After addressing how natives achieved functional fitness through hunting practices, the author then discussed ancient methods of yoga, Tai-Chi, and then martial arts, connecting the concept of “functional exercise” with improving health and vitality of the mind and body, to improve “man’s relationship with both external and internal nature.” This concept has now opened a second door for the author’s “brand” of functional training and to denounce methods that are different.

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Apparently, according to the author, today’s concept of exercise (particularly bodybuilding) is wrong, since many methods confirm to Newtonian thinking to produce an “isolationists’/reductionists’ point of view,” in that we think of only single muscles and not the 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 the look of the body as a whole, and many exercises performed take into account body coordination (or, at least, the coordination of several muscles).

Even the use of a single-joint exercise machine causes its user to contract many muscles in an attempt to brace the body and to generate greater body coordination as muscular fatigue is reached. Further ignored is the fact that it may be necessary to focus one’s attention on a single muscle (for reasons of balancing development or function). And, by doing so, this improves the system as a whole as muscles are able to work and integrate better in more dynamic activities, i.e., by strengthening the weakest link.

The author claims that the exercise machine industry also is at fault, as it breaks the body into separate parts or muscle groups to be worked in isolation, “building on people’s aesthetic desires rather than functional needs.” It is well known that no muscle can work in complete isolation, as stated in the 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 person’s 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 person’s biceps’ 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, the author does not reference activities that produce the 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 the higher risk of Swiss ball exercises, with an attempt to balance and control weights in an unstable environment. I do not recall the last time a person needed to clean and jerk an object, jump multiple times off boxes (sometimes with loads on the shoulders), or to balance one’s self on a ball in activities of daily living.
Consequently, how do those activities mimic the “natural” movements of walking, lifting items off the ground (carefully), climbing stairs, or the 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 the 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 the target muscles. However, those aspects are ignored by the author.