Functional Exercises Versus The Old Standards

When most are planning their weight lifting routine there are common exercises that come to mind: bench press, dumbbell curls, tricep extensions, lat pull downs, leg curls, knee extensions, situps, etc. This covers most every muscle group and is “what everybody does.” In this article I would like to take look at goals that should be considered when planning out your regimen.

If your goal is cosmetically focused only then these exercises with a bit of guidance will be just fine to meet it. Isolating muscles and repeating repetitions until failure will hypertrophy muscles.

If your goal is strength and, more importantly, power you must consider some major revisions to the workout “everybody else does.” Useful power is a combination of strength, the ability to steer it, and generating it from the ground up. The bench press, no matter how popular, is not a useful power building exercise. Using a bar drastically decreases the need to steer your strength, and being on your back keeps you from generating power through your body from the ground. Let's try to relate this to real life or sports; if you are on your back pushing something off of you in football you're tackled, beaten. But the NFL combine still uses this exercise to gauge the strength of next year's pro athletes. This principle can be applied to any exercise in the gym. If you can see yourself using the motion in life then the power that exercise produces is useful and can relate directly to performance enhancement. These are called functional exercises.

Logical programs should include every muscle group, but train them how God meant for them to work, as a unit. Some great exercises in this category include: standing cable chest presses, push-ups, pull-ups (not generating power from ground up, but still useful), one leg stance bent over rows, wood chops, Combination squats with shoulder press or bicep curls, and dips.

Another good thing about this type of workout is that natural motions are less taxing on your joints than isolating motions. So, when it comes time to change up your workout, consider these things: Is the power you're gaining useful? And, is the exercise safe (the benefits outweigh the risks)? I would rather be big, safe, and powerful than only big, any day. For any questions regarding this article, sports performance enhancement, or joint health, please contact In Motion Spine and Joint Center at (615) 302-4747.