Archive for the 'Functional Conditioning' Category


Part 1: Hips

This will be a two part post, with the second coming this weekend. Both parts are essentially complements of one another, so make sure to stay tuned for part II.

To begin part one, I want to start by saying our hips…suck. I will speak for the majority of people, athletes included, when I say that our hips are weak, immobile, and underutilized. Right now, I want you take one of  your arms, and move it every way possible, up, down, side to side, across your body, around in circles, ect. (yes, this is directly relevant to this post).

Now, using your leg instead, try to perform the same exact movements as you did with your arm. Are you able to move that leg as freely as you moved your arm? Can you achieve the same range of motion? Are the same movements with your leg are intuitive to perform as they were with your arm? Most of us will answer no to all of these questions.

But why?

Well, the answer is quite simple, and does not require you to be anatomically inclined. We DO NOT use our hips the way they were designed to be used!

Our hip and shoulder complexes are the two ball and socket joints in our bodies. Just as the humerus (upper arm bone) fits into the glenoid cavity of our scapula (shoulder blade) like a ball and socket, the femur (upper leg bone) fits into the acetabulum of our pelvis the same way. Both the hip and shoulder are capable (capable does not mean regularly subjected to) of doing flexion, extension, abduction, adduction, horizontal flexion/extension, and  rotation.

However, we all noticed from the exercise earlier that it is much easier to perform these movements with our arm than with our leg.

The majority of people, at best, will move linearly a couple of hours out of the day (in other words, walking). For those of us who have desk jobs, we are worse off then the majority. The moment you sit down, your muscles and tendons begin tightening. The longer you spend time in this body-wrenching position, the suppleness of your hip joint decreases dramatically and causes extreme atrophy (weakening) of the muscles making up your hip complex. Weak muscles lead to weak bones, leading to arthritis, osteopenia, osteoporosis, and possible hip replacements down the road. If you work 40+ hours a week in an office chair, I strongly suggest you read on…

There are 17 muscles that make up the hip joint. When we move only in a linear capacity (best case scenario for many) we are using a small number of those muscles. The point I am trying to get at is that whether or not we are an avid athlete, we NEED to take time out of our lives to work all of the dormant muscles of our hips!

I have posted a few reliable sites with great exercises to get started on to begin strengthening and lengthening the muscles of your hips. I challenge each and every one of you to do these exercises on a regular basis (everyday would be ideal!) and take notice to how much better you feel doing your everyday activities. The exercises may seem strange and feel uncomfortable at first, but will also make you aware of how little attention we pay to arguably the most important part of our body!

Your hips want you to do these exercise movements! When you do what your body wants and is designed to do, it collaborates with your central nervous system and will reward you with making you feel better!

Train smart!

Andrew Simpson

368 Athletics


Unilateral Training Revealed

To start off this post, I will first answer the question that many of you are probably wondering, what the heck is unilateral training? Well first, lets look at the alternative (or complementary) form of training: training bilaterally. Bilateral training is performing exercises with both sides of your body, or two limbs, simultaneously. Examples would be a two legged squat, a two arm bench press, a two hand kettlebell swing…you get the picture, two equals bilateral.

Bilateral training is an extremely effective form of training in regards to absolute strength, as you can generally lift more weight with two arms or two legs, opposed to one. In addition, there are two main populations of people in which bilateral training is and should be the initial form of training used:

  1. Those with little experience exercising- Bilateral training allows for much more stability (about twice as much to be exact) than does unilateral training. Beginners should always start with two legged or two armed exercises until they have developed enough stability through their core.
  2. Those beginning rehab– It is imperative that this population begins rehabilitation from injury by training bilaterally, on stable surfaces, until they have strengthened the surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the affected area.
Now that bilateral training has been covered, let’s get to what this post is really about, unilateral training. It is important to understand that bilateral and unilateral training complement one another in that the combination of the two offer great benefits to your training progress (and life as you will see).
As I’m sure you’ve guessed, unilateral training is training one side, or one limb of the body by itself. Exercises such as the ONE legged squat, the ONE arm dumbbell press, or the ONE arm kettlebell swing all classify as unilateral lifts, and offer many benefits that bilateral training may not. Of course, it’s advised that you work both the left and right sides. Lets take a look at a few of these benefits…
  • Increased muscle fiber recruitment- When you train one side of the body at a time, you are guaranteeing total muscle activation on that side. Many of us are not ambidextrous, and cannot use the left side of our body as effectively as our right side, or vise versa. Bilateral training ALL of the time for EVERY exercise may mean you are using your dominant side slightly more to move a load, or compensating for the weakness in your non-dominant side. Overtime, this could create compensatory movement patterns, leading to asymmetries, which means a higher propensity to injury!
  • Increased balance- This one is simple, it is harder to balance on one foot than it is on two. Performing single leg exercises such as the squat, lunge, deadlift, ect. enhances your balance, which is crucial to sports as well as activities of daily living. When speaking of leg exercises in particular, single leg training increases gluteal and hamstring activation; two areas of the body where we can all improve in. When you have mastered your body-weight, add a load to one side of your body to continue to further improve your balance.
  • Increased stability- We are all aware of our large muscle groups: chest, legs, upper back, shoulders, ect. However, around those muscles, and deep to them, are small muscles, called stabilizers. These muscles aren’t always easy to activate with certain bilateral exercises, unless precision form and technique are used throughout the lift. Isolating a single arm or leg will activate these deep smaller muscles by incorporating balance and stabilization.
  • Translation to life and sport- Again, it is imperative that you understand the importance of bilateral training. But, whether it is walking, running, throwing a ball, shooting a ball, kicking a ball, or even brushing your hair/teeth, how many limbs are you using at a time? ONE! If you think about it, training unilaterally, one side at a time, directly translates to almost everything you do!
My advice to you, the athlete…
  1. Do not throw away your bilateral exercise, at all.
  2. Understand your current fitness level and what you can handle unilaterally.
  3. Incorporate unilateral training into your workouts- whether it’s one or two unilateral exercises mixed in, or an entire day dedicated to single arm-single leg work.
…If you never have trained unilaterally and are willing to start, I can guarantee you that you will quickly notice numerous changes in your body, as well as gains in your bilateral exercises!
Train strong…
Andrew Simpson
368 Athletics

Train in motion, train for life

When it comes to training elite athletes, children, or even the general population, the classic approach of weight training is simply not the best option. In fact, it often can be counter-productive! The world of fitness and exercise is not where it was ten, five, even two years a go. We have seen various ways to strength train and condition people, such as olympic style lifting, periodized training, bodyweight training, ect. The list goes on and on… 

It is not that any of these training styles are wrong…they can and should all be incorporated into training (with proper form and technique). The fact is that the human body is meant to move, and the most effective way to accomplish this while getting stronger is to put strength training in motion. Functional strength training is exactly that, and can be the most broad style of training we have seen. The multi-joint, multi-planar approach to strength training simply makes sense, no matter what your sport or training goals are. With functional training, the possibilities of exercises, equipment, and terrain are endless. Here is one examples to give you a further understanding about what this “functional training” is all about…

Take the olympic style barbell power clean for example. Generally, a barbell, bumper plates, and a platform to perform the lift on are all required.

  •  The advantages: training power and explosiveness
  • The disadvantages: high risk of injury as proper olympic barbell lifting form is difficult for most, working in one plane of motion (sagittal), no variance in training location (certainly not portable), limited alternatives or combination exercises

Now, exchange all of the required equipment for a sandbag and explore the possibilities of the power clean:

  • The advantages: still training power and explosiveness, use of multiple stabilizer muscles as the sand moves, low risk of injury as sandbags are condensed and weight can easily be removed, unlimited training locations (definitely portable!), allowance for multi-directional and multi-planar movements (side/reverse side lunge power clean combination is one example).

Sandbags are just one of many types of training equipment that can be used to train functionally. At 368, we used a wide variety of training stimuli: sandbags, kettlebells, medicine balls, tires, sleds, prowlers, bands, and powerwheels barely touch the surface of what functional training has to offer. Many people have experienced the feeling of burnout from workout. The same routines on the same machines is a huge reason why people lose interest in working out. Why not try incorporating something new into your exercise? If you are ready for a new, exciting, challenging workout program that will never go “stale”, come check-out what 368 Athletics is all about!

Are you ready for 368?

Train strong…

Andrew Simpson
368 Athletics Intern



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