My house needs a new roof. I have 10 friends who are capable of helping do the job. On the day of the re-roofing all 10 friends show up hammer in hand and ready to work. Realizing there is a huge job ahead of us and accepting the more help I have the quicker and more efficiently it will get done, I welcome all 10 friends with open arms. The bigger and stronger the team the easier the job becomes on each individual person.
10 friends show up and I decide that is too much and send half of them home. Now only 6 of us remain to do the job of 11.
We will have to bust hump all day long.
Skip lunch and breaks to make sure we are done on time.
The sun goes down and we are still franticly working, desperately trying not to extend the project into a second day.
We might have finished sooner but our small team has forced each of us to work twice as hard physically. The exertion and frantic pace have been wearing on us all day. Our production output is only a fraction of what it was earlier in the day.
The job finally gets done and we are all ready to sleep for a week, desperately needing rest for our badly beaten bodies. Anything we planned on getting done tomorrow is now a pipe dream. We only hope to have the energy to get off the couch to make it to the bathroom in time.
Which team would you rather be on; the team of 11 or the team of 6?
So why in fitness and performance training do we often choose the team of 6?
You can train strength two different ways; you can choose to Isolate (team of 6) or integrate (team of 11).
Isolation training is choosing “one” muscle or joint action and stressing it with resistance. We put a lot of stress on one area and purposefully make sure other muscles are not “helping out”. The end result can lead to strength gains but comes with lots of soreness, recovery time and high potential for injury.
Integrated strength is using the entire body as a cohesive unit to absorb and produce maximum amounts of force across the entire system. A building does not fall with the first hit of the wrecking ball because it is designed to distribute the force of the impact throughout the entire structure. The key to building good integrated strength is “linking” the upper and lower body through the core & develop efficient movement habits. When joints can move without restrictions and in effective sequencing the result is more force production/absorption with less stress on any one area. The most valuable aspect is now you are training the body to function in a similar environment that it needs to perform in (sport/life).
There is a time and place for isolation training in a performance based workout program but it is a piece of the puzzle not the big picture. The end goal is always that everything works together, that the systems can integrate well. We can use isolation to develop weak links and strengthen components of movements but it should never be the corner stone of our training program.
To incorporate these ideals into your training simply focus on the whole instead of focusing on the pieces. The pieces are important but always keep the big picture and end result in mind.