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“Discussing the benefits of NON-‘functional’ training”

September 12, 2013

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I am sure that most will be puzzled by the title of this post. The reason for the confusion likely arises in the way many define the word “functional” itself… which I argue is the root cause of a common problem…

In an environment of conditioning professionals and manual therapists postulating that their method of training provides the most “functional” and “neurologically based” benefits whilst that of others are “non-functional” do so due to their “segmentalization,” we have all gotten caught up in the idea that tissue structure plays no role in movement capacity and injury prevention. It seems the ‘popular’ concept of the time is that “all things are connected” and that to train structures independent of function is NEVER necessary. However is this true? …or was the idea born out of a “my training is more complex (and thus better) than your training” struggle amongst the trend setters.

To start this off, let us first look at the popular method of describing the body as an “integrated system.” Following the sweeping trend to look solely to fascia for all things, authors began to segmentalize this system by naming lines/trains etc. which, in reality, served to contradict the original hypothesis…that all things are interconnected. If all things are connected, why then do we conceptualize the system as distinct and separate lines? I believe this to be a matter of not selecting a ‘mind-microscope’ with enough power when observing body tissues. If we bump up the power of said microscope, looking not at gross tissue, but at cellular continuity, we quickly realize that the interconnectivity of the human form is far vaster than can be explained by “fascial” linkages. The truth of the matter (as per the cellular research) is that ALL connective tissue, fascia being ONLY ONE of them are completely interconnected at a level that ultimately cannot be separated, nor compartmentalized into distinct units. The main reason for this is the fact that all connective tissues are simply slight alterations of the same tissue differing only by the proportion of its components (fibers, ground substance, and cells). I will not go into the cellular biophysics of this topic, for our purposes here, it is enough to say that ANY attempt to compartmentalize human tissue is an under estimation of the vastness of tissue continuity.

Thus, it would appear apparent that the continuity of human form leads to an infinite number of ‘lines’ occurring not only in fascia, but also across all forms of connective tissue. In this regard, it would not only be presumptuous, but incorrect for one to pull out one, or several of these ‘lines of connection’ and promote them as the “most important to train.” In reality, only the infinite number of movement possibilities that such interconnectedness affords matches the immensity of tissue continuity itself. I thus contend that ALL movement possibilities are important to train, and can be “functional” based on the needs/goals of the individual. In other words, the “functionality” of a movement can only by determined RETROSPECTIVELY when it is compared to the particular goal the movement was attempting to achieve.
When we predetermine a particular movement to be important/functional and set out specific movement paths during training, we do so with the incorrect assumption that things always go according to plan. When we look at sporting activities whose main goal is to reproduce identical movements time and time again, (eg. Olympic weight lifting, the golf swing, etc.) we clearly see that this is not possible…no matter the level of the athlete, nor the number of hours spent practicing identical tasks (even the best golfers ‘tank’ several shots, and even the most well trained among them get injured). Now consider this idea in the context of sports whose movement demands are in a constant state of flux (ex. MMA) and we soon realize that the possibility of error increases even further. Thus we must work, and train with the assumption that “shit happens.”

The conclusion to the concepts discussed above is that we cannot train exclusively for neurological perfection, as it does not exist; and thus, we must prepare our bodies for the inevitability of error. This leads us to a major, and commonly ignored problem. That being that the number of potential errors is infinite…so how do we prepare for them?
I postulate that while it is important to train “functional patterns of movement” for a specific sport, which really amounts to neurological repetition and practice, there is indeed a need for “segmental training,” which should be focused on one main goal:

**To prepare the bodies tissues for the
inevitability of errors in neurological execution**

This would entail specific training approaches; to be interspersed into neurologically focused specific training programs, that function to prepare the bodies tissues not only for the desired movement, but also for the infinite number of movement error possibilities.

This constitutes one of the main goals Functional Range Conditioning (FRC)™. We attempt to define optimal individual articular function…assesses each of the bodies articulations against this definition…and then employ training strategies focused on achieving individual joint optimization. This includes improving mobility (the ability to create motion under control), and improving connective tissue resilience (in order to safe guard against tissue damage in situations when control is lost). Only following this “preparation” do we then we begin to incorporate each articulation into increasingly complex multi-joint neurological movement practice (multi-joint “functional” exercises).

Thus, in my opinion, there is indeed a necessity to break the body down into “segments” for the purpose of joint preparation. If we can optimize individual joint function while creating stronger, better quality tissues, we can then introduce complex, multi-joint challenges SAFELY (or at least more safely). If we introduce said exercises/movements prior to doing so, we are working on an incorrect presumption that, with enough practice and repetition, we can reduce the likelihood of neurological execution to zero…which seems to be an impossibility. “Injury prevention” is an illusion. All we can do is prepare the bodies tissue to mitigate the damage inflicted when injuries occur….and they WILL occur.



7 Comments leave one →
  1. Tom Kelley permalink
    September 12, 2013 4:14 pm

    Brilliant…Entropy happens…we are all athletes, to a greater or lesser degree

  2. September 15, 2013 7:40 am

    Great article, I completely agree that trend setters often talk about the interconnectivity of the body and then go on to say how one system is more important and we should be treating that.

    Manual therapy is great, movement rehab is great but not enough time is spent talking to therapists about treatment at a cellular level (food!) and it’s stimulatory or inhibitory effects on the autonomic nervous system, oxidative system, endocrine system, blood sugar levels etc etc etc and how this effects the tone and tension of the tissues of the body… Personally I also find that it’s good to explain to my clients that some times… Shit just happens… 😉

  3. December 13, 2013 3:16 pm

    So training with form to move towards the goal of formlessness.

  4. Tyler Satnick permalink
    February 14, 2014 2:06 am

    I think Tom Meyers work is more of a lens, trying to show the interconnectedness of the body in a consumable way, how else to describe something than by using pieces of information?. Of course everything is interconnected, we are one creature. He even refers to it as a “game” to describe lines of stress and pull as they relate to posture (although he does add in the functional lines, to which I have also seen you reference). I believe most people understand the connection of bones to bones, and muscles to bones, but the “connection” for them stops there. In my mind the facial lines concept is meant to be an elaboration on anatomy, nothing more.


  1. Top 5 posts of 2013 as determined by you… | Functional Anatomy Seminars - Functional Anatomic Palpation Systems™ | Functional Range Release™

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