functional movement

From tragedy to triumph: Michelle's story

When Michelle Kong-Rosario finally emerged from all the surgeries and complications following a motorcycle crash, fitness was the last thing on her mind.

Before she could focus on herself, Michelle had to deal with the enormous emotional toll of losing her boyfriend in the accident. She also had to learn how to walk again on her prosthetic leg.

“There were complications that led to me losing my leg,” she said. “The process was very long. After two months in the hospital, I was in in-patient rehabilitation for another two or three months to learn how to walk again with a prosthesis. Then it was out-patient rehabilitation. It took me about a year.”

This past year marked 20 years since the accident, and it was only recently when Michelle, a 42-year-old mom, started focusing on herself again — her fitness, her strength and her body. Unfortunately, that only led to more frustration.

“I’ve been through so many different gyms that left me in pain or injured, and that would put me out of commission,” she said. “I would be out for two or three months.

“I’ve worked out on my own, I’ve hired personal trainers, I’ve been to classes,” she said. “And each one of them, when I talked to them about my leg, they said they could help me and I always ended up injuring myself more. By the time I came to Max [Velocity], I was pretty frustrated, pretty tired. Everybody tells me they can help me, that they’re going to create this whole program for me, but nobody really does. But when I came here, things changed.”

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This past November, Michelle finished second in Max Velocity’s Fall Fitness Challenge. Contestants were scored on attendance, consistency with their nutrition habits and check-ins and performance in their baseline workouts. Michelle recorded the second-highest rep total in her initial workout and the fifth-highest improvement in her retests. She was also 80 percent compliant with her nutrition habits and 100 percent compliant with her weekly check-ins with her coaches.

“It took me by surprise,” she said. “… That challenge was a great way to measure that I am improving, I am doing better taking all these classes.”

Michelle has even bigger goals for this year, as she is now training for a mini-triathlon, a bike tour and a full triathlon in 2019. After seeing her amazing results, Michelle’s husband is thinking about joining her at Max Velocity.

“He wants to get himself onto my level,” she said.

Would you like information about our next fitness challenge starting Jan. 28? To learn more, follow this link.

What's the point of fitness?

The whole point of lifting weights is to get stronger, right? Perpetually lift heavier weights, more reps, at higher intensity.

Right?

Wrong.

The whole point of working out is to constantly push yourself past your limits and walk out of the gym feeling like you got hit by a truck, right? That's how you know you got a great workout. As you collapse in a pool of sweat, unable to construct a sentence or muster a coherent thought, your trainer smiles and says, "You crushed it today."

Did YOU crush IT, or did the TRAINER crush YOU?

This is where a lot of people go wrong with fitness. The whole Spartan, Tough Mudder and American Ninja Warrior mentality has permeated the fitness industry, to the point where people who are just trying to be healthier and look/feel a little better have been duped into thinking the only path to those goals is pain.

What's old is new again, and the "no pain, no gain" mantra from the '80s has infiltrated the fitness world and people are buying into it all over again.

Don't be duped.

Remember this: The first priority of a fitness program is to prevent pain and injury so you can continue exercising as long as you want to -- in theory, for the rest of your life. That's it. Period. Dr. John Rusin covers this topic thoroughly in this post, "How to Lift Forever: The Best Movements for Long-Term, Pain-Free Gains."

If your fitness program doesn't include the following components, it's time to look for a new fitness program:

-- Corrective Exercise: How does it make sense to load hundreds of pounds on your back if you have hip impingement, a collapsed arch or weak external hip rotators? Fix the movement pattern first before loading it.

-- Shoulder Care: It puzzles me why people think it's a good idea to throw and catch heavy weights overhead without taking the time to strengthen and stabilize the shoulder girdle. Maybe Wall Slides or Face Pulls don't get a lot of views on Instagram, but they will help keep you in the gym training instead of inside an MRI tube.

-- Unilateral Exercises: If you have right-left imbalances (which most people do), what do you think the outcome will be if you only push, pull, squat or hinge bilaterally? (Hint: Repeating a dysfunctional movement pattern will only lead to more dysfunction, and ultimately, pain and injury.) Improve and reprogram movement patterns in a single-leg, single-arm fashion before going for that next PR. Here's one of our favorites, the Rear-Leg Elevated or Bulgarian Split Squat (which we're doing in our Small-Group Training sessions today, actually.)

-- Core Exercises: And by this, I don't mean hundreds of sit-ups, v-ups and side-bends. I mean real core exercises that train the anti-rotation and anti-flexion functions of the core pillar. One of the most underrated core and hip stability exercises is as old and simple as it gets: the Glute Bridge. (Note: Only attempt a loaded glute bridge after you've mastered and progressed the unloaded version, including the Banded Glute Bridge.)

-- Loaded Carries: Speaking of old, underrated core exercises, it doesn't get much better than loaded carries. They're essential to developing neuromuscular stability, core stiffness and pure strength. Omit them from your training program at your own peril.

-- Squats and Deadlifts: But bear in mind, these two foundational lifting patterns should not be executed with a barbell if the athlete lacks the joint mobility and core strength to perform them properly. And they need not be executed with a barbell to get a training effect. Here's one of my favorite squat variations, the Landmine Goblet Squat.

Try some of these mandatory exercises in your training program and let us know in the comments how they work for you. And if your training program doesn't include these fundamental components, find one that does. This way, you can accomplish the No. 1 goal of fitness: to stay pain- and injury-free so you can keep doing everything you enjoy for the rest of your life.

 

If you sit all day, you need these exercises

Americans are more obese and broken than ever before, and a big part of it is our sedentary lifestyle and a grab-and-go diet mentality in which convenience trumps nutrition. But the one culprit that nobody wants to talk about -- and even fewer know how to address -- is sitting.

Sitting -- at work, at school, or in cars, buses, trains and planes -- wreaks havoc on the joints and connective tissues. No wonder you go to the gym after a day at the laptop buffet and can't squat to quarter-depth. Your hip flexors have been under tension all day.

That's to say nothing about the damage done to your posture from hunching over your desk or phone for the majority of the day. 

One tip for desk workers is to set an alarm or calendar reminder every 90 minutes or so and get up, walk around, maybe even do some light stretching, lunges or squats. Research has shown that we can only stay focused and productive for about 90 minutes at a time; anything beyond that, and you're not getting enough work done to justify staying put. 

If you want to take it a step further, here are six exercise that every desk worker should be doing to combat the ravages of sitting. They come to you courtesy of MG Fit Life, and the whole routine only takes a few minutes but pays huge dividends in reversing the damage that comes with being deskbound.

(Speaking of which, check out my friend Kelly Starrett's book, appropriately titled, "Deskbound," for everything you need to know about what sitting is doing to your body -- and how to fix it.)

Here's one of our go-to t-spine mobilizations for opening up the upper back and rib-cage complex to get your shoulders moving better and keep poor posture from ruining your workouts.

Try these mobility exercises and let us know in the comments how they're working for you. And remember, every once in a while, push away from the desk and take a walk.

The correct way to fix tight hamstrings

The correct way to fix tight hamstrings

Back Pain? It's time to address your tight hamstrings. But avoid the standard rounded-back toe-touches that most people are doing. Try these safer, more effective hamstring stretches and mobility drills instead.

Stop the sloppy burpee

Burpees are renowned as the universal love-hate exercise. They provide an effective full-body conditioning workout and, if done correctly, they'll deliver results.

They also suck.

Anyone who's in the midst of a burpee workout knows that flushed, breathless feeling when you think there's no way you can keep going. And you also know the feeling of absolute exhilaration when somehow, some way you were able to finish. 

But too often, somehow, some way becomes "by any means necessary" -- including lazy, awful movement patterns.

Movement faults in the burpee

The problem I have with burpees is not with the exercise itself, but rather with those doing it. There are two typical movement faults I see. Those who've trained with me for a while know the first one:

  • Landing with your feet too close together when you come up from the floor. This puts you up on your toes with your knees in a compromised position. The long-term solution to this fault is to work on expanding your hamstring range-of-motion, hip function and core stability (with one of our go-to corrective exercises, Active Leg Lowering.) In the meantime, try landing with your feet wider, so you can land flat-footed with your knees in a safe position -- allowing you to absorb and generate force more efficiently. And ...
  • Finishing the burpee with a jump that reinforces sloppy, vulnerable shoulder position.

Whenever your arms are extended overhead, your shoulders should be in a stable, externally rotated position: armpits forward, elbows locked out, shoulder girdles anchored down. This is true when you're doing a barbell movement, finishing an overhead kettlebell swing ... and yes, when you finish a burpee repetition.

Fix your shoulders, fix your burpee

Friends don't let friends raise their arms overhead with armpits down and elbows bent and angled outward. Reinforcing this unstable position with no weight overhead will only train your shoulders to misbehave when loading is involved.

If this is you -- or if you think this might be you -- check out this post and video from my friend Kelly Starrett on how to spot it and how to fix it. Functional movement doesn't only apply to certain movements; it's something we should strive for and practice all the time.

Would you like to learn more about how we incorporate  the Functional Movement Screen and FMS corrective exercises into our program? Let us know how we can help.