View Full Version : Re: FORM to FUNCTION Ratio

John A. Casler - Bio-force
05-02-2000, 02:29 PM
From: MC Siff

> The therapeutic and fitness training worlds still seem to place a heavy
> emphasis on an isolationist approach to physical testing and conditioning,
> without carefully identifying the situational limitations and scope
> such as approach is used.
> Attempts are made to test and train muscles individually. Few days pass
> without comments being made on isolating the upper or lower abs for
> selectively training the core of the body, activating transversus
> to 'stabilise the trunk', testing for weaknesses or imbalances in certain
> muscle groups or explaining poor performance or injury on the basis of
> imbalance in some isolated system of the body.
> The body constitutes a linked system

> This is not to negate the value of approaches that use isolationist
> approaches for valid therapeutic or analytical reasons, such as those
> involving EMG mediated biofeedback,
> If we do so, then we may also become far more careful to avoid referring
> rigidly to certain muscles as stabilisers, movers, agonist, antagonists,
> flexors, adductors and so on, instead choosing to refer to the
> moving, agonistic, antagonistic, flexor and adduction roles of a muscle
> during any given phase of a specific motor action.

****Dr Siffs comments are relevant and "on the mark". The "trend" in most
exercise machines and devices used by everyone from medical to commercial
exercise concerns "has" been to "isolate".

I think it has to be recognized that most everyone uses exercise for two
major purposes.

1) to promote better functioning (function)

2) to promote better appearance (form)

The "form" versus "function" relationship is found in many areas. In
everything from automobiles to clothing, we evaluate the personal value of
something on whether it "functions" well for us (Bench Shirt) or if it looks
better (dress clothing) (form). Nowhere is this more prominent than in

Over the last several years, I have been involved in the development of a
line of exercise machines
and a system to use them. In the research and development of this system, I
have formed several conclusions regarding this form/function dichotomy.

1) With very few exceptions, isolated single joint exercises are not
designed to promote normal function of the body. In fact in most instances
isolation can actually retard or reduce function.

2) Maximum funtional exercise would allow controlled progressive "external
loading" to be accomplised in in "all planes of motion" (most likely only
accomplishable by taking a trip to Jupiter) in a closed chain that mimics
the sport or activity's motor pattern.

3) Developing specific muscles can be accomplished with Isolation movements
and maybe (arguably) better than "multi joint" or CKC exercises. The
motivation for such development is primarily "for show" (form)

4) Large muscles are not always strong and small muscles are not always
weak. Additionally we might note that radically hypertrophied muscle may
not always be considered aesthetically pleasing

5) Building a "beautiful???" or at least asthetically pleasing body is a
good enough reason to exercise. Aesthetically pleasing proportions, shape
and muscle detail can be an end goal in itself.

6) Most training systems and programs provide "benefit bleeding". That is
even slow weight training causes some increase in heart rate (in higher rep
and intensity levels) and even jogging will build a little strength. Very
few exercises are pure in their results to specific system or result. 1 rep
maximums and marathon running might be considered at the opposing ends of
the spectrums.

7) Most functional exercises are Closed Kinetic Chain and most "form" or
body building exercises are "Open Kinetic Chain.

8) Machines generally attempt to isolate the muscle by placing "reactive
force pads" in such a way as to stabilize the body, concentrating the
exercise to the specific area or muscle. (preacher bench, bench press, leg
press, leg extension, etc) These "external stablizers" reduce the role of
the "internal stabilizers" and are one reason for reducuced functionality.

9) Machines generally use "active" force pads, handles, grips, pedals,
platforms and the like to "apply" forces to the body.

10) Very few strength machines are designed in a way that will "provide"
major improvements to even general motor patterns. The exceptions to this
are machines designed "specifically" for improving "specific" actions like
jumping, dragging, etc.

I think for general purposes it is best if most exercises carry a "form to
function ratio" designation. Because in my marketing I feel it best if a
client/user is made aware of the general capabilities of the specifc
exercise he or she is undertaking and the "total" form to function ratio of
their overall program.

This way we can get a more defined perspective relating to proper proportion
of "form to function". Even when you design your own program you can do the
same thing.

For example, If you are doing "preacher curls" you are probably looking a
"form to function" ratio of 5/95. That means 95% of that exercise is to
promote the look and hypertrophy of the biceps. The other 5% may, in some
way, help functionally in an activity. A standing barbell curl may be
15/85. This means in everyday activity or a sport, the barbell version of
the curl may be 15% functional and 85% for show a better choice for someone
more interested in big biceps and a bit of functionality.

In our system, we use a computer to total the "overall" "form to function
ratio" so if a client says their goal is to look and function equally well,
they would need an overall 50/50 "form/function ratio". This way, no one is
duped into thinking that they need to do "leg extensions and leg curls" to
run faster. Bigger, more shapely thighs maybe, but the "form to function"
ratio of Leg extensions is 80/20 so 80% is going to make you "look" better.

Please keep in mind I just "picked" these "ratios" for this post and in the
final evaluation they may change, but I thought some of you might be
stimulated by the concept and at least find the individual analysis of
exercises you use, interesting.

Go ahead and look at all the exercises in your routine. Assign a "form to
function" ratio and see how it comes out. Also it might be good to remember
in your evaluation that some exercises can have different "ratings"
depending on how they are used and what your form and function goals are.
If they are used as assistance exercises or the like, they may have a higher
function. And their actual performance can affect the rating. Obviously a
"super slow" bench press is less "functional than an "explosive" bench in
some applications.

The point is that as Mel points out "isolating" or training a single muscle
in a very concentrated motor pattern (as in high intensity concentration
curls) may be OK for some goals, but we have to know when to use functional
exercises, when to "pump the bump" and when to combine the styles.

Is it FORM? or is it FUNCTION? Or what is the FORM to FUNCTION Ratio?


John A. Casler

"Sweat Happens

To unsubscribe send SIGNOFF BIOMCH-L to LISTSERV@nic.surfnet.nl
For information and archives: http://isb.ri.ccf.org/biomch-l