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When I qualified as a personal trainer I felt like it was the most under-whelming thing I had achieved in my life to that point. Why? Well, because it was not really that difficult and, more to the point it felt like being able to help people make relevant change in their lives had only just begun. Nowadays I liken it to passing your driving test… Sure, you have a license but the real learning is on the roads.
In my quest to develop my training knowledge I turned to the internet. I wasn’t interested in bodybuilding because from my observation of their methods it was the antithesis of healthy. So I studied a lot of YouTube videos to learn about the human body and that is when I found a small bald guy called Naudi Aguilar from Functional Patterns. He was cocky and quite dismissive of the fitness industry trends and he was the only person I saw who exhibited what I believed and still believe was functional training. I then got sucked into working in a commercial gym and into the trends in that gym, but that is a story for another time.
What this post is about?
In this blog post I thought I would share what Functional Patterns is and why it is so relevant for improving humans. I say that, not to be all ‘deep and philosophical’, rather to plainly say that humanity is in need of deep improvement. If you don’t believe me, and if the last 2.5 years have not been proof enough, then here are some stats:
Those are some staggering numbers, the UK has a sick population, and all we ever hear about is energy prices and politics…
Now I could go on a rant here, but the bottom line is that the UK is a lot more liberal than places like the USA where the pharmaceutical companies, literally, sell people drugs on TV.
The more sobering reality in the UK, and I’m sure all around the world, is that when people who are part of those statistics come to the realisation that something is wrong in their lives they often join a gym and hire a personal trainer to help them improve their lives. They believe that, by attending a gym and burning shed loads of calories, they are going to fix their problems but they hate every minute of it and they find it really taxing on their bodies. Their bodies are already under stress because of the aforementioned lifestyle challenges. In the end they either become addicted to the process of bodily punishment or they quit and go back to their lifestyle from before. Both result in them compounding their issues… More on this in a moment.
What does Functional Patterns, training and overall human health have to do with each other?
The answer is everything…
Imagine for a moment that your pain, aches, fear, anxiety and depression can all go away with just some simple changes to the stimulus you provide your body. Training is a stimulus, food is a stimulus, what you read and think are stimuli.
You see, the human body is not segmented, yet everyone treats it that way. We have specialists in isolated areas of health but none that cover the most important aspects, that's where Functional Patterns comes in.
I see clients every single week that have some form of problem that they are trying to overcome and most of the time they are standing in front of me because I am their last stop before they give up on themselves completely. They’ve often tried everything that conventional systems have to offer, often in isolated appointments with opinions and conjecture thrown at them.
In the last two years I have seen two people who believed that they had kidney pain and problems, yet they kept getting tests and reports from doctors to say that there was nothing wrong with them. When we implemented some Functional Patterns concepts in their training they suddenly don’t have any kidney pain anymore…
For the record, I am not a witch doctor, I just know that they are severely compressed in their spine and the pain that they are feeling is because they have a muscular imbalances, which has resulted on compression in the region of their body that creates pain near their kidneys.
Here’s a good example of what I mean…
In this article by Functional Patterns you can read a more detailed version of what I am about to tell you.
If you have a person with poor posture and hyper mobile joints, this will affect how they hold themselves and their non-verbal communication.
Non-verbal communication is somewhere between 70-93% of how we communicate.
If a person’s body is in poor posture with hyper mobile joints then the central nervous system will face a BIG problem. The central nervous system is in control of how muscles lengthen and contract. If a joint is hyper mobile that means that the muscle and tissues around the joint are not stabilising the joint as well as they should; this then means that when the muscles lengthen and contract they are never quite sure how to behave. This, in turn, will send a cautionary signal to the brain as a protective measure. When this happens your central nervous system will have a very difficult time prioritising correct mechanics in movement because it is never quite sure how muscles will respond… Hence, said person with poor posture and hyper mobility will exhibit anxious behaviours. Here are a few:
Now, if the brain is in a constant state of confusion because the muscles are incorrectly functioning, then you will have a situation where the resources that the body needs and has, will be mismanaged… For a moment, imagine a road system where every single road, traffic light, car speed and obstacle was accounted for and streamlined. Where everything moved smoothly, there were no delays or queues. A perfect symmetry of movement as the cars, busses, people and environment were in perfect flow, like watching a beautiful river.
Now imagine what happens over time when the roads do not get looked after and the traffic lights begin to be faulty. Imagine what happens when cars break down or one person drives too fast and another drives too slow…
The system then becomes less efficient and problems arise.
That, my friends is like the human body and in particular the muscles of the body.
We humans have created a lot of issues for ourselves without even realising it and yet the answer is simple… We need to become more functional.
What is functional though?
Here’s how Naudi, myself and other Functional Patterns Practitioners think about it….
When it comes to training we have to think about the major functions that humans have physically formed to do over many, many years:
These are the Functional Patterns BIG 4 and there is no doubt in my mind about this from an anthropological perspective. Functional Patterns is the only system in health and fitness that takes this approach - nothing compares to it and nothing ever will.
The goal for your training, diet and the way you think about yourself should be oriented around a more functional approach.
When your muscles help you stand better then you feel better.
When they help you walk better, you’ll be able to exert yourself more comfortably and, you’ll feel better.
When they help you run better then you’ll have better adaptations and your body’s system becomes more efficient.
When your muscles are trained in a way that supports our 4 primary functions the body improves exponentially. When the body improves exponentially you will choose better foods to eat, you will think better thoughts and your life, as a human being will improve.
How to get started...
There are a number of ways to get started, Functional Patterns have launched a 10 week online course, which is a great place to start if you are willing to put in the work on your own and really understand how to optimise your body.
For a lot of people that is where the stumbling block is, simply because if you’re in pain and struggling with your health, your confidence in your ability to fix yourself will be challenged. That’s where Functional Patterns Practitioners come in.
I am a practitioner and I work closely with another practitioner here in Solihull in the UK, and we both deliver face to face coaching and online coaching. The best thing to do from here would be to reach out for a consultation.
There is always a solution and if you have made it this far in today’s post then you’ll understand that all is not lost.
If you need to understand more then check out the results on my website and the Functional Patterns website to understand more.
The most important thing that you can think about is the idea of hope, hope is a feeling that will be brought about by a thought. That thought will be in your mind and that is your body’s way of saying ‘it’s possible’. I had hope that I would lose weight and I made it happen by applying myself to the process. I had hope that I would fix my chronic pain and recover and I made it happen by applying myself to a process.
No one says it will be easy, but it is damn sure worth the effort. Trust me.
You’ve got this.
Stay Strong and Keep Moving,
Links to statements made in this post:
Even though lower back pain is quite common, it can be debilitating and disruptive to your daily life. Here are five things you can do today to help alleviate that pain.
When you Google how to fix chronic back pain, depending on your browser history and cookies, you’ll be presented with 469,000,000 search results.
In reading through a lot of them and watching several videos online I realised that a lot of these exercises are far too segmented. Sure some of them can give short term relief but the likelihood is that, once you get a level of reduction in pain you’ll probably be back to doing the same things that caused the pain in the first place.
Disclaimer: Before we commit to curing anything it’s all about understanding, and the internet is a very misunderstood place, so if you feel like this information is overwhelming or you’ve been in pain a long while. Then I recommend you seek help from a Functional Patterns practitioner, I am a practitioner with Functional Patterns and there are a lot more around the world.
A Quick Story About My Lower Back Pain.
I remember my first few months of weight-loss. Everyone was so impressed with my change in body shape, I was literally shrinking by the second and it felt good, but I was in a lot of pain. I had taken up running to help me lose weight, now, don’t get me wrong I was still very heavy and not exactly sprinting but I was out 4 times a week pounding the pavements.
I remember my routes vividly, I started with a walk / jog from one streetlight to another and then soon I was jogging the whole route. Deep down I am a very competitive person and so this was the perfect challenge for me. It was me against me every time I went out…
Over the first 6 months of initial weight loss my lower back was in agony, I would stretch after each run and would feel better, enough to allow me to get moving the next day. I put it down to the fact that my body was changing and I needed to strengthen my lower back, until I got really badly injured in my left knee which stopped me from running altogether. I was 6 months into my ‘new me’ challenge and had to rest for a whole month.
It was scary.
Exercise was the one thing that kept me moving forwards on my weight loss journey.
Starting up again I followed a training plan and that helped with the lower back pain and because it was focused on bodyweight, ‘low impact’ training I was injury free!
Until I wasn’t…
And several years later the protection of the lower back, the protection of my knee and the avoidance of dealing with my posture caught up with me and I developed the worst chronic pain I have ever experienced. I’m not joking…
My Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome was brought about through over training, too much stress and anxiety and a lot of years with poor posture. During my pain there were moments where I thought about ending my suffering, but I think that was more due to the prescriptions that the doctors gave me.
Having ‘been there, done that and got the t-shirt’ I thought I would put together 5 steps to getting rid of lower back pain today.
If you are not into reading then there is a detailed video that you can watch linked below.
Let’s begin the countdown of things you can do today.
With all the exercises that I will give you today please note that we will go through 2 steps of my three step formula for pain relief and fitness development.
5 - Assess and Correct Glute Function.
Notice how I haven’t said ‘get stronger glutes’ I have simply said assess and train glute function. Your Gluteus Muscles are your powerhouse muscle that helps you move through space. If you have lower back pain then the chances are that your glute function will be impaired in some way. Maybe you have underdeveloped muscles or maybe you just don’t use them enough…
To help you the first exercises will be releasing your glutes and your quadriceps with a foam roller or lacrosse ball. These are likely to be tender areas, especially if your back hurts so be mindful that you need to take your time.
See images below:
Once that is done you will need to start to correct the function of the muscle, start with the ‘Elvis tuck’ as I call it and move to a standing ‘unilateral hinge’ drill that will help with your movement patterns. See videos below:
4 - Assess and Correct Core Function.
Again, I haven’t said that you need a ‘stronger’ core, you need to know how to use your core muscles. If you think that you don’t have a ‘core’ then that’s a lie because then you would just be a pile of skin and bones on the floor. Your core, as you will see later in this post is part of a very important puzzle that helps you remain upright whilst moving through space.
To help with your core function it is best to release the upper abdominals where there might be tension.
See video below:
After that I would suggest trying out my version of the ‘reverse pigeon’. The key to this exercise is to lengthen the muscles of the core and then shorten them again and by having your leg up you are going to create an active stretch on each glute. I would not recommend that you stick with this exercise for more than a few reps at a time and certainly think of this as an entry level exercise before changing it and progressing to something else later. This can all be discussed in a consultation with me if that is something you are considering.
See video below:
3 - Assess and Correct Thoracic Spine Function.
This one is part of the fundamental dysfunctions in society these days. Your thoracic spine, along with your core and glutes helps you stand upright.
See image below:
Because of the nature of our diets and the nature of our jobs we have become accustomed to a more rounded posture, yes diet has an impact on your posture. I should know because I have spent the better part of the last 10 years trying to figure out how to fix mine. Granted, mine is a lot worse than the average person for reasons that are too long to explain, but, if you look at the two images below you will notice an improvement in my posture overall. This is down to working on what I am sharing with you today over the last 2 years.
In order to help your thoracic spine move better you’ll need to release the tightness in the serratus and latissimus muscles using a foam roller. There are other things that you can do, but this is a great start for a lot of people.
See video below:
Once you have finished that I would recommend checking in with a supine pressure drill, this is about addressing the pressure of your ribcage and as a byproduct will help you understand more about how your core functions. Your core and thoracic muscles should lengthen the spine in extension and flex the spine too; they also help you bend left and right and rotate. If you are only used to working them one way then chances are you will find this one challenging.
See video below:
2 - Regulate and Improve Sleep.
Sleep is your number one way to recover. It is something that we cannot underestimate the value of and certainly something that most people enjoy. There are a lot of people out there with conflicting advice about sleep and wake times. Being from the southern hemisphere I find winters particularly challenging because I know that I am very dependent on the sun to help wake me up. In the northern hemisphere this is seasonal…
Regardless of the time zone and where you are in the world, I would suggest aiming to simply regulate how much sleep you get each day. Aim to be consistent with this and do not underestimate how much alcohol, late nights and late meals affect your sleep quality.
The amount of blue light that you are exposed to in the evenings makes a difference to the quality of your sleep and so too does the nature of how you wake up in the morning. If you wake up in a panic and reach directly for your phone then I would suggest that you start a new routine in the morning.
My routine is a pretty simple and easy one to follow.
I will wake up and go downstairs and meditate for 5-10 minutes whilst aiming to get sunlight on my eyeballs first thing, don’t worry if you don’t have direct sunlight, as long as you can see the light and maybe get some fresh air whilst doing it then you’ll start the day off with the right stimulus. I do not look at anything on my phone for at least the first 40 minutes upon waking.
I also aim to have some water with salts in it first thing too and then, once I am up and ready I will have a coffee… Now, this is where things can get messy for a lot of people.
I gave up coffee for a very long time and I slept great! I am currently aiming to ween myself off the drug altogether, but understand that if you are drinking coffee or caffeine past midday then you are likely never going to have a day where you are free from the drug in your bloodstream. Before you get worried about me using the word ‘drug’ I would suggest you read the definition of the word and then come back here. Coffee is a stimulant and a lot of people rely on it to ‘get’ through the day. This often ends with issues regulating blood sugar levels and fatigue in the late afternoon.
If you find that you are lagging at 3pm and then you get home from work and ‘need’ to snack, chances are that you are stimulating your body in the wrong ways throughout the day.
On from there regulate what time your last meal is and how you start to wind down in the evening, the less digestion you have to worry about and the more relaxed you are when you get into bed then the better you will sleep.
This brings me on to the last part of this article…
1 - Stress.
Stress is a huge component of any pain free journey. When you think about humans as an organism then you start to look a little more objectively at us as a whole. We are merely an animal and we have a response to our environment. Now, I don’t know the prevalence of lower back pain in hunter gatherer tribes and I am sure that they had all sorts of issues to deal with, that said, they definitely didn’t have the same stressors as we do.
For the most part they didn’t have food in abundance, nor did they have constant financial and emotional stress. They lived to thrive in their communities and that was what ensured the survival of the species. We modern humans don’t need to worry that much about survival these days because we have put in systems of compensation to help us live longer. These systems are sometimes good and sometimes bad.
The main thing to note here is that although we are able to live longer it doesn’t mean we are thriving.
Stress can be as small as training too much or moving your body too little and can go all the way up to being bombarded with emails all day.
By simply addressing and improving the structure of your body with the first three items on my list above and then improving your sleep quality, you can greatly improve your stress response.
There is a lot more detail that I can go into on this but for the sake of time today, just note that if you can improve steps 5,4,3 and 2 by 10% then you will improve your stress response without a doubt. If you want to explore this topic more then please read ‘Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert Sapolsky.’
Your body and your brain is an incredible thing and given the right stimulus and time it can change beyond your wildest imagination.
Trust me, I have been there, I am walking proof that you can change your entire life. It starts with the want to improve and the realisation that you don’t simply have to accept things that you are facing. You can question it, rise up and challenge what doesn’t feel right and that is where it all begins.
I hope you have found this helpful today, if you have then please leave me some feedback below. For questions and if you are stuck and need help then reach out to me firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a great day!
Stay Strong and Keep Moving
That sounds like a clickbait title for a post... But it isn't...
Now, it has been an incredibly long time since I have posted... I’ve not forgotten about you, I’ve just been incredibly focused on other areas of writing…
More on that later in this post, as I have a gift for you.
A little update:
I’ve been busy onboarding new members on my new membership programmes at the new studio.
And, because I have spent the last two years working only with a handful people per year, opening up a new membership for people has been eye opening.
Not just for the new members as they are having fantastic wins in their first few weeks…
It’s been eye opening for me as a coach, I have had to reconnect with some older coaching techniques and it has been so rewarding.
Not to mention I have been writing more of my book, more on that at the end of this post.
Now, let’s get to the meat and potatoes of why you’re here…
Resources to help you live a long, healthy, happy and pain free life! I hope that’s why you’re here… I mean you could be here for my witty banter and jokes…
Here’s one I read the other day:
Okay for real now… I listened to this podcast the other day and thought it would be a good one to share.
High Intensity Health Podcast Interview with Sal Di Stefano
What Sal shares in this podcast is everything I have been thinking, saying and observing since starting coaching clients nearly 10 years ago.
The key points he raises are:
My key frustrations in this podcast are that he talks about our evolutionary traits and neglects it while talking about how to train… He also focuses on muscles and the nervous system but doesn’t address the bones of the body.
He talks about deadlifts, bench pressing and squats and completely neglects what all of us Functional Patterns Practitioners focus on to get great results with people.
So whilst there is a lot of good content in the podcast, when it comes to training your body, here are the areas that I would suggest you focus on to get great results with your health.
When you nail these elements of training in conjunction with good breath work whilst doing it, then you’ll find that your body will make changes really well!
We think we need exertion but what we really need is the right application of stimulus and exertion.
I say to my clients that you need to stimulate, not annihilate.
What Sal says in the podcast is relevant because, in his own way, he is saying the same kind of thing. When you train the body with an intelligent approach and build stronger muscles, then your body will be better at burning calories as muscle requires energy to be maintained. In other words, you'll burn calories when you are sitting down relaxing...
This is a very small segment of what I could cover with you, but I’ll save the details for my book, which you will be able to get FOR FREE if you want it…
When it is done I will be posting out the first 100 for free to everyone that wants one.
In my book I’ll talk about how I lost 10 stone and how I recovered from chronic pain, what methods I used and how those methods can help you.
To get your copy, when it releases, please click here.
Other than that, have a great day.
Stay Strong and Keep Moving,
Reserve your copy today!