Gym workouts have come a long way since the days of sweatbands and Suzanne Somers’ ThighMaster. Today, zombie survival runs and obstacle courses like Tough Mudder have ushered in a new era of “functional fitness,” based on the concept that your daily workouts should help you perform real-life activities in real-life situations. Who cares if you can bench-press 300 pounds? Can you climb a wall to escape a mugging or carry your 70-pound dog to the vet?
“Fitness should enhance your ability to move with power and coordination, whether it’s for sport or just doing yardwork,” said Ben Musholt, a Portland-based physical therapist, athlete and author of the recently released “Mad Skills Encyclopedia.” The world’s largest illustrated exercise encyclopedia, this thorough compendium has over 700 exercises ranging from warm-up exercises, yoga postures and stretches, to core-strengthening moves, push-up variations and gymnastic conditioning drills.
Musholt’s expertise was acquired through years of work as a physical therapist, as the co-founder of the rehabilitation practice Beyond the Clinic and the founder of illustrated exercise software BPMRx. Additionally, Musholt is an avid outdoorsmen, dedicated martial artist, certified parkour and free-running coach, all of which has helped shape his approach to exercise.
Perhaps Musholt’s greatest resource in compiling the encyclopedia, however, was Portland’s athletic community itself. “There’s a great movement culture here—of people who enjoy outdoors sports in the mountains, as well as indoor athletics like aerialists, capoeira, bouldering, when the weather is too wet,” Musholt explained. Many of the illustrations in Mad Skills are modeled on his friends and local athletes.
While the encyclopedia does have a section called “Cooking It Up” that helps functional fitness enthusiasts put together their own workouts, it’s also relatively easy to add several movements to your already existing workouts. And, unlike an expensive CrossFit membership, there’s no need for personalized coaching or specialized equipment—many of the exercises use your own body weight to provide resistance, and others require nothing more complicated than a yoga mat, kettlebell or pull-up bar.
Lead image by Adrienne So, all others courtesy of Ben Musholt