In 2008, my life completely changed. Though I always had a knack for athleticism, the hobbies of then 13-year-old me mainly involved video games.
This all changed when my Dad signed me up for mixed martial arts. It kicked off an obsession with fitness, and over the course of that year, I went from being a scrawny kid to having a physique that looked more appropriate on the cover of a Men’s Health magazine than a 14 year old boy.
When it comes to fitness programs and sports, my curriculum vitae includes P90X, P90X2, P90X3, Insanity, Insanity Max Thirty, Insanity Asylum, Taekwondo (blackbelt earned,) Muay Thai, Jiu-Jitsu, varsity swim team, state qualifying water polo team, cross country, varsity discus throw, rock-climbing, and competitive crossfit.
That’s not my attempt to brag. Hell, if anything I was just obsessed. I was rarely the top at any sport other than taekwondo (my main and first,) but I definitely had a great blend of fitness and function (or I couldn’t have done all this.) I noticed, however, that I never really fit in with the gym rats.
Over time, the things I did helped me start defining functional fitness, but it was a journey.
The Dysfunctional Gym
One thing that always bothered me is how dysfunctional most people’s bodies are if they just use the gym. I got my base from P90X, which relies primarily on body-weight exercises and includes yoga, but most gym-goers just lift weights.
Heck, the fittest looking people I knew often had the worst flexibility or were limited by injuries. They could do some awesome bicep curls but not one could bend over and touch their toes.
On the flip-side, my fellow sports teammates could swim for hours, fight in martial arts tournaments, or throw a discus; But their bodies didn’t “look” athletic, and they typically left strength and power on the table due to avoiding working out.
Over a long time straddling the two worlds, I began to develop an image of what it means to be functionally fit. .
Functional fitness involves using a wide variety of movements with a focus on the whole body.
Like a sport, it trains you to utilize all your muscles as one cohesive system.
But functional movements also focuses on building muscle and strength. The combination of the total body functionality of sports with the gym-rat emphasis on muscle mass creates a perfect yin-and-yang scenario.
What is Functional Fitness
Here’s where things get tricky again. Even though functional fitness is a hot term in modern fitness, most “functional fitness” programs I see are no better than any other.
P90X worked for me (and many others) because it used lots of body weight movements, focused on stretching, plyometrics, and even yoga. Though most of the program resembled body building, the pace, volume, and variety helped create fitness without imbalances or stiffness.
Other training styles like Crossfit achieve functional fitness by using almost exclusively whole-body movements. It’s hard to say how often a Crossfit workout has pushups or bicep curls (I never saw the latter,) but whole-body burpees are a nearly weekly endeavor.
Another big way Crossfit creates functional fitness is through the marriage of gymnastics and barbell work.
Though I grew up hearing that barbells made you a meathead, the truth is these are amazing devices for building both mobility and strength. With the exception of the bench press, I can’t think of a single popular barbell exercise that doesn’t use your whole body.
I didn’t pick up a barbell until I was 21 years old. I was already fit and had been for years, but the bar gave me 26lbs more lean body mass while simultaneously improving my hip and shoulder mobility. It was great, but there is a realm beyond even that.
The Era Of Fascia-based Movement
You’d think after all I’ve said, I’d proclaim crossfit the end-all-be-all for functional fitness. The moves make you strong and mobile. They training spans from cardio to HIIT to olympic weightlifting.
And yet, even crossfitters struck me as limited. For one thing, the workout intensity makes crossfit inacessible for many beginners, not to mention causing hormone burnout for some athletes.
But even the movements left something to be desired. My background with martial arts gave me distinct advantages and greater resilience to injury (and way better mobility) when I was competing in crossfit. So what gives?
What gives is ellastic forces. What gives is fascia. What gives is the fact that our bodies are filled with tissues that allow us to twist, and turn, and create immense power via coiling and shifting movements. I mean, think about it, would a caveman ever lift a perfectly shaped weighted bar?
But he would shove a tree-trunk out of his way, or carry a kill slung over his back. He would swing a mace, or throw a spear (which if you’ve ever seen, involves coiling multiple parts of the body to create the throwing force.)
And I believe this is also why I always had an advantage even in sports as functional as crossfit.
Because I had grown up doing martial arts, I spent a great deal of time twisting, turning, and jumping all at the same time. I had built fitness into my body to the level of the ellastic.
When you turn, tension shoots across fascia tissue that connect every muscle and organ and bone to every other part of your body. We normally think of strength and power and movement in terms of activating our muscles, but I’ve come to believe fascia is a much bigger part of the equation. I mean, after all, what is more powerful? Throwing a ball? Or using a slingshot?
But most training neglects the fascia. Most training is far more focused on your muscles and on “stability.”
These days though, I’m much more focused on instability. How can I train in a way that requires me to be dynamic? To load my body asymmetrically, and to be constantly shifting and moving between positions?
This is a little device called the Total Motion 360 comes in.
Total Motion 360: True Functional Fitness In Your Gym Bag
Yep. This article is about a product. Sue me. But when you’re done with that, read on. There’s a reason I’m so intent on this.
Look, the type of functional fitness I’ve described is amazing in theory, but requires an expert knowledge and background to really figure out on your own. Pretty much everyone I know who trains this way is a career athlete or a coach.
Yet in my opinion, the people who need this training most are the ones with the least knowledge. It’s the injured, imbalanced, unhealthy, and overweight who need dynamic work that actually brings your body into balance and strength simultaneously.
Normally to get this you’d have to spend a ton of money on equipment, gym memberships, coaching, or learning (and usually a combination of all that.)
And this is why I’m so excited about Total Motion 360.
You see, this device pretty much forces you to use functional fitness just by putting your hands on it, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Total motion 360 is a device that looks like a barbell on one side, and a weighted mace on the other. Used in its traditional fashion, the “mace” sits in a stand and you rotate the bar with your hands.
This closely resembles newly popular “landmine training” but with much more accessibility.
Where landmine training leaves you with a long, heavy barbell crudely hitched into some bumper plates, total motion gives you a much lighter bar with a way smoother feel to it. To be honest, at first I thought it was just gonna feel like landmine training in fancy packaging, but I was blown away by the versatility.
At 17lbs, I thought TM360 would feel too light. Instead, it felt perfect (and I’m a big guy.) You can always add weight with bumper plates, but on its own the bar promotes fun and play that a heavier device would hinder.
Instead, you naturally get creative and can easily end up training freestyle for 5, 10, 15, or 20 minutes. The bar naturally invites you to move through different positions such as pressing, twisting, lunging, squatting, and coiling.
And what’s more, for the advanced out there, you can lift the whole bar out of the stand for some challenging odd object work.
This is where things get really cool. Barbells are not typically portable. The things are like 7ft long, heavy as hell, and unruly.
Total motion’s bar is split in half though. You can unscrew it and end up with what is essentially a weighted mace and a club. Both of these halves can be used on their own as odd objects or for tissue mashing (more on that later) while also fitting easily in the trunk of your car.
When we combine all these elements, you have a device basically brings you into the realm of functional fitness training with minimal need for guidance and accessibility for everyone. Advanced users will find all sorts of creative uses beyond landmine training, but beginners will still get amazing function with minimal guidance.
And though the device is still in its crowdfunding phase, I’m going to give a quick guide to all the amazing ways you can use it.
Grab It & Hold On
Grab it and hold on sums up what I consider to be the traditional way of using the TM360 bar. Like the title says, grab onto the end of the bar, and then just do your thing.
I’ll often start by pressing the bar overhead a few times, maybe alternating it from shoulder to shoulder. Then I’ll throw in a squat or lunge between presses, and perhaps I’ll end with some more-complicated plyometric jumps.
This is a device that responds well to a creative mind and a playful heart. Just moving the bar through the space quickly becomes an addictive workout. Before you know it your legs start to get sore and your heart-rate increases.
Set a timer for 5, 10, or 20 minutes, hold on, and keep moving.
Take It To The Ground
Another huge area where TM360 shines is its ground game. Sitting down and using the device adds an element to core work that is both fun and challenging. Try holding a slight sit-up while alternating the bar between shoulders, or sit sideways and press the bar overhead.
You can even use the bar for “rollouts” by putting a weight on the end and literally rolling it out.
Lots of ab work focuses on a limited motion range, without resistance. The TM360 adds a dynamic element that breaks the mold. As I personally get more comfortable with the device, I’d love to try movement sequences that involve going from the ground to standing work all without letting go.
Odd Object Work
As I’ve alluded to, another great feature of the TM360 bar is its relevance as an odd object. Either leave the bar whole or split it in two and use the halves the same way you’d use a weighted mace or club.
One of my favorite videos of a user is a guy sitting on the ground and using the bar like a kayakers oar. With the odd weight distribution and requirement for precision, you can literally see his core working.
Odd objects are great additions to a gym in their own right, and the fact that you get essentially three-in-one is awesome.
Tissue mashing is a technique used by physical therapists and movement coaches to release tension and improve mobility. If that still sounds confusing, have you ever seen someone lying on a lacrosse ball? Maybe you’ve used a foam roller at your local gym? That’s tissue mashing.
One of the best tools for tissue mashing is a plain old barbell.
Rolling the collar of a barbell over your tight quad (upper thigh) or mashing it down one your traps or shoulders is an extremely efficient way to break up tense tissue and allow healing and mobility improvements. Since reading legendary physical therapist Kelly Starrett’s “Becoming a Supple Leopard” I have been a huge fan of barbells as a mashing device.
The problem, as always, is that I can’t just keep a barbell in my car. TM360 is a different story.
Though I expect this will be one of the most overlooked ways to use the tool, the potential for self-applied physical therapy of TM360 is incredible.
Convenience & Portability
Last but not least is convenience and portability. In most cases, you’re never gonna touch a barbell inside your own house (maybe your garage though.)
Without a big squat rack, most of the function of a barbell is inaccessible. You can’t go high weight, can’t do squats or bench presses, and you’re pretty much stuck with deadlifts and olympic lifts (the latter being highly technical.)
Total Motion 360 is a different animal. It can easily fit in the corner of a living room when not in use, and needs little more than 6 or 7 ft of space when in use.
And with the break-downable bar, travel is easy.
The Verdict: A Gym In One Tool
I’ve heard many fitness products called a “gym in one.”
Usually this is a stretch at best. Getting more than the basic functions requires unnecessary creativity and flirts with the realm of the desperate.
TM360 is one of the first devices I really see as an all-in-one device.
You’ve got the incredibly varied functions of landmine style training, the power of odd object work, the portability of a gym bag, and the physical therapy functions of tissue mashing.
What’s more, it excels at each of these roles rather than being merely capable of them. Tissue mashing for example is not an “extra” but a full function the the device is a top tool for.
As more and more people fight for their fitness, but gyms, trainers, and outside sources are limited or declining, a device like this is one of the most powerful ways you can excel.
To be frank, I wish I had one of these 10 years ago. If I had to get rid of all my fitness tools except for one, this is what I’d keep. I am incredibly excited to see this thing launch into the world, and to see you using it to.
If you’re interested in TM360, visit their website for information on the product and the upcoming Indie Go Go campaign where you’ll be able to get yours.