Functional Training Zones

Functional Biomechanics

By Gary W. Gray, PT

Functional biomechanics is a science that helps us understand the totality of the human body. Functional biomechanics appreciate the relationships and interactions that the various body parts, segments and systems have with each other that contribute to the ability or inability to function. Understanding those relationships and interactions provides a practical framework in order to begin to comprehend the complexity of human function. Function is a miraculous combination of complex systems that are linked and interwoven with each other. It is the interaction of the various systems within the chain of the body and the interaction with the environment that dictates human function. Functional biomechanics can therefore be fully appreciated and described as a chain reaction.

Basic Systems of Function

The basic systems of function that react together within the body chain are the nervous, muscular and skeletal systems as supported by the cardiovascular system. Functionally combined, they are termed the neuromusculoskeletal (NMS) system. Millions of nerves, hundreds of muscles and bones are delicately integrated within the human body to react together and form the functional chain of human biomechanics. Biomechanically understanding the interrelationships of the NMS system requires functional knowledge of the interaction of the NMS system within its environments. Knowing why and how the chain reaction of the NMS system occurs in order to produce all forms of function is the key to understanding and taking advantage of functional biomechanics.

Functional Activities

Human function is referenced relative to the required or desired functional activities within the given environment. Global functional activities include hygiene and dressing activities, household and job activities, training and conditioning activities, recreation and sporting activities as well as therapy and rehabilitation activities. Core functional activities need to be successfully integrated in order to perform the required or desired global functional activities. A multitude of core functional activities must be considered as the essential basic components for all of human global function.

Core Functional Activities

Rolling
Extending
Skipping
Kneeling
Twisting
Ascending
Standing
Turning
Descending
Walking
Pivoting
Reaching
Stepping
Jogging
Balancing
Pushing
Running
Shifting
Pulling
Sprinting
Squatting
Lifting
Decelerating
Lunging
Carrying
Accelerating
Stabilizing
Jumping
Kicking
Bending
Hopping
Throwing
Catching
Swinging
Swimming
Skating
Skiing
Striking

3-D Human Function

Human function is three dimensional. We function within three planes of motion, or in all three dimensions simultaneously. The planes of motion are utilized as a reference. The sagittal plane refers to forward and backward motion. The frontal plane refers to side to side motion. The transverse plane refers to rotational motion. All of our core functional activities require an integrated NMS system that reacts and moves in all three planes simultaneously. Walking forward obviously includes sagittal plane motion, but actually is dominated by transverse plane motion with significant frontal plane motion occurring concurrently. Successful standing and balancing requires three dimensional capabilities of the NMS system throughout the chain reaction. Because of how our joints are formed, how our muscles are attached and how our nerves are wired all core functional activities are three dimensional including components of all three planes at the same time.