bosu ball or stability ball squat (when you’re standing on it) is a perfectly reasonable exercise choice for a surfer from a function (not necessarily safety) perspective, since both the exercise and surfing require balance while standing on an unstable surface
  • Finally, the second of the top 2 most criticized exercise of all-time – the hip abductor/adductor machine, is actually totally cool and useful from a function standpoint for someone who practices Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu since open chain hip abduction and adduction strength is often used when fighting off their back (as long as the athlete is able to insulate themselves from the criticism sure to come from the less informed)

The key takeaway is that function is a concept that is relative - not absolute – and it’s relative to your individual goals.

When it comes to movement there’s no black/white or right/wrong - only what will move you closer to or further away from your goals.

In the case of Precision Movement courses, the techniques chosen for Functional Integration typically involve more than one joint and lean more toward closed chain versus open chain movements.

Being able to activate a muscle group is great, but we need to be able to activate a muscle group within different patterns for it to be useful.

So instead of leaving it to chance, I prescribe specific exercises to integrate newly gained ranges and strength so that when you hit the gym, golf course, dojo or wherever it is you do your thing, you’ve already begun the process of transfer.

Another concept you’ll learn that facilitates functional integration is the Controlled Flow, which involves a transition from one movement or position to another in a controlled, momentum-less way.

These types of techniques are the ones that get the most views on YouTube and Instagram and because of it, they're often where most people START their exercise routines. 

However, can you see how if you don't have adequate shoulder mobility, jumping right into even simple upper body compound exercises like Bench Presses, or Dips, or Handstands, is a recipe for disaster?

That's why the Precision Movement 4-Step Process we've gone through begins with single-joint movements and progresses to complex, multi-joint movements and again progresses to stringing complex, multi-joint movements together in a seamless way.

It’s a logical progression that adheres to human physiology.

I hope by now you understand that what you’re doing here is based on science, not hyped-up pseudo-science that’s unfortunately so prevalent online in the fitness scene today.

So I want to commend you for being here as many people are afraid of the kind of thing you’re doing (i.e. learning and hard work).

Now, if you have shoulder pain or mobility issues, the choice is yours:

a) Figure out how to apply what you've learned to get things working right by starting at the fundamentals and progressing from there in a logical step-by-step fashion.

b) Start the Shoulder Control course, which has everything laid out in an easy-to-follow manner including clear PDFs and high quality instructional videos.

If you'd like to learn more about Shoulder Control and how it will help you build mobility, strength and movement longevity, click the link below and as a "thank you" for following along with this series, I've also got a special offer for you, but the offer expires in a few days so head on over there now to see what it's all about.

About the Author

Eric is the founder of Precision Movement and has a degree in Kinesiology from the University of Waterloo. He's been a coach since 2005 and spent his early career training combat athletes including multiple UFC fighters and professional boxers. He now dedicates himself to helping active people eliminate pain and improve mobility. He lives in Toronto (Go Leafs Go!) with his wife and two kids and drinks black coffee at work and IPAs at play. Click here to learn more about Eric.