Wednesday, December 1, 2010

What Is "Functional Training?"

Every trainer on the planet is preaching "functional training." According to many of them, functional training translates to doing various exercises on top of an unstable surface (wobble board, air disc, BOSU, stability ball, etc). As a matter of fact, the other day, I walked into the gym to see one of the trainers trying to teach their client how to do kettlebell swings on top of a BOSU (UGH!!!). Does instability inherently make an exercise "functional?" My answer to this is:

Maybe.
It's functional!  It's working the body AND the eyes!


If you're a tightrope walker, dance ballet en pointe, ride bucking bulls during your day, or have very weak and unstable ankles, then maybe you need to train on moving or unstable surfaces. But then again, those exercises will need to be modified based on your personal needs. The bull rider is definitely not going to need to train like a person with weak ankles. That is, unless (s)he's a bull rider with weak ankles.

A functional exercise is, quite simply, one that makes you better at what you do every day. So if you're a professional powerlifter, you most certainly should not be training your lifts while standing on an Aeropad. And if you're interested in gaining strength, throwing yourself off balance isn't going to do you any favors, either-- you simply cannot lift as much weight when you're off balance as you can when you're stabile.

When you're in the gym/yard/living room/wherever you train, really think about what you're doing, and how it applies to your overall goals. And if you're training with someone who seems to haphazardly throw bands/balls/wobble boards at you for no apparent reason, you might ask what the method to his/her madness is. If they can't give you a solid answer, that might give you something to think about later.

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