THE PRINCIPLES OF LIFTING
Logan Schwartz FAFS
The history of weight training has changed dynamically with the advent of Applied Functional Science. Traditional weight training basically had two main objectives. Athletes lifted to either increase muscle mass, i.e. hypertrophy, or they trained to increase strength. The theory was that the more force an athlete could produce, the more powerfully that athlete could run, jump, and move. Two questions arose from this thought process. Why does the athlete need to increase his/her muscle mass? Will strength attained with traditional lifting carry over to the movements used in the athlete’s sport? One can see that this traditional approach puts emphasis on creating adaptations to the muscular system. Human function is driven by not only the muscular system, but the skeletal and the nervous systems as well. The neuromusculoskeletal system is our vehicle for movement; therefore strength training and all training must integrate all three simultaneously. The most important system to be trained may in fact be the nervous system, especially the proprioceptors in order to develop functional strength that can be taken advantage of during human movement. Functional strength must be trained with the thought of what movements need to be strengthened, what the joints are doing during those movements, what proprioceptors are being turned on, and how are the muscles reacting to the motion and the forces of mass, momentum, and ground reaction. Studying how the human body actually functions will lead us to a strategy to increase strength for every movement performed in sport and in life.
“Functional Lifting” can be defined as Function combined with the influence tweak of Load. Any movement of the human body can be loaded in one plane, two planes, or all three planes to create an environment where the neuromusculoskeletal system has to deal with that load. The transformation of the deceleration of the load to the acceleration creates functional strength. Deciding what plane or planes to load depends on what Transformation Zone (TZ) or what chain reaction you want to create. Choosing how much load and what tool to use to create the load can be a difficult dilemma. A safe logical progression is to first control individual bodyweight loads before adding artificial external loads.
There are many principles that need to be examined when designing a “Functional Lifting” program. After the specific movements and TZ’s that need to be strengthened are identified, the environment for training should be considered. If human function is upright and takes advantage of authentic drivers such as gravity, ground reaction, mass, and momentum, our lifting program should be identical. The body should be upright and not artificially stabilized or movement controlled with machines or other equipment. The amount of physiological load can be achieved many different ways. Heavier loads will force the body to move slower, while lighter loads will allow a quicker, more explosive chain reaction. These two different approaches will create different transformation aspects for the neuromusculoskeletal system. Loads and speeds should be functionally consistent with the demands of the athlete’s sport.
So what does “Functional Lifting” look like? It can be specific to the exact task as Gary Gray demonstrates in the technique section of this newsletter or generally applied using any of the 3D Matrices. For example, the 3D Lunge Matrix can easily be loaded symmetrically or asymmetrically in the sagittal plane with a simple pair of dumbbells. The 3D Lunge Matrix can be performed while driving the dumbbells to ankle height in the TZ of the lunge, and then to overhead during the acceleration out of the lunge. The TZ for the dumbbell drive can then be tweaked from ankle-overhead to knee-shoulder. This will allow for a quicker transformation out of the lunges to create a different physiological reaction. This same matrix can be further tweaked by changing the plane of loading. A medicine ball can be driven in the transverse plane (same side rotation of the lunging foot) to force the body to handle not only gravity, but increased rotational momentum.
“Functional Lifting” strategies are infinite because human function is infinite. The thought process of examining human function, then deciding what type of load to enhance that function, is consistent with the principles of Applied Functional Science.