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Alan Mitchell, DC

Functional Strength Training: A Whole Body Workout

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Principles: Proximal Stability for Distal Mobility (Pilates Principal)

               A more common description of these terms would be proximal = closer to the mid-line of the body (i.e. spine) whereas distal would be the opposite (i.e. extremities, arms, legs, hands, feet). Think of a rubber band. In order to stretch it one would have to fix one end to have something to pull against – if both ends could move it would not be possible. Muscles and the bones to which they attach work similarly. In order for a muscle to contract and do work it must have a stable origin (or fixed point) at one end to give the insertion (or move point) something to pull against. Again, in a general sense, the origins and sources of stabilization tend to be more proximal and the insertions and sources of movement tend to be distal.

Principles: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand (SAID)

                A basic explanation of this is that muscles become better (more adept) at performing specific tasks through training. However, this effect can lead to both positive and negative outcomes in performance, stability, and injury risks. Choosing exercises that mirror those tasks which one seeks to improve and performing them with ideal technique will lead to improved outcomes. Poor posture, form or position – especially when reinforced with repetition (i.e. training) will also become enhanced. Remember, practice does not make perfect – practice makes permanent. These concepts are manifest with the emphasis on SCAPULAR SETTING.

               In choosing which exercises to do one must consider why they are doing them in the first place. Increasing strength, flexibility, endurance and coordination (along with reduction of body fat) are all ideal goals in general. Though to specifically improve athletic performance, stability and lessen the risks of injury one should consider movements that enhance the normal functions of the body.  Also, avoid those which increase pain or could enhance dysfunction (muscle imbalance). A common misconception of this is generally referred to as CORE STABILIZATION.

Application to specific body regions:

               With the concepts of stabilization in place, one can then begin to work on specific muscle groups. It is not my intent to refute or advocate other techniques or for these to be exclusive but to follow biomechanically sound measures in general for any and all therapeutic stretches or exercises one performs.


               The shoulder girdle includes the scapulae (shoulder blade), clavicle (collar bone), and geleno-humeral joint (the ball and socket). It also contains, of course, all the muscles that stabilize and/or move those same structures.

               In a high percentage of cases, I find that one needs to improve flexibility of the chest (specifically the pectoralis minor) in order to even get the scapulae into the biomechanically correct position. These have been discussed as THE CLOCK stretches and SCAPULAR SETTING.

               The deltoid muscle is one of the main ‘prime movers’ of the shoulder. It is composed of three general regions: anterior (front), middle (side), and posterior (rear).  These ‘heads’ have greater/lessor roles in arm movements such as: flexion (forward), extension (backward), and abduction (out to the side).  Training of this composite muscle is discussed in the video DELTOID 3.