Do you ever wonder where local, or for that matter, worldwide strength & fitness trends are taking us? Does genuine innovation truly exist? And when it presents, is it recognised and embraced? Or do we still prefer the convenient options, and cling to old standards? As a long-time dedicated Fitness Professional, one who has lived the “Fitness Industry” and seen trends come and go, and then come again, these are the burning questions confronting us today. Of some of the recently recognised advancements, most have turned out to be passing fads ("Slide" training for example), and in many instances are a "re-jigging" of what has been tried before. The mountain climber’s exercise is one of these. Once upon a time, during the "fitness revolution" of the late 1970's early 1980's, they were known as single-leg treads. Even today's "HIIT" classes, are simply a re-branding of the common gym run circuit classes of the same era. Whilst alarmingly, many of the most inspiring, relevant and beneficial strength, fitness and range/motion techniques like Yoga and Pilates, are even now not included within the context of everyday gym programming, even though they have been employed with overwhelming success for a great number of years, and as such remain on the periphery of accepted mainstream practices.
Similarly, the Bodii system has been forged on alternative strength & fitness training principles, which deliberately oppose the traditional obsessions with support and stability, so as to better deliver unique strength, fitness, balance and range/motion outcomes. Cutting edge training advancements focused on graduated “progressive adaptations”, which are derived from strategic applications of load, based around thoughtful adjustments to the participant’s posture and position, through constant variations to included instability. Not, as is the case in traditional strength training, where the singular determinant to improvement is increases in applied weight. Often ill-considered increases at that. And as logic will tell you, eventually something has to give, and injuries will and do occur.
Modern strength training attitudes can only compound this very serious issue. A compulsion to lift more and more resistance, and to "smash-out" PBs has become the manic norm. A movement which has developed around the so-called "big three" power lifts of bench press, squats and deadlifts, that has now become the in-thing. A tendency, this presenter believes, brought about by a decided lack of innovation in an industry crying out for something genuinely new, but which at the same time is somewhat sceptical that anything new is even possible. After all, as a huge percentage of naïve fitness professionals would have you believe, most likely because they believe it themselves, what else can possibly be out there waiting to be discovered? Unfortunately, the old adage of “you don’t know, what you don’t know” is very much in play in this situation.
The ascendancy of the “big-three” lifts is in reality a "bit odd", as even in traditional circles, powerlifting itself was once upon a time on the periphery of standard practice, and was only followed by a select group of strength, 1RM fanatics. A group which often included dominant personalities, who over the years, have acquired higher profiles, enabling them to exert some influence over the direction strength & fitness would follow. And is not a focus necessarily based on sound industry progression and practice. Consequently, this about face is quite possibly the reason why the power lifts gained their impetus towards industry saturation. All recognised commercial strength training facilities will currently have an area devoted to the 3 lifts, amongst other popular current movements (sled push, box jumps) and are most often referred to as the “Functional Training Zone”.
Lifts labelled as "functional", a conclusion based on the effects they are reputed to have on the core and balance/stability outcomes, but which on closer scrutiny simply don't stack-up. As indicated in the immediately preceding blog on this site entitled “Core Strength & the Phases of Engagement”, the core can be subjected to differing levels of inclusion/activation, which in turn elicit varying outcome possibilities. Therefore, just because the core is in acquired mode, as it is at a minimum in each and every move we make, doesn’t mean that it is going through a strengthening process, and that the core is gaining real strength benefits. This can be likened to sitting down to a meal, where just because I am using my upper body muscles to cut up the food and deliver it to my mouth, doesn’t mean these upper body muscles are actually increasing in strength. They are in “acquired” mode. A situation which is identical to the role the core plays in the so-called big 3 lifts. Furthermore, the degrees of functionality can be best assessed by diligently employing the following criteria:
So, let’s now examine each of the lifts themselves: