A friend mentioned maxing out pushups as a challenge for ten days in a row. To me, this does not sound particularly healthy since it all but guarantees torn up muscles and they need time to rest. His response?

Actually certain forms of exercise are fine to do everyday bc its functional movement. Push ups are such a movement as well as pull ups, squats, and lunges.

I would imagine exercises--functional or not--are okay everyday to an extent (certainly not maxing out.) However, since that's just me talking, I was hoping for something more concrete. I was also wondering how much his examples truly do classify as "functional movements" since the terminology is new do me.

Please help set things straight for me.


The Short Answer About Your Friend's Advice

A movement being functional (whatever that means) does not disqualify it from causing an overuse injury or overtraining. Either your friend is wrong or we are not understanding your friend's argument.

What is a Functional Movement Anyway?

Classifying a movement as "functional" is a fuzzy endeavor. He might be using the CrossFit definition, which isn't quite science (as far as I know) but it's popular and it's not unreasonable. Here's the criteria:

Functional movements are universal motor recruitment patterns; they are performed in a wave of contraction from core to extremity; and they are compound movements—i.e., they are multi-joint. They are natural, effective, and efficient locomotors of body and external objects. But no aspect of functional movements is more important than their capacity to move large loads over long distances, and to do so quickly.

(Source: Greg Glassman, Understanding CrossFit. See this CrossFit forum post also).

That sounds like a fine set of guiding principles to me. Unfortunately the definition lends itself very quickly to degradation into "whatever sounds like fun". For example, this CrossFit gym uses functional as a broad term to justify the movements they already do. (Notice that they use multiple definitions, and apply their criteria haphazardly.) And where do these criteria come from, anyway? I'd welcome any evidence that Glassman didn't just create them from thin air.

Other definitions of functional might include:

  • Relating to your goals
  • Maximum-efficiency movements
  • Maximum-inefficiency movements (which, by being harder, create more muscle)
  • Full range-of-motion movements
  • Exercises that mimic prehistoric human hunting patterns

And so on. Bottom line, "functional" is a fuzzy term, and using it doesn't make the exercise magically not follow the laws of mammalian adaption to stress. Maxing out on push-ups (or squats, or lunges) every day for ten days (particularly if one is untrained) might work, but is probably not the safest or most productive way to work out.

| improve this answer | |
  • Thanks. This is basically right along the lines of what I was thinking even down to possible alternative definitions. I'm going to keep this open a bit longer hoping maybe somebody else will pipe in with another answer. – emragins Aug 24 '11 at 4:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.