Vern Gambetta

The Continuum of Function

Movement is a complex event that involves synergists, stabilizers, neutralizers, and antagonists all working together to reproduce efficient triplanar movements. Therefore the basic foundational principle of functional training is to train movements not muscles. Sport scientist Roger Enoka put it best: “The function of a muscle depends on the context in which it is activated.” Different movements use muscles differently. The brain does not recognize individual isolated muscles; rather it recognizes patterns of movement in response to sensory input. The Central Nervous System is the command station that controls and directs all movement. The CNS calls for patterns of movement that can be modified in countless ways to react appropriately to gravity, ground reaction forces, and momentum. Each activity is subjected to further refinements and adjustments by feedback from the body’s proprioceptors. This process ensures optimal neuromuscular control and efficiency of function.

All movement is functional; it is just to what degree is it functional. Function is integrated multi-directional movement. Functional movement is meaningful movement that is part of a chain reaction, not an isolated event. Movement occurs on a continuum of function. Some movements are more functional than others based on the end object of the training.

Less Functional>>>>Most Functional
Sterile/Artificial>>>>Non Sterile/Real Life
1     2     3     4     5     6     7     8     9     10

To determine placement on the continuum of function there are basic evaluative criteria:

  • Plane(s) of Movement – If the movement involves multiple planes of motion as opposed to movement in one plane then it is more functional.
  • Joint Involvement – If the movement involves multiple joints as opposed to isolation on one joint then it is more functional.
  • Speed of Movement – If the speed and tempo of movement is as fast as can be controlled then it is higher on the continuum of function.
  • Proprioceptive Demand – If the movement is of high proprioceptive demand thane it is higher on the continuum of function.
  • Mindful – If the movement is mindful, demands attention and concentration then it is higher on the continuum of function, as opposed to being able to put the mind on autopilot and not having to concentrate to execute.
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