March 26th, 2019

Training Matters: Functional fitness help can be had in our backyard thanks to world-class tech

By None on January 11, 2019.

SUBMITTED PHOTO
Athletes with the South Alberta Hockey Academy train with Kinetisense at Eagle Butte High School in this undated photo.

There is a good chance that most of us have heard the term functional fitness. Perhaps, when you hear it you think of CrossFit or other high-intensity workouts. You imagine people throwing barbells over their heads and dropping to the ground doing burpees.

Although CrossFit and HIIT (high intensity interval training) may not be for you, functional fitness is. In fact, I would argue that fitness does not exist without function.

Let’s define function. According to the dictionary, function is “an activity or purpose natural to or intended for a person or thing.” Functional fitness, therefore, would be engaging in fitness routines that are natural or intended for a specific purpose. The Mayo Clinic and numerous training bodies consider functional fitness to be “training that prepares the body for real-life movements and activities.” When we consider this, shouldn’t everyone be training to be better humans? Yet, whether it be in the gym or a clinic, more and more people are dysfunctional.

Fitness is considered being physically fit and healthy. To be healthy is to be free of disease and injury. Injury is typically caused by trauma, such as falling and breaking an arm, or chronic overuse or misuse. Long story short, injury with the exception of trauma is a result of dysfunction in the way we move and train. If we aren’t training to be functional and injury-free then we really can’t say we are healthy or fit. See what I did there? There is no fitness without function.

Now that has been established, how do we know if we are functional? How do we train? There are many different ways trainers and practitioners will assess functional movement. They may have their own movement screen they created, or use the FMS (functional movement screen), or some other iteration of breaking down basic movement patterns. These movement patterns consist of items such as squatting, lunging, jumping, bending, stabilizing/balance, et cetera. Most movement patterns can be broken down into upper or lower body push pull in a particular plane of motion. The problem with this system, is that it is subjective, dependent on the assessor. You and I can look at the same person performing the same movement and have two different opinions on their performance. Luckily, we have a solution.

If we were fortunate enough to live near a big university with a biomechanics lab, perhaps we could have access to the several hundred thousand-dollar Vicon system to analyze our movement. I’m going to suggest this is unlikely. However, Medicine Hat does have a world-class 3D motion-capture technology developed right here, Kinetisense! It is being used by universities, clinics, and pro sports teams all across the world. It just also happens that ASDC has a system as well, along with the Kinetic Centre and several other gyms.

So, if you want to see if you are functionally fit, then contact one of these centres to get your movement objectively analyzed. Once you know how you move and where you are dysfunctional, you can establish corrective exercises and be programmed with movements that are truly functional. Its time to train to become a better human, then you can hit beast mode!

Alex Graham, corrective exercise specialist, is a strength and conditioning coach with Alberta Sport Development Centre’s Performance Enhancement Team and can be reached via email at agraham@mhc.ab.ca.

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