Monday, February 22, 2010

Functional Strength

What separates man from animals? It is functional strength. Functional strength is the strength that allows human beings to use their hands (and sometimes feet) to manipulate objects or tools in a way no other animal can. It's what allows us to swing a bag, mountain climb, even surf.

It is our ability to use our appendages and lift heavy objects or our own body weight. It's the reason why some say gym strength doesn't always mean the person is strong. Or that big muscles don't = big strength. Functional strength is what makes someone fit, someone healthier, someone burn more calories, and it's something that will never develop with just doing cardio.

When you use machines, they do half the work for you and never force you to use your grip strength. So though you may develop big muscles over time, it will not translate over to sports or overall fitness. It's why a big guy can do a heavy shoulder press yet can't do a hand stand. He can't function.

One of the first things I notice with my beginner clients is their grip strength. Seems their wrist and their grip is always the first thing to tire out so they are not able to do more of the complex exercises that involve free weights. The second thing that usually gives out is the neck (that's for a later post). So that functional strength is one of the first things beginner clients need to work on.

This is another argument for free weights, intensity, body weight exercises, and to start thinking about your own strengths and fitness levels. If what makes us human is our ability to manipulate objects with our hands and feet yet now we have to rely on machines to do that for us, then what are we really good for?

This is what separates athletes from people. This is the knowledge that separates sports trainers from personal trainers.
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