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Mind-Body, Health and Wellness: Functional Movement for Strength

With all those leg presses, bicep curls, and squats, you are totally fit, right? Then why do you still throw out your back when you reach down to tie your shoes? What’s going on?

Each of us place unique demands on our bodies to accomplish our daily activities.  Our muscles must work together to excel at a certain sport, lift our kids in and out of a stroller, or even sit for long periods of time. Every activity places demands on our bodies that are not addressed by strength training isolated muscle groups.

Functional fitness, or functional movement, is about understanding how your body works in your daily life. Then, realizing how your body SHOULD work in your daily life. Finally, it’s about developing a program with dynamic, functional movements that stretch and strengthen your body to achieve optimum performance.

To learn more about functional movement, I visited Trevor King – Head Coach at Energy Lab Training. I have worked with Coach Trevor in the past to improve my swimming abilities and wanted to learn more about his work in strength training.

What services does Energy Lab Training provide?
We look at ourselves as a full-service personal training and coaching group for everyone from the person just getting off the couch, to someone competing in their first triathlon, up to an iron man triathlon. We have a network of partners that include physical therapists, A.R.T. [Active Release Technique] specialists, chiropractors, and various types of integrative medicine specialists.

How long have you been coaching?
I’ve been working under the physical therapy group that I partner with now for approximately 7 years.  I’ve been coaching swimming since I was 18 and went full-time on my own doing coaching and functional strength training in 2008.

What would you say motivates you? What do you love about what you do?
I love to see people move – movement creates change in people’s lives. We overlook a lot of simple things that athletes get to experience every day. Perfect example, we have this newbie swimmer.  She has come out a few times, always shows up late, and shows up without a wetsuit; she is completely apathetic. She says she is motivated, but she’s doing everything possible to defeat herself.  Today she showed up and only stayed in the water for 20 minutes, but she figured out how to swim in the open water. Unbelievable!  She was so excited.

So it’s about being able to make a change in someone’s life, so they can make a change in someone else’s. It’s about understanding that a small change in the way that someone lives can help them make a difference in so many others. That’s really what we want to be able to do – help others do what they want to do.  And I truly believe that it all begins with fitness.

Let’s say you’re somewhere between an athlete and someone who’s just getting off the couch. What is your approach and what do you recommend?
Strength really needs to be specific to the individual. We need to look at what you are doing on a day-to-day basis: are you doing a sport, are you taking care of your kids, do you have a job that requires lifting? What exactly is it?

One of the key workouts that we have, which is a crossover for most things, is a simple lunge.

  • We start by making it into a walking lunge. So you’re going one leg after another.
  • Next, we modify it a number of different ways, so we get across three planes of movement: sagittal, frontal, and transverse. To create those different planes of movement, we use the upper body while the lower body is doing the same movement repeatedly.
  • Then, we look at the workload and specify the load required for that individual in what they do in their lives.

How do you take a simple pose and make it dynamic? –Add movement.  How do you make it functional? –Make that movement mirror the demands of your daily life. Coach Trevor demonstrated what it means to add movement and strength training to a simple lunge. To try, take 10 steps forward for each movement shown.

Energy Lab Training is based in North County with events and training programs throughout San Diego. To learn more about Energy Lab Training and Coach Trevor’s work, visit

In health,

Bahareh is a certified Health Coach based in Encinitas, California. She empowers others to live healthier, happier lives by eating healthy, reducing stress, and finding balance.

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Author: Steve

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