Why is CrossFit such a revolutionary force in the fitness community? What sets CrossFit apart from most other fitness programs? Why does CrossFit elicit more results than, let’s say, Zumba, marathon running, or bicep curls?
The answer lies in the CrossFit prescription: “Constantly varied, high intensity, functional movements.”
This article will be the first of a three-part series wherein I will break down each element of the CrossFit prescription. The series will begin by exploring the ins and outs of functional movements.
To start, what are the “functional movements” we will be discussing? Well, they are the 9 foundational movements of CrossFit: shoulder press, push press, push jerk, back squat, front squat, overhead squat, deadlift, sumo-deadlift high-pull, and (medball) clean.
Now that we know what they are, let’s talk about why they are unique…
Functional movements are natural. They are found in nature. Stand up. Sit down. Pick something up from the ground. Bring an object from the floor to your shoulders. Put that object from your shoulders to over your head. While we have given names to these movements (i.e. squat, deadlift, clean, press), we have most certainly not invented them. They are part of who we are. They are in our DNA. These movements agree with our anatomy (how we are built) and our biomechanics (how we are built to move).
Functional movements are universal motor recruitment patterns (UMRP). These movements are “universal” because they can be found EVERYWHERE… They are found on construction sites, in combat, and at the grocery store. These movements are performed by EVERYONE… They are performed by the dad when placing cookies on the top shelf of the pantry and out of his children’s reach (and for good reason), by the police officer lifting a drunken fool into the backseat of her patrol car, and by the bride sitting in the lap of her groom at their wedding reception.
Functional movements are compound movements. This means that each movement requires the utilization of multiple joints. This concept is virtually absent in Globo-gyms, where nearly every exercise isolates a single joint (think: bicep curls, lat raises, tricep extensions, leg curls). The use of multiple joints maximizes muscle recruitment. An increase in muscle recruitment means that more calories will be burned while working out and there will be a delay in muscle fatigue (work harder, longer). Recruiting more muscles by way of compound movements also helps to stabilize joints, which ultimately allows for the safest movement possible. Compound movements also increase the neuroendocrine response in your brain. Why is that important? Oh, only because this will promote the production of lean body mass and reduction of overall body fat… Who doesn’t want THAT? Click here to read more on the importance of the neuroendocrine adaptation.
Functional movements are powerful. If the aforementioned benefits of functional movements aren’t enough to convince you of their importance, this point should do the trick. Functional movements are unique in their ability to produce power; They have the unquestionable advantage of allowing us to move large loads, long distances, quickly, which is the “name of the game” in CrossFit. The fittest person is the most powerful person… They can move the largest loads, the longest distance, in the quickest amount of time. (Think: Rich Froning)
I hope, by now, that you get the point: Performing functional movements is the most natural, the safest, the most efficient, and the most effective way to improve your fitness.
The next installment of this three part series will build on the idea of using functional movements to increase power output. Stay tuned!