[Video] Why Functional Strength and Mobility Are So Important
We’re going to learn later in this series just how many different options the kettlebell creates when it comes to our training.
This is not just about being able to do curls at a slightly different angle: it’s about things like the ‘Turkish Get Up’ which actually involves – quite simply – getting up.
In short, the kettlebell challenges us to move in ways that we just wouldn’t do normally and this is incredibly good for our fitness, our strength and our overall ability to move functionally and healthily the rest of the time.
Why is this such a game changer? Why do we so desperately need moves like this in our training regimes?
The simple answer is that we don’t move any more – and it’s killing our brains and our bodies.
Most of us will spend the vast majority of our day sitting in an office from 9-5 and then onwards to 6pm, 7pm or even 8pm. While we do this, we hold a single position: curled up in front of the computer with our back hunched, arms stretched forward in front of us and head craned upward.
This position causes a huge number of health issues – it shortens our pectoral muscles, causing them to become tighter and less mobile, it forces us to develop a permanent hunch and it does even worse things to our legs.
In the sitting position, your leg flexors (leg muscles that pull your heel up toward your buttocks) will be shortened, meaning they become tighter and harder to straighten.
Meanwhile, your leg flexors (which help your feet kick forward), will become lengthened and stretched meaning that they lose their normal tautness and strength.
This is enough to mean that your legs will now be exerting uneven force on your body and specifically on your pelvis. This will cause your pelvis to tilt forward slightly, creating what’s called an ‘anterior pelvic tilt’ – causing your butt to stick out in an unattractive manner and your overall height to lose a couple of inches.
As you can imagine, this is far from functional and it robs you of a lot of movement. Simple things like bending over to touch your toes are an alien concept and knee pain and lower back pain become incredibly likely.
The way we sit at work even ruins our breathing. Specifically, our hunched position prevents us from breathing from our guts as we’re supposed to and instead forces us to take shallow breaths from our chest cavity alone. This shallow breathing increases our heart rate and the release of stress hormones like cortisol and norepinephrine.
In short, it’s enough to make us highly wired and tired at all times and means we don’t sleep as well, don’t recover as well and generally spend all our time about to snap (sound familiar?).
We were never meant to sit. In the wild we didn’t have chairs, so instead we would squat around campfires. This is something that most people now cannot do. Try right now to squat down, while keeping your heels flat on the floor and see if you’re able to squat all the way down. Legs getting tight yet?
These are basic fundamentals of human movement that most of us cannot perform, simply because we don’t use our bodies enough the way they’re designed to be used!
Not only do we sit but we sit all the time. You go from sitting at work, to sitting on the train, to sitting in front of the couch! How many steps do you take in an average day? Do you feel like that’s enough?
Meanwhile, our complete lack of challenging physical exercise means our hearts are weak, our cells are inefficient at using energy, our blood is thick and viscous and our muscles are next to useless.
So how do most of us go about fixing all these issues? We hit the gym!
But this actually makes matters even worse. The problem is that a lot of us seem purely interested in training our ‘mirror muscles’. These are the muscles on the fronts of our bodies – our biceps, pecs and abs – and they’re the muscles at the tops of our bodies.
Of course this doesn’t look terribly good when you wear shorts but there are more pressing concerns. When you only train the muscles at the front of your body, it once again creates uneven pressure. Your hunched back and tight pecs get worse, creating even more of a hunch and even more potential back pain.
Likewise, your abs are also pulling your body forward, as are your biceps. Is it any wonder that you’re liable to snap and injure your back at any point?
And the way we’re training doesn’t really translate to real world strength. Think about how often you perform any kind of move resembling a bicep curl in real life – you just don’t! When was the last time you had to curl anything through a straight arc in your day-to-day routine?
Real world tests of strength involve pushing heavy objects, pulling them, turning them, launching ourselves off of uneven ground and carrying items of varying weights in different hands. It is very rare for us to work in a manner that resembles the way we train in the gym and thus its usefulness is limited.
The problem with something like a dumbbell curl is that it only uses one muscle group. In this regard, it is known as an ‘isolation exercise’ or a ‘single joint exercise’.
Now combine this to a better move like a squat where you’re using a whole number of different muscles in conjunction. This is how the body is designed to be used and when you perform exercises in this manner, you are challenging yourself to coordinate your body and to maximize its potential strength output: this is hugely more valuable than training each muscle on its own through a limited range of motion.
As you can see, traditional forms of training only compounded the problems that many of us already experienced and this makes a big problem.
But the kettlebell can change all that, as one of the most practical and versatile pieces of functional strength training equipment in the world…
- Why Functional Strength and Mobility Are So Important
- Getting Started With the Kettlebell
- Unique Kettlebell Exercises for Developing True Functional Strength
- How the Kettlebell Can Train Your Brain
- Eating Right While Training With Kettlebells
- Three Kettlebell Programs for Different Goals