Ask Mike Reinold Show

Training Movements or Muscles?

On this episode of the #AskMikeReinold show we talk about whether or not we should be straightening isolated muscles or focusing on more “functional” movement patterns. To view more episodes, subscribe, and ask your questions, go to mikereinold.com/askmikereinold.

#AskMikeReinold Episode 226: Training Movements or Muscles?

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Show Notes



Transcript

Mike Reinold:
First question is from John from California. What’s up, John? John says, “I recently saw an online forum with people debating about if we should be picking exercises based on movements and not just exercising muscles. I wanted to hear Champion’s thoughts on this question. Thanks.” So does anybody know what John’s talking about?

Mike Reinold:
Like, like the forum, I mean.

Mike Reinold:
Yeah. So I saw this forum too. Dan, did you say you saw it?

Dan Pope:
Well, I didn’t see the exact forum. I think this argument’s been around for a couple decades, and at least I saw it initially in the strength conditioning world. And what I think they’re talking about, I might be wrong, is that there’s this idea that one is more superior to the other. And it’s kind of general strength conditioning versus bodybuilding. Bodybuilding has gotten a terrible rap. And Diwesh and I were talking about this the other day. We were kind of fed this idea from reading testosterone.net, T nation, T mag, different names over the course of time. If you’re training muscle groups, you’re doing it wrong. The body is a system of systems. All the muscles are meant to move together. And if you just train movements, you’re going to train everything you need to.

Dan Pope:
And what’s funny is it created this sense of elitism, I think, in the strength conditioning community, to the point where people were afraid to train their arms and afraid to train, their calves. It became hips, posterior chain, and that’s pretty much it. We train all these movements, but we don’t really care about the muscle groups.

Dan Pope:
I could complain about this for a long time, but I know at least for myself, from a rehab perspective and injury prevention standpoint, we know that strengthening a muscle group has a lot of help. It’s going to help prevent things like hamstring strain injuries. I don’t think that I train my calves for about 10 years and I end up with chronic calf strains and Achilles issues with myself. And now I’m just flipping it completely. I’m just isolating my calves three, four days a week because I spent so long trying to work just on movements. So I think there’s merit to both of these things and we probably shouldn’t get stuck in one category or the other.

Mike Reinold:
So I think all the listeners and viewers want to know, how are the calves doing?

Dan Pope:
Oh, they’re terrible. They’re tiny. They’re maybe like one centimeter larger after five years of training two, three times a week. Maybe by the time I’m 90 I’ll look like Tilley.

Mike Reinold:
I think you just proved the point in the other direction that maybe isolated training doesn’t work, but it’s fine. It’s funny, everybody wants to talk about biceps and calves. Those are like the the two ones that always get, I think they get the … It’s the non-functional crowd. It’s non-functional. I think that’s the one that I tend to get the most heat or debate from, I guess, is from this.

Mike Reinold:
So yeah, I mean, I saw this post in a forum last week. It was a group of sports physical therapists, and they’re kind of talking about it. And wow, this debate got big. It got long. I mean, people were writing thesis type posts. And it really surprised me because can you argue that an isolated strengthening exercise for, let’s say, Dan’s calf is [inaudible 00:00:04:55]. So that’s a movement. So maybe our issue is, we’re saying training movements, not muscles, but isn’t going up on your toes a movement? Who wants to talk about the function of going up on your toes or anything, or flexing your elbow? I don’t know, anyone got a thought on that? Did I stir some brainwaves on anyone?

Lenny Macrina:
I hear it a lot because I tend to get in a lot of ACL discussions. So the big thing is you do knee extension exercises after an ACL? Nevermind the whole full range of motion versus the limited range of motion, but just do you do an isolated knee extension to get a quadricep isolated exercise? I’d say yes. What’s the best way to isolate the quad? Doing the extension, but people say that’s not functional. How often are you doing a resistant knee extension during the day?

Lenny Macrina:
Well, if you really want to isolate the quad and get the quad the strongest as possible, and you’re doing squats and lunges and deadlifts and anything else that’s going to help facilitate that, then I think that’s the best way to do it. The best way we test quad strength is to do an isokinetic test of the extension. That’s our best way. We’re not measuring necessarily in other ways. We’re trying to measure the isometric contraction or isokinetic contraction.

Lenny Macrina:
So I still am in the camp like Dan. I think most of us are, or all of us are in our group. It’s a blend of both. You do some isolated stuff and you also do some movement type stuff. I think it’s just kind of common sense. I don’t understand this debate, why it’s still kind of lingering out there.

Mike Reinold:
I don’t know. Does everybody just love debating?

Lenny Macrina:
Yeah, at this point, yes. Social media is just [inaudible 00:06:35].

Mike Reinold:
This particular forum too, probably none of them listen to this podcast, but this particular forum, it’s like they have a hot point of the week, which is like [crosstalk 00:06:46] telling them I didn’t. I mean, maybe that’s how we’re supposed to grow as a profession. I don’t know. It’s just, but it’s like, hey, let’s all throw something out and argue about it for a week. I don’t know. Maybe that’s good. Right. I don’t know. Yeah. Anyway, I’ll stop talking about that. But I don’t know. I mean, I’d love to hear some other thoughts here. I think Lenny and Dan just said it really well. I think you guys talked really good about the importance of both. I don’t know. Maybe throw it out to Diwesh, who’s our fitness director at Champion, but do we, for us…

Mike Reinold:
I think when somebody comes to you healthy, we’re going to write them a program that trains movement patterns, because we want to enhance their function, and function’s more movement patterns to an extent. But if somebody has an isolated weakness of a muscle, like Lenny kind of said, then we’re also going to isolate it, strengthen that muscle. So I don’t know. Can you elaborate on our approach? If you’re bringing somebody through an assessment and you see they have some weakness, maybe they can’t do a gross movement pattern. What would you do?

Diwesh Poudyal:
Yeah. I mean, we definitely isolate when we need to. Right. I think what Lenny and Dan said about doing both, that 100% applies to PT and fitness. Obviously we’re there to improve performance, and if that means that we isolate hip extensors a little bit more and hip ERs a little bit more, that’s fine. And then on that same point, listen, if someone comes in and they say, one of my big goals is I want to have bigger arms because it’s going to make me feel better, yeah, we’re going to isolate biceps and triceps. I don’t think that I’m going to go to jail for doing that.

Mike Reinold:
Yeah. I mean, if somebody is an athlete and they come to us at Champion, we’re going to look at the movement patterns that they need to perform to succeed. And we’re going to make those movement patterns as strong as we can. But if they also need some isolated strengthening of an area that is a little bit behind, then yeah, there’s no reason not to include that.

Mike Reinold:
So Dave, what do you think? I’ve been dying to hear your thoughts here. I know you’ve been even holding back on us.

Dave Tilley:
Yeah. I kind of view this on the… Obviously I came from the rehab side, so it was more in that context first, but now I think about it even more in performance, kind of to what everyone’s saying is if somebody comes in with a performance goal or has a history of maybe a lower training age, especially, say they want to get better at running or jumping. Those are compound movements that require a lot of different things to go well, but if you have an isolated muscle that’s significantly weaker than the rest of that entire limb or arm or whatever it is, that’s probably going to be the rate limiting factor for somebody had a performance.

Dave Tilley:
If somebody has extremely underdeveloped hamstrings because they haven’t trained that before, it’s just more of a quad dominant program or in Dan’s case, maybe they just haven’t directly trained their calf. Well, we know that running stride is a significant amount of [inaudible 00:09:42] activity. And we know that to jump, you need really good [inaudible 00:09:44], hamstrings, glutes, ERs, whatever it is. So whether it’s somebody just not getting faster or not jumping higher, or whether somebody keeps getting hamstring tweaks or whatever it is, I think we know from the research available now that a lot of this comes down to workload and capacity.

Dave Tilley:
So if someone has extremely strong quads and extremely strong calves, say they are like Dan, they’re training three times a week, but they never do specific hamstring training, well, the thought process there is, okay, are you just going to do split squats and compound movements to try to train that? Doesn’t really make sense. If your car is having issues and the engine is the issue, don’t change the muffler, don’t change everything else. Try to focus on the one problem area and then work on the whole pieces. So yeah, I’ve always thought about that in a rehab context, but I think in performance, for some reason, sprinting and jumping makes more sense to people than other areas, but yeah.

Mike Reinold:
Yeah. So let me throw it, we could even ask Mike Scaduto or Lisa here, someone like that, but let’s say rowing, for example. Rowing’s very… So I don’t know enough about the biomechanics of rowing, but for me, if you think about it, it’s triple extension to an extent. So when you see somebody row, we have two options, I guess, if we’re going to use this analogy to rowing. We can only do a complex multi-joint row, and that’s the most functional thing for them. Or we can break down that triple extension and even more than that and say, well, two out of your three of the triple are really strong and one’s a little weak. Let’s increase your performance by focusing on that one thing and isolate that.

Mike Reinold:
Is that not what we all do? It seems like that’s what we would do. I don’t know, Lisa, Mike? I don’t know. Lisa, I’d love to hear your thoughts on a rower. How many times does a rower come in and you see a gap like that, where there’s one piece of the equation that’s weak that maybe is pathological or just weak or however it goes?

Lisa Russell:
Probably 95% of the time. I don’t think I’ve had a rower come to me really yet that there isn’t some sort of deficit, even just thinking of that triple extension chain. It’s only really true rowers, have I seen really good activation through the full chain in that way. And even then, there’s usually pieces that are better than others. So when we’re talking performance, you would still focus more individually on one group or one muscle to make it all function better.

Lisa Russell:
Yeah, I mean, as everybody’s been talking, I’ve definitely been thinking, I really don’t think I’ve worked with an athlete yet who wouldn’t benefit from some more isolated training to make the overall picture better. Even if they’re generally a strong person or a healthy person or good mover, usually there’s something that you can improve their overall explosiveness or stability or something by isolating. For rowers, for example, we move forward and backwards. We never move side to side. So the second you ask anyone to move side to side, there’s deficits. And working on those, whether rotationally or laterally, improve their ability to move forward and backwards, So I don’t think it’s ever not helpful to isolate things.

Mike Reinold:
Nailed it. And I think that’s kind of the key to me, is making sure that we break down all these activities. A functional movement has isolated components. So, interesting. Diwesh, did you have something else you wanted to add? [crosstalk 00:13:23] Lenny’s such a microphone hog.

Lenny Macrina:
I was going to say, I feel like we’re speaking in a vacuum. We just do one thing, and then that’s the only thing that we do. You know what I mean? There’s a progression, there’s months of strength training that’s going on. At some point you’re going to do isolated stuff. And then you move on. You’re not always doing knee extensions. I mean, I do a lot of knee… I kind of do after an ACL. They’re doing the extensions from early on till very late, but we’re talking in a vacuum. There’s a progression, a regression, there’s always a fluid dynamic thing. So to speak in these extremes, it’s just doesn’t make sense.

Mike Reinold:
Yeah. [crosstalk 00:00:14:02]. That makes sense. Sorry, Mike, go ahead.

Mike Scaduto:
I think that’s a great point that Lenny just made. I mean, if we’re looking to, from a rehab perspective, especially postoperatively, it may be a little more clear cut what the deficits are. Obviously people, pretty much everyone comes out of a ACL reconstruction with a weak quad. And part of our goal as a physical therapist is to get them ready to do more functional movement patterns in the gym. So we have to spend that time doing the isolated strengthening of the quad. Otherwise they’re never going to be able to tolerate a split-squat or a heavy loaded a front squat or something like that. So I think it is a continuum that, it depends where the person is along that will change our emphasis on what we’re doing. But I think it’s obviously a component of both and all training principles kind of combined into one progressive plan.

Lenny Macrina:
Man, that sounded intelligent. I heard continuum and… Man, good. That’s what I wanted to say.

Mike Scaduto:
I wanted to throw some big words out there.

Mike Reinold:
That was… your dichotomy of your paradigm shift narrative was quite conclusive.

Mike Scaduto:
Actually if anyone’s watching the YouTube version, you can’t see my mouth moving. So it actually wasn’t even me talking. Someone else saying that.

Mike Reinold:
So Mike’s wearing a mask because he’s at work right now, but that’s funny. You prerecorded that earlier in the day and just pressed play. It took you 10 takes. That’s awesome.

Mike Scaduto:
Reading off a teleprompter.

Mike Reinold:
Diwesh, you want to close this out with any final thoughts?

Diwesh Poudyal:
Yeah, I think I do have a quick closing remark. I think one of the biggest misconceptions is people think when we start talking about isolated training, that’s all that’s happening. And it’s a big percentage of our training. If I look across the board for all of the programs that we have for the fitness side of our things is we’re probably doing isolated movements for 5 to 10% of our training. The other 90%, we’re doing big, major movement patterns that are quote unquote functional, if we’re still using that term.

Diwesh Poudyal:
But I think people just get the fact messed up that if we start talking about isolated training, that that’s all we’re doing. . But if I look across the board, we have athletes that will do isolated rotator cuff strengthening, they will do clamshell variations or work on hip rotators. All that stuff is there, but it’s a small percentage of our overall training. It’s just a small piece of the puzzle. And I think that’s the biggest thing that came to mind.

Mike Reinold:
Yeah, that kind of makes sense. It goes kind of with what Lenny said too. I bet you on our perspective with an injured person, especially over the spectrum of their injury, perhaps acutely, We’re doing 80% isolated strengthening and 20% integrated. And then that starts to really evolve. I guess the debate comes down is, if you are literally only doing knee extension for 12 months after ACL reconstruction and that’s it, but who on earth is doing that? Nobody’s doing that. So, man. I don’t know. I think we solved the debate here today, everyone.

Mike Reinold:
But no, I don’t know. I think we bring good perspective. I think the issue isn’t necessarily on the concept. The issue is probably on the debate itself, is that it’s a false debate of something that we’re really not even debating. It’s an integration of all these things. So I always say that. I mean, I actually, I posted this in the forum, but it’s like, look, we strengthen isolated weakness and we train movements. So maybe that’s another concept too, strengthening or training. Training is, I want to get somebody to be faster, stronger, more powerful in a certain movement pattern. Whereas I want somebody to get isolated strong in Dan’s calves. So something like that. So that’s how we would put it all together. So I train Dan’s vertical jump and Dan’s going to isolate strengthen his extremely small sized calves that he has. So if you try to put all that together, that’s our debate.

Mike Reinold:
So hopefully this helps. If you have questions like that, please head to the website, head to Mikereinold.com. Click on that podcast link. And you can keep asking away. Anything you want to talk about related to these types of things hopefully we’ll get to. And in the future, please head to iTunes, Spotify, and rate and review us. And we will see you on the next episode.