CrossFit: Functional Strength Goes Outside the Box

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Functional strength is the ability to run your load-joints (shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles) through a full range of motion without pain, stiffness, or restriction. This is also known as load-joint articulation.
CrossFit is all about functional fitness, and working out and training at a box is fun — obviously, otherwise every gym and CrossFit box would cease to exist. But after you shower up, change out of your tank tops/hoodies/compression gear/high socks/sweatbands, and head out to live the rest of your life, how is all of your training serving you in the real world? What does CrossFit functional fitness look like beyond the doors of your training facility? Read what RXBound‘s Katie Chasey and CrossFit athlete (and founder of CrossFit Anywhere) Blair Morrison have to say about translating fitness and functional strength into spaces outside of the box.

“Getting Outside the Box: The Definition of Functional Strength”

Katie Chasey explains why being strong inside the box is awesome… and why being functionally strong outside the box — and enjoying the fruits of your labor — is equally important.

How is strength defined and who defines it?

Load-joints must be able to open and close in a full range of pain-free motion. How does this work in a couch-potato environment where we are no longer pushing primitive machines around? It comes through movement.
Kinesiologists study muscles and have various ways to gauge muscle contraction, length, tension, and force. Therefore, kinesiologists typically measure strength by these primary factors and neglect individual variations of strength as a subjective concept. Whether one can lift X number of pounds overhead is meaningless in the overall definition of functional strength. Functional strength is the strength that gets us through life and daily survival.

Lifting a heavy load overhead is a fantastic measure for Hercules or the competitive weightlifter but the history of manual labor has consisted of something very different. Manual labor typically involved walking, running, pushing, pulling, and grasping. Take a minute to think back to your history books and those photos of the grueling pushing and pulling of primitive mechanical devices and the relentless building of the pyramids, to name just a couple….

What is the goal of functional strength?

Get outside of the gym, get inside the gym, get on the track, and get out on the trail. Do things that you once did as a kid. Play on a playground with the rings and the monkey bars.
Load-joints must be able to open and close in a full range of pain-free motion. How does this work in a couch-potato environment where we are no longer pushing primitive machines around? It comes through movement. In today’s undemanding environment, we get stuck in a “box” of doing the same motions over and over again. We are no longer spontaneously stimulated by our environment, as we once were. More and more people are replacing the days’ motions with “work” (computers and typing, talking on the phone, and driving) or “recreation” (watching TV or playing video games), so we need to find ways to alter our environment in order to keep our load-bearing structure active and healthy.

How do we create movement in a “box?”

Do not let yourself be confined to a box of limitations. Play multiple sports and do not get stuck just playing first base.
Unleash your restrictive movement. Put your body through a range of motion that requires an opening and closing of joints into all the planes of motion. Get outside of the gym, get inside the gym, get on the track, and get out on the trail. Do things that you once did as a kid. Play on a playground with the rings and the monkey bars. Practice handstands, somersaults, bear crawls, frog jumps, and lateral hops. Grab an agility ladder and play hopscotch with it. Stimulate your mind and your body’s response to it. Sit less and refuse to be bound by a box, restricted territory, or a terrain….

How do we get out of the box?

It is a rare thing to see an athlete of one sport move flawlessly to another (Michael Jordan for example as he attempted to move from basketball into baseball). It is even difficult for an athlete to change positions within the same sport (like moving from pitcher to first base for example). Why? Repetition of the same limited sequence of motion over and over again. Do not let yourself be confined to a box of limitations. Play multiple sports and do not get stuck just playing first base.

This is why having your own personal program is essential to fitness, strength, and functionality. Function is the key to success in sports, the military, and all other necessary skills, like speed and agility. All of these demands rely on the ability of the individual to run load-joints through motions.

Breaking Muscle originally posted this article on October 25, 2012. To read the full article, click here.

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