Friday, January 27, 2012

Replace Functional. Right idea, wrong word

If you wandered over here from my Facebook page, then you know that I enthusiastically bought "Muscle, Smoke and Mirrors vol II" as soon as I heard it was available for sale. It's been an oddly enthralling read. I've never been interested in bodybuilding but I've deeply enjoyed reading all of the goings-on in the transitional 1970's. Those years are the nearly-sole focus of this 700-plus page book.

You can't talk about those years without bringing up Arthur Jones. The Nautilus story takes up a significant chunk of the book. So, as I was reading about this "sport" that I don't have much interest in during years I wasn't born, I came across a part about how Arthur Jones lamented that his lats were too small. As he saw it, the problem was his hands were holding back his quest to get his Lattisimus Dorsi bigger. So, he set out to make a machine to take his hands out of the equation.

He felt as though he succeeded wildly, proudly proclaiming in all his brashness that he could put "lats on a rake" ... all that was necessary was a machine to take the hands out of the process.

That kind of thinking leaves me with one though...


Maybe, in addition to being a borderline maniac, Arthur Jones was an engineering genius. I run into that all of the time with work. There's lots of civil engineers that are really smart... and impractical as the day is long.

A while back when I decided to start reading about human anatomy, a very common way to describe the Lats was, "the climbing muscle," due to how heavily we all use the lat when we climb shit. So, riddle me this: how on earth do you climb anything if you don't use your hands? Forget the climbing for a second. How much can we do with the lats without the hands?
and this helps with what exactly?

I used a word a minute ago that we don't see too often in muscle training: impractical. I don't think that we use this term enough. Instead, we see exercises referred to as either, "functional," or not. Maybe that's a piss-poor label. Functional exercise is something that helps you achieve a goal. So, any exercise is functional. That's not what we're referring to and lots of people make themselves look silly by using this phrase, even if they're getting at something they're not properly defining.

Impractical is what we're getting at. There are lots of stuff you can do to make big, strong muscles but it's an open question as to whether it's worth doing in the first place. Like I said before, what can you do with your lats with in real life that doesn't require the use of your hands? So, what the hell good is a machine that sets you up to work out in ways you'll never move outside of a gym?

So, it's worth thinking about the way you're moving when you're in your respective gym. A little practicality would be a nice change of pace in people's methods of working out. While you're trying to be practical, dump the mislabeling phenomenon known as "functional training."Owner of some of the best Lats in history. So, maybe there is something practical about building big lats: it drives the babes nuts!

2 comments:

Tyciol said...

"how on earth do you climb anything if you don't use your hands?"

Your riddle is pointless. Just because we frequently use a muscle to use a given task doesn't mean that task is the only thing the muscle can do, nor the only way to train it. You can't climb without lats, but you can work lats without climbing.

What's next? The grip is worked with climbing, so non-climbing approaches to grip training (like farmer's holds, deadlifts) don't qualify? What exactly are you trying to say?

"How much can we do with the lats without the hands?"

Lots. How do you think you throw a downward elbow strike in MMA? No grip involved.

Try doing a front lever motion while hanging from ab slings too, or a 'reverse pushup'.

"this helps with what exactly?"

The lever machine you should allows the lats to be worked without stressing the elbow or wrist joints. Pressure is exerted directly on the humerus and doesn't fatigue grip or biceps like pulling movements do.

"what can you do with your lats with in real life that doesn't require the use of your hands?"

Again: elbowing people behind you, or below you. Also: keeping your elbows in tight. The lats also help to extend the lower back.

Machines like this are also good for people who use too much biceps from years of curling and want to wake the lats up for compound moves.

This can be easier on the wrist for things like pullovers too.

Justin_PS said...

I don't do a lot of elbow striking in life. I don't think you do either. So, you need to come up with another example.

BTW, most MMA strikes on the ground don't use much of the lats. They're mostly arm strikes. That's why you don't see many one-shot KO's on the ground.

Try doing things rather than studying them.