Learning to Move Your Bodyweight Takes You Beyond Basic Strength
In fact, it is not uncommon to see someone with serious muscle who has trouble touching their toes, can not do a pull-up, or simply has trouble manipulating his or her body outside of their programmed range of motion.
To improve functional strength, a program of bodyweight exercise must be added to the cycle. Consisting of movements that strengthen your muscles and increase endurance, but also that increase flexibility, focusing on using your body will teach you to move with more fluidity and variety.
I have to admit I am speaking from personal experience here. For a long time I did nothing but lift heavy. My goal was to build big muscles, and whether they could function outside of the gym or not I didn't care.
Then I got injured. Too much repetition of the same movements without any therapeutic recovery left me with a pulled trapezius muscle. As with any muscle in the back, this was painful and debilitating; forget about working out, I just wanted to move freely!
I tried getting back into heavy lifting, but with no knowledge at the time of 'pre-hab' work and a fairly limited knowledge of exercises outside of common bodybuilding movements, I kept getting re-injured.
Of course at the time I thought I knew plenty, but I had to humble myself; if I knew so much, why couldn't I keep from hurting myself in the gym?
One day a friend of mine introduced me to yoga, and seeing a path to help alleviate my recurring pain, I started my road to recovery.
Now yoga is fantastic, and I stuck with it diligently for a couple of years, with no other modalities except walking the dogs and playing the occasional game of soccer; and you know what? It worked! My body felt like new again, and I had no more pain in my upper or lower back, neck, or shoulders.
Something was definitely missing though. I felt like my body was getting a fresh start in more ways than one. While I had developed great flexibility and muscular endurance, my power and strength were dismal! I felt weak, and although I did not want to give up the lessons I had learned practicing yoga, there had to be a way to incorporate strength exercises into the mix as well.
Since that time I have discovered the right balance, and I use a variety of methods to maintain and increase my endurance, strength, mobility, and flexibility. This includes kettlebells, odd object lifting, clubs, and of course, my own bodyweight.
I still practice some yoga, because it can be a great workout and very therapeutic; but the majority of my program consists of bodyweight exercises. They are highly effective and help you focus in on your weakest areas.
I laugh at myself when I'm able to press a 65 lb. kettlebell or a 70 lb. dumbbell over head, but I have trouble doing a steep decline pushup! For a long time, pressing up into a bridge presented even more of a challenge!
Using your body's mass alone will never be a substitute for a powerlifter or competitive bodybuilder; but both sports can reap huge benefits by incorporating drills in their routines which stress flexibility and increase strength through different ranges of motion.
The key is having a full repertoire of exercises to choose from. This is vital to keeping routines interesting and challenging. You can look up tons of individual bodyweight exercises online, but I have found it much easier to have a comprehensive 'guidebook' handy.
A really innovative reference can be found at: bodyweightcoach.com
These guys seem to do nothing but come up with functional workouts that force the body to move in ways you may never have imagined. When you go to their site, get the free newsletter, you'll get a new exercise sent to you every week, with some insightful knowledge.
The other tool I have found invaluable is probably clear from looking around this site, the TRX suspension trainer. Now I am an affiliate, but only because I love this product.
With the knowledge from the bodyweight coach website and a TRX, your body will undergo amazing changes, and believe me you will never get bored! Personally, my workouts are so much fun now, I really look forward to it.
Ok, so seriously I do have fun, but enough with the plugs. Check those products out and I'm sure you will get excited.
So how has it all turned out for me? Taking my workout routines in this direction has helped me find the balance between strength and mobility I had been searching for. Now the only pain I get is from a good workout, not an injury. Plus, I feel like I can move my body even better than I did when I was a teenager, and I'm almost 39!
So take a good look at the Bodyweight Coach and TRX websites, there are some really entertaining videos at both. Or just check out the posts here on Flexible Functional Strength.
Until next time, keep moving!