This is a hot topic within the fitness world and is definately the buzz word in society. Functional training!! So I want to look at what is functional training and why such the emphasis placed on it in our day and age. Firstly Functional training is defined as the process of training for everyday life e.g. find stairs hard to climb, practice walking up stairs or supplement the movement with a box or curb.
There are so many conflicting views on this topic that I want to highlight the best way to approach this for your training. My objection is that most people draw there conclusions from the famous or well known. You have all seen the people who argue about Bruce lee or Mike tyson and the way they trained so lets examine this.
1) They trained for specific sport capabilities: From the bobbing and weaving of Boxing, To the Crunches and sit ups in there sets of work outs. These movements are sports specific for the component they trained, using the crunches helped tighten the Rectus Abdominus and also made the movement of ducking, weaving and bobbing easier to perform. With the shadow-Boxing they would do the throwing punches and weaving worked the TVA(Transverse Abdominus) and both the Internal and external obliques.
2) They aren`t pursuing aesthetics: Many people make the common misconception that exercise is exercise and thats that? Well thats just a fraction of the story for Functional training its not just the movement patterns and Exercises used It`s about the energy systems that are at play*
These energy systems as you have read are all working in unison but certain activities are dominated by one aspect.
3) Lastly they spent hours each day training: Because of the nature of what they done they did far more then the average person was even required to think about so for the training it had to be trained in a smart way and this mean`t understanding when to use regressive and progressive techniques in the workouts they designed or had given to them.
I hope you see that with these ideas that “functional training” is only of benefit if you need the required function in the first place and no standing on a stability ball doing 30KG bicep curls isn`t functional it`s dangerous. So what counts as functional equipment?!
BattleRopes, Sandbags, Bosu-Balls, Vipers, Indian Clubs, Suspension systems(TRX etc), Bulgarian bags, Resistance bands, Kettlebells, Medicine balls, Stability balls etc
Should you be using this equipment? of course you should but understand why you are using it and is it actually benefiting you in your training or is it just stealing essential glycogen from your work out.
So many people have jumped on the bandwagon that its hard to believe that everyone understands why they use the equipment they use, trust me I still get questioned on the lat pull down and is it good for legs?? In my opinion people are only using these items because they have had so called experts and masters tell them its the only way forward, Its good that people are devolving the form and technique to make sure they are doing things correctly but using something for the sake of it is pointless.
Also many like myself try to use the ideas and expertese of magazines filled the the brim with the latest kit and athletes from round the world showing you the next best thing, take a step back from the media and just assess is it necessary and do you need to actually do that because remember people that for thousands of yearsour ancestors had muscular definition and function without the need for the latest kit.
As a Personal trainer I can use these tools with various clients based on the specific need of the outcome. However as a Martial Artist use many different methods in my training to facilitate many needs. A typical circuit I would perform would look like this;
Tabata Warm up – (4mins) using the TRX (Iceskater to Squatjumps)X4
Dynamic stretches – (4mins) working from bottom to the top in total body forms.
Main – Kettlebell Swings (2h)@ 20KG for time, Bosu-Ball Crunches (arms above head) 3 X10 (Tempo 3-0-3-0)
Skipping for time, Hindi Press ups till failure, Walking Lunges 10 laps(with sandbag on each shoulder for 5 laps)
Repeat X 3
Cool down – Shadow KickBoxing
Strectching, Foam rolling and mobility work to finish.
Total duration (55mins-1:10) depends on how much mobility work I need to perform.
So why do I do what I do in my main session?
Kettlebell swings – Work the entire posterior chain and help strengthen the glutes and Hamstrings all essential for kicking arts and the added benifit of strengthen the lower back assists in taking pressure of the spine during striking and Movement i.e. sparring work or rapid footwork.
Bosu-Ball Crunches – for the extra range of motion my spine can use, the conditioning to tighten and “harden” my abs for taking hits.
Skipping – Based on 5 minutes to simulate a round by round event keeping the heart rate high and the aerobic system fully engaged also strengthens the diapragm
Hindi PU – Activates more of the pectoral muscles (both major and minor) generate more force, uses more Range of motion to be more supple and flexible when perform strikes like Elbows, punches etc.
Walking lunges – very versatile movement that links closely with changing transition in MMA, assist in keeping low posture strong and by walking works that mobility at the same time.
So in conclusion, draw the strength from taking movements and Exercises that have cross over with your sport or function, use as much as is required and not as much as you can to perform the workout and finally Experiment with new ideas but be safe and sensible with them. Ask the question do I need to do this?
Ben – Spartan’s Lane Founder – http://www.spartanslane.com
If you want to see more on Functional training please chek out these people;
Paul chek, Naudi agular, kelly starrett and the gray institute for more ideas and concepts.