Functional Training Zones


by Gary W. Gray, PT, Chief Knowledge Officer – Movement Science, Summit Life Systems

As human movement professionals, our mission is to be able to transform our principles and concepts of function into the most effective exercises, activities and techniques to enhance function. We must be able to logically derive practical strategies from our integrated principles of function. The biomechanics of body movements is complex. In order to fully comprehend human function we must appreciate the guiding principles and concepts that accurately describe what we know about functional biomechanics.

Tweakology™ is the study of choosing and managing the most effective functional variables to create the optimal functional environments for analysis, rehabilitation, prevention, and performance training and conditioning. Our ability to effectively tweak is proportionate to our understanding of human function. Tweakology™ forms the foundation of our strategies. Our strategies, our tweaks, establish the integral link between the principles and the exercises. Tweakology™ is the transformation of the notion (what we know about function) into the motion (what function looks like). Principles of function are what we know, strategies (Tweakology™) are the practical uses of what we know, and exercises are the playing out of what we know.

If we know function is flexible and variable, driven, subconscious, synergistic, three dimensional, and a Chain Reaction™, then our transformation of this understanding must be consistent with this notion. Our tweaks, our strategies, must directly reflect pure biomechanics and be able to facilitate and enhance the entire spectrum of human function. Tweaking is complex because human movement is complex. Just as our journey into understanding and appreciating human biomechanics has brought us to the simple side of complexity, our study of strategic functional variables has allowed us to simplify the complexities of Tweakology™.

The task of logically applying Tweakology™ to exercise programs has been simplified by organizing tweaks into three primary categories: 1) Movement tweaks 2) Dimension tweaks 3) Influence tweaks. Each of these primary categories includes four specific subsets of each major tweak. Movement tweaks include plane tweaks, range tweaks, position tweaks, and joint tweaks. The subsets of dimension tweaks are time tweaks, repetition tweaks, distance tweaks, and sequencing tweaks. Influence tweaks are logically divided into control tweaks, load tweaks, equipment tweaks, and feedback tweaks.

Creating the environment to facilitate a specific plane of motion to dominate the exercise or activity is a significant movement tweak that reflects our understanding that function is tri-plane, or three dimensional. Even though all motions of the human body are tri-plane, plane tweaks can create a dominance in the sagittal, frontal, or transverse plane. Position tweaks have a tremendous impact on the exercise with respect to the body's relationship to gravity and the degree of stability. These tweaks include the positions of supine, prone, side lying, all fours, kneeling, sitting, and standing. The major positions themselves can be positionally tweaked further (e.g. standing with a wide base, a narrow base, stride stance, toed in, toed out, and single leg). Tweaking the range of motion is a critical functional variable. Range tweaks include tweaking the end range, mid-range, initial range, and full range. Joint tweaks can increase or decrease the contribution of one or more joints to the total body movement. This allows the joint(s) to be functionally isolated while still integrated with the rest of the body.

Dimension tweaks include the straightforward variables of time, repetition, and distance. Time can be utilized as a manipulation to facilitate a slower or faster reaction. Repetition tweakings include reps and sets, but even groups and periodization. Time and repetition tweaks complement each other as testing and training variables when the time required to complete a set number of repetitions is measured. Likewise, a period of time can be selected when documenting the number of repetitions performed. There are multiple distance tweaks including horizontal and vertical distances, as well as rotational degrees of movement. Sequencing tweaks are significant variables of leveling and progressions. Determining what to do first and what to do next (and why) demands sequential functional logic.

Influencing the exercise or activity can be effectively accomplished with control, load, equipment, and/or feedback tweaks. Determining the amount and type of external control significantly influences the exercise. Load tweaks produce a powerful influence on an exercise or activity. The type of load, such as a free weight, bungee cord, pulley system, or machine, can be employed to create the desired reaction. The type of load and the point of application of the load determine the functionality of the tweak in relation to the desired effect. The type of equipment utilized is a challenging tweak when creating enhanced environments to ultimately facilitate function. The degree, type, and the timing of the feedback dramatically influence the reaction of the exercise and the ongoing response to the activity.

The progression and efficacy of training and rehabilitation programs are dependent on exercising at the threshold of success. Tweakology™ is the vehicle for determining the present threshold of function. This threshold is then expanded by designing and managing the functional environment through the appropriate utilization of Tweakology™. The specific strategies employed must be consistent with the desired function and our knowledge and understanding of human movement.

For more information on Tweakology, check-out the Tweakology Package which includes a book and two DVDs. It's specially priced!