functional progressionSometimes we make things too complicated. There are all kinds of elaborate programs on the market telling you how to get in great shape. But what if I told you that the foundation to being fit and strong was so easy a baby could do it? It would be hard to believe, but it's true. And babies everywhere are doing it!  

I am talking about doing basic functional movements modeled after babies and how they move, organize movement patterns, and learn to stabilize.  Since we do not have to teach babies how to move - lift their head, rollover, or crawl - we typically don’t think about all that goes into these developments. 

If we look closely, however, there is much that we can learn from the amazing process these little ones go through as they develop their ability to move.

“The functional progression is a movement sequence that mimics the way babies naturally develop movement patterns - from the ground up, from the core outward. When practiced daily, the Functional Progression rehabilitates compromised core muscles (such as happens with pregnancy) and strengthens your core to move the way it was designed to move.” Erica Boland DC 

A Developing Baby

As the central nervous system matures infants gain more and more control over their movements. They are able to control their posture and move in more intentional ways. This generally happens automatically, with each new movement building off the last in a specific developmental sequence. 

The baby’s bones, muscles, and soft tissue are maturing simultaneously. Together this allows the baby to develop automatic motor patterns and gain structural stability. Proper development in these areas is the foundation of healthy, efficient movement.


Functional Progression for Adults

Later in life people often begin to move in ways that are less ideal. The demands and expectations of modern society tend to limit our movement. We sit in chairs and desks for far too many hours a day. We slouch, slump, and just plain old turn off our core muscles while we veg out on comfortable furniture.  Certain muscles are used less, while others are overused. This creates an imbalance that can lead to instability and injury.

Research has found that the way a baby moves is the most efficient way to move. When we deviate from this type of movement we will not function at our best. It is important to relearn those patterns of movement. Functional Progression exercises allow us to reestablish these movement patterns so that they become natural again. 

Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization

Functional progression movements are based on the Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS). This treatment approach believes that “every developmental position is an exercise position.” 

In order for the positions to be therapeutic, it is important to be intentional with the following details.

  • Correct breathing pattern
  • Proper support of movement
  • Alignment of the joints

It is extremely important to use proper form. The benefits come from slowly retraining your body and brain in these movement patterns. Since the exercises build off each other it is not valuable to rush ahead until you can do the former exercise consistently with the proper form.

The Functional Progression Movements

These videos will begin to walk you through functional progression exercises. As you can see, the videos below are from an amazing group called BIRTHFIT. While this group uses these exercises to train pregnant and postpartum women, they are a perfect fit for anyone with a core!

BIRTHFIT Movement: Diaphragmatic Breathing

BIRTHFIT Movement: Functional Progression 1

BIRTHFIT Movement: Transition from Functional Progression 1 to 2

Ultimate Goal of Functional Progression

The International Journal Of Sports Physical Therapy explains that DNS “train(s) the brain to maintain central control, joint stability and ideal quality of movement that is achieved through guidance from the clinician. Eventually, through repetition of the exercises, the central control establishes an automation model that becomes a fundamental part of everyday movement and skills.”

This is the foundation and goal of the Functional Progression as well. Once we establish these efficient patterns of movement we will be stronger and less prone to injury. It is foundational to our musculoskeletal health.  

I am passionate about leading you to greater health! If you are interested in learning more about Functional Progression or would like to work with me to learn these movements give us a call 630-448-0255. 

Dr. Jamie