Defining Function

July 13, 2011 1 comment

Defining Function

Chris Nentarz



A good understanding of function will help shape our perspective as to what assessment and treatment techniques are relevant to our clients and athletes.  While the semantics of popular definitions vary, there are some common principles we find that define the foundation for functional rehabilitation and performance.

Figure 1

3-Planes of Motion– The National Academy of Sports Medicine states function as an, “Integrated, multi-dimensional movement that requires acceleration, deceleration and stabilization in all three planes of motion. Functional training is training that enhances one’s ability to move in all three planes of motion more efficiently, whether you’re an athlete playing in a sport or simply performing activities of daily living.”

We operate in the sagittal, frontal and transverse planes.  (Fig 1) While traditional and machine based exercises are uniplanar, our strategies should focus on utilizing all three planes.

Figure 2

Feet on the Ground- According to Strength and conditioning expert Mike Boyle, functional training is, “An exercise continuum involving balance and proprioception, performed with the feet on the ground and without machine assistance, such that strength is displayed in unstable conditions and bodyweight is managed in all movement planes.”

Arguing over “closed chained vs open chained” is over-simplified and can a waste of time.  As a general rule, our feet are on the ground for function.  (Fig 2) But some functional movements are open chained, so we must be careful to observe the movement or exercise before passing judgement.


Sustainability- When asked about function, renowned Sports Chiropractor Kevin Jardine states, function is “Being able to successful do the task you set out to while minimizing the stresses imposed on and within the body.”

Function should be performed in a way that minimizes strain on our tissues and nervous system, so it may be repeated over and over again.  Our system should perform and be productive over a life span.  At 81 years of age, Lew Hollander, set out and completed his 21st Ironman.

Figure 3

Movement Quality- Gray Cook, well-known Physical Therapist states, “Function involves possessing the correct amount of mobility and stability, allowing for controlled and coordinated movement.”

Function involves movement, and movement should be executed with competence.  Quality movements reduce injury, and allow for freedom of expression within ones functional repertoire.



Defining global function will help us avoid “losing the sight of the forest for the trees.”  Your personal definition of function will act as a compass to point you in the direction of proper assessment and treatment techniques.

Categories: Uncategorized


By Chris Nentarz:

“My wife and I went to a (kindergarden) parent-teacher conference and were informed that our budding refrigerator artist, Christopher, would be receiving a grade of Unsatisfactory in art.  We were shocked.  How could ANY child- let alone our child- receive a poor grade in art at such a young age?”

Author Jordan Ayan, continues stating, “His teacher informed us that he had refused to color within the lines, which was a state requirement for demonstrating ‘grade-level motor skills.”  Jordan Ayan, AHA!

Our current educational system, ‘The Ford Model,” is oriented around memorizing facts.   It screams:

“Park your brains at the door!”  (Tom Peters)

Our assembly line model disregards deeper thought and ignores contemplation.

The world is begging for creativity, and this mindset must be introduced in our educational system.  Innovation generates cultural change and action.  For instance, the creation of the roman arch changed society forever.  The invention of the light bulb speaks for itself.

Tom Peters states, “The A students work for the B students, the C students run the businesses, and the D students have the buildings named after them.”

In your opinion, what is our educational framework missing?

Categories: Uncategorized

Getting Better or Wasting Time…

If you are a healthcare professional (doctor, physical therapist, massage therapist, personal trainer, coach, etc.), are your clients/patients/athletes getting better or are you just punching the clock everyday and wasting time? Sadly, it seems like most people are content with a clock-punching, factory line type of treatment. You know, shuffling clients/patients/athletes through the same, unsuccessful treatment/program with no regard to making sure progress is being made. The goal is to make whoever you are working with better and it’s up to the professional to know what steps needed to be taken to reach an optimal level.

What are your thoughts on this subject?

Categories: Uncategorized

Cyclists Getting Suspended

The following post is by Chris Nentarz:

Cyclists Getting Suspended

Our bodies are meant to move, and move often.  Cycling has been gaining popularity because of its promotion of movement and physical activity.  Cycling has something for everyone. It can be part of a social event or performed in seclusion.  It is an outdoor sport that can be done virtually anywhere ranging from city roads to dirt trails.  Whether cycling for competition or for recreation, pain can put the brakes on the fun.

Neck and back injuries are one of the largest reasons cyclists seek out medical care.  A recent study confirms the increasing trend of back pain stating that 44.2 % of male and 54.9% of female recreational cyclists presented for medical treatment of back pain.  The prevalence of these injuries suggests that we need be doing more to prevent these problems from occurring.

TRX Suspension Training has received considerable attention in injury prevention and performance training for cyclists.  The versatility and portability of TRX provides cyclists with limitless exercise choices.  In addition, many of the movements performed on the TRX enhance cycling performance, while proactively preventing injuries.  The TRX Chest Press and TRX Inverted Row are great exercises that prevent back pain, and enhance performance.

Push-ups have long been recognized as one of the best exercises choices to improve upper body strength and core stability.  Beach and colleagues found a suspended push-up, like the TRX Chest Press, significantly increased activation of abdominal wall muscles and latissmus dorsi compared to standard push-ups.  This has specific implications in cycling because fatigue to core muscles has been shown to alter lower extremity kinematics.  Altered kinematics leads to poor pedaling efficiency and unwanted stress on tissues.  Furthermore, poor efficiency increases the metabolic demands of the rider.

More evidence that implicates suspension training as a great tool for cyclists was presented in 2009.  The study demonstrated that a suspended body weight row, like the TRX Inverted Row, is superior to a bent over row and single arm cable row in achieving core muscular activation.  Furthermore, the study demonstrated that suspended rows have the lowest levels of compressive forces when compared to the alternative exercises.  This is relevant to cyclists because we want to choose exercises that do not place unnecessary stress on important structures in the spine.

Evidence aside, the TRX is a versatile tool for cyclists and will help you stay on the road or trail.  Suspended training will enhance stability and core strength, ultimately improving the foundation from which cyclists generate and sustain their power.  So, join the movement, get suspended.

Abt, J., Smoliga, J., Brick, M., Jolly, J., Lephart, S., & Fu, F. (2007). Relationship between cycling mechanics and core stability. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research , 21 (4), 1300-1304.

Beach, T., Howarth, S., & Callaghan, J. (2008). Muscular contribution to low-back loading and stiffness during standard and suspended push-ups. Human Movement Science , 27 (3), 457-472.

McGill, S., Karpowicz, A., Fenwick, C., & Brown, S. (2009). Exercises for the torso performed in a standing posture: spine and hip motion and motor patterns and spine load. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research , 23 (2), 455-464.

Wilber CA, Holland GJ, Madison RE, et al. An epidemiologic analysis of overuse injuries among recreational cyclists. Int J Sports Med 1995: 16: 201-6.

Categories: Uncategorized

Assessing Movement

Assessing movement is paramount for ultimate success in performance training. If we can’t get the body to move properly and efficiently, ultimately we will never reach perfection. Now, there are numerous ways of assessing movement, which depend on your individual skill set and knowledge. Personally, I’ll use the FMS and if needed, additional table assessments. If you’re a physical therapist, being able to use your hands allows you a little more freedom.

Here are some thoughts from Chris Nentarz:

It has been said, “First move well, then move often”. Our bodies are meant to move.

Rehabilitation and performance training methods should strive to find the place where optimal movement patterns produce powerful, efficient force. The point where evidence-based practice intersects practice-based evidence. Where science meets clinical intuition and experience.

The core of our techniques should consist of assessing and treating movement based dysfunctions, Identifying and treating such dysfunctions and restoring movement quality results in enhancing performance, while preventing wear and tear on the body’s moving parts. In addition, quality movement expends less energy and produces less repetitive strain increasing sustainability of the system.

Global movement assessments allow us to better understand kinetic linking within the body. Efficient linking is the production and transfer of movement or force to a distal point from a proximal stable point. When global dysfunction is present, we must challenge local tissue and patterns that may be contributing to larger movement dysfunctions. A detailed look at isolated movements will allow us to choose our intervention.

Our assessments give us a reference point to begin our chosen treatments. Intervention should always be followed by re-assessment. The yield of well-executed and intentional treatments should be observable improvements in selected assessment patterns.

What are your thoughts?

Categories: Uncategorized

Performance Training

In the interest of sparking educational discussion, I want to leave you with a brief message from Chris Nentarz, in which he speaks about performance training methods:

…Performance training methods should strive for the greatness found when optimal movement patterns produce powerful and efficient force. Well designed training programs can provide good results. Good design combined with good coaching will bring great results. Add in the wisdom of experience, the power of intuition and great mindset to produce infinite possibility…

Coaches & Trainers, what are your thoughts? What is your philosophy for success? Leave a reply below….

Categories: Uncategorized

Applying the Knowledge of John Wooden

March 31, 2011 1 comment

A few days ago, I finished reading “Wooden on Leadership” by John Wooden, who is regarded as one of the greatest coaches and teachers of all-time. I’ve been wanting to read “Leadership” for some time now and I’m glad I finally took the time to finish what is one of the best books I’ve ever read. Strength coaches, personal trainers, physical therapists, etc. can learn a TON about how to effectively communicate and motivate athletes, patients and clients. Below are just a few of the many profound statements found in the book:

  • “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.” This was Coach Wooden’s definition of success and conveying this message to athletes/clients may be very beneficial to their mindset.
  • “Balance is crucial in everything we do….balance was necessary for competitive greatness: The body has to be in balance, the mind has to be in balance and emotions must be in balance.” This is extremely applicable to coaching and training. We must balance between all of the different modalities we have at our disposable to ultimately achieve the greatest result. We can’t stick to one method of training or one technique.
  • “Call yourself a teacher. Put that on your business card and remember it well. However, I will confess that just calling yourself a teacher is not enough. You must also know how to teach.” Knowledge is one thing. Being able to communicate effectively with your athletes is another.
  • “The greatest holiday feast is eaten one bite at a time. Gulp it down all at once and you get indigestion. I discovered the same is true in teaching. To be effective, a leader must dispense information in bite-size, digestible amounts.” This is something I’ve struggled with and I’m sure many other coaches out there can relate. When teaching an exercise, I’ve learned to just give a couple basic cues and then attempt to correct a little bit each time. Little bits of information is much better than information overload, especially if you’re working with young athletes.
  • “There is a choice you have to make, in everything you do, So keep in mind that in the end, the choice you make, makes you” (Anonymous).
  • “Think small. Work hard. Get Good.” Probably my favorite quote from the book. Easy, simple philosophy.
  • “Make greatness attainable by all.”
  • “No system will be successful unless the players are well grounded in the fundamentals.” Again, this rings especially true with coaches and trainers. Our athletes need to master the basics first before they can move on to more advanced activities. The basic exercises (push up, pull up, split squat, etc.) and efficient locomotive skills are the building blocks for any great athlete.
Categories: Uncategorized