In an article by a well known "functional/core exercise" proponent, there is an attempt to affiliate concepts of microscopic life of amoeba with human cellular processes, and "functional training" when author claims: "Movement, survival and optimal functioning of organism all go hand in hand." This statement opens a door for author as he links "movement" with "function," together with concept of "optimal." He then claims that there is a link between functional exercise and survival, as confirmed historically by "fact" that when exercise needs are not met (too much, too little, an absence or wrong kind), then "disease lurks!Ē Certainly lack of activity or too much activity (excess strain) can pose negative results, but here he links "the wrong kind" of exercise to that of disease or ill health.
After addressing how natives achieved functional fitness through hunting practices, author then discussed ancient methods of yoga, Tai-Chi, and then martial arts, connecting concept of "functional exercise" with improving health and vitality of mind and body, to improve "manís relationship with both external and internal nature." This concept has now opened a second door for authorís "brand" of functional training and to denounce methods that are different.
Apparently, according to author, todayís concept of exercise (particularly bodybuilding) is wrong, since many methods confirm to Newtonian thinking to produce an "isolationistsí/reductionistsí point of view," in that we think of only single muscles and not body as a whole. Rather, what we need is "system integration." This would mean whole-body movement/participation of some kind. However, bodybuilders do consider look of body as a whole, and many exercises performed take into account body coordination (or, at least, coordination of several muscles).
Even use of a single-joint exercise machine causes its user to contract many muscles in an attempt to brace body and to generate greater body coordination as muscular fatigue is reached. Further ignored is fact that it may be necessary to focus oneís attention on a single muscle (for reasons of balancing development or function). And, by doing so, this improves system as a whole as muscles are able to work and integrate better in more dynamic activities, i.e., by strengthening weakest link.
The author claims that exercise machine industry also is at fault, as it breaks body into separate parts or muscle groups to be worked in isolation, "building on peopleís aesthetic desires rather than functional needs." It is well known that no muscle can work in complete isolation, as stated in paragraph above. Nonetheless, exaggeration is obvious in that many machines do train multiple muscles, such as pulldowns, machine deadlifts and squats, leg presses, chest presses, and shoulder presses, or that a person can train for aesthetics as well as function. If a personís biceps can produce 50% more force as a result of machine or dumbbell biceps curls that served to increase both mass and strength, certainly that personís bicepsí function has improved, and this has an influence on full body functional ability.
The author then claims that those who succumb to modern isolationist exercise methods and influence suffer higher incidence of injury. What proof does he offer? None. Conversely, author does not reference activities that produce highest forces (and greatest potential for injury), such as explosive lifting, Olympic lifts, and plyometrics. In fact, he does endorse Olympic lifting and plyometrics (within reason) since they apparently mimic "natural" movement better. He also recommends higher risk of Swiss ball exercises, with an attempt to balance and control weights in an unstable environment. I do not recall last time a person needed to clean and jerk an object, jump multiple times off boxes (sometimes with loads on shoulders), or to balance oneís self on a ball in activities of daily living. Consequently, how do those activities mimic "natural" movements of walking, lifting items off ground (carefully), climbing stairs, or unique and specific mechanics of various sporting activities (outside Olympic lifting)?
The author continues by stating that there is limited value in isolationist exercise approaches, which is why there is such a divergence toward Tai-Chi and other "integrated" systems. It should be obvious that any approach is limited in value (since everything in Universe is finite), and that includes Tai-Chi, which does a poor job of optimizing muscular strength and muscle development, two key aspects that support "function" as we age. From my perspective, people tend to diverge toward Tai-Chi because it is an easy means of activity, and is more of a means of meditation and relaxation than exercise. In any event, it has been established that greater muscular loading and functional improvement can be had with stable exercises as opposed to unstable Swiss ball exercises. This only makes sense since so much more effort is directed toward balance (and paranoia of falling) during unstable exercises, together with less weight and effort on target muscles. However, those aspects are ignored by author.
Now, for an exercise system to be "functional," it should meet authorís criteria:
1. It must support and improve life. Chronic (regular?) exposure to "training to failure" is not a good thing in authorís eyes and serves only to "extinguish vitality." It is ironic that many individuals (including yours truly) has trained in this manner for many years, are strong, physically developed and feel a great deal of vitality. It is not training to muscular fatigue that is problem, but overall demands that one is exposed to, including too much volume and frequency. Nonetheless, training to failure and believing in "no pain, no gain," according to author, "results in dysfunctional exercise and less functional people." The idea of "no pain, no gain" is exaggerated, although well meaning at one point in history of exercise (to get people to exercise harder). However, if a person can increase strength and muscle to a greater degree (or even to same degree) by training to failure (without abusing exercise in general), how would that result in less functional people? How does greater/improved function = less function?
The author concludes by stating: "the by-product of modern bodybuilding and these types of training mottos is a new culture of fitness without health." Suffice it to say that a person can be healthy without partaking in a regular fitness program. "Healthy" generally means free from disease. And needless to say that an intense exercise program that improves blood cholesterol, blood pressure, resting heart rate, cardiovascular endurance, heart resilience, strength, muscle, and ADL function certainly is "fitness with health." Moreover, term "fitness" means "the quality or state of being fit," and "fit" means "to be well adapted or suitable for" (Oxfordís English Dictionary). Partaking in a fitness program, to become "fit" (although some are better than others) will result in positive health changes, even if a method happens to be one of aesthetics primarily, i.e., bodybuilding.