Functional Training

By Jesse Cannone CFT, CPRS, CSPN

In the past few years I’ve seen a huge transition in the fitness industry. More and more people are using functional training and some argue it’s the only way to train. The purpose of this article is to give people an understanding of what functional training is and what it does and does not do.

First, let’s look at what functional actually means:

Functional – Func.tion.al

1. capable of operating or functioning

2. capable of serving the purpose for whit it was intended

(Webster’s Encyclopedia 2nd Edition, 1996)

Based on that definition, you can draw many conclusions as to what is functional. Depending upon who you ask, you will most likely get a diverse variety of responses as to what is functional. All human movement is a combination of various functions. Human movement cannot take place without muscular function. According to the functional training “experts”, functional training uses bands, balls, free-weights, and plyometric exercises in an attempt to condition the body in an unstable environment. Many of the experts feel that performing exercises that mimic activities or specific skills is the most effective way to train, regardless of ones goal.

What is the safest, most efficient and effective way to optimize human performance?

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Factors Affecting Human Performance

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In order to maximize human performance, you must have a good understanding of what affects performance. The factors that play the greatest role in performance are:

* Power (strength and speed)

* Agility (flexibility/mobility/stability)

* Cardiovascular and respiratory conditioning

* Sport Skill (neuromuscular coordination and efficiency

* Genetic Potential

Let’s take a look at each factor and determine which training methods are going to deliver optimal results. By optimal results, I mean the greatest amount of improvement, with the least amount of risk and in the shortest amount of time.

Power

Power = Force x Distance / Time

Power can be increased three ways:

1. Increase Force (Strength)

2. Increase Speed

3. Increase Distance (flexibility / range of motion)

1. Increase Force (Strength)

What is the most effective method of increasing strength and/or muscle tissue? In my opinion, High Intensity Strength Training is the most productive, safe and time efficient approach available. I am not stating that one set of each exercise is the best choice. My definition of High Intensity Training is: training to momentary muscular failure, with brief and infrequent workouts in which all variables are prescribed based on the individuals: goals, age, current fitness level, fiber types, personal preference and past experience.

The purpose of strength training is to increase strength and lean body mass, NOT for training a specific skill or movement – that’s called practice! People strength train for many reasons and there are many methods that work. For years, many trainers and coaches have had their clients and athletes perform Olympic lifts because they feel it will transfer over into the performance of their skill.

Numerous studies have shown that the neurological transfer of skills is not optimal unless the skill is practiced EXACTLY as it is performed in competition. Therefore, performing power cleans because you play football is NOT optimal. Performing power-cleans will only get you better at performing power-cleans! Focus on increasing strength and lean body mass and practice your skill exactly as it is performed during competition.

2. Increase Speed

Increasing the speed at which a skill is performed is another great way to improve power. Speed is primarily predetermined by the individual’s genetic make up. However, that does not mean that you cannot improve speed by practicing the skill EXACTLY as it is performed in competition. A great deal of focus should be placed on perfecting the technique. By practicing the skill in this manner, you will improve neuromuscular efficiency, which will result in faster and more accurate performance.

3. Increase Distance (flexibility / range of motion)

Increasing flexibility is another way to improve power. By increasing flexibility, you increase the distance that force is applied which results in an increase in power.

The safest and most effective method to increase flexibility is by performing full range of motion exercises and incorporating a sound stretching routine.

Agility

Improving ones agility is another way of optimizing performance. Agility drills should be SPECIFIC to the activity or event. For example, having someone do plyometric jumps off of boxes is NOT specific to someone who plays basketball! Yes, a basketball player jumps, but not off of boxes. Having the athlete practice jumping from the floor would be much more specific to their sport. Always ask yourself, “What is the goal?” “Is what I’m doing going to give me the outcome I desire?” “Is it optimal?”

Cardiovascular and Respiratory Conditioning

Increasing cardio/respiratory output and endurance is another factor that has a major impact on performance. This topic is one of such importance that it is beyond the scope of this article. In general, if you increase the individual’s cardiovascular and respiratory output and endurance, there will be a corresponding increase in performance.

Cardiovascular training should also be specifically geared towards improving the individuals conditioning in the metabolic pathway in which they compete or perform. For example, someone who plays tennis should primarily train at a slow to moderate pace and incorporate bursts of high intensity effort. Interval training would be a good choice for this individual. Keep the training specific to the individual.

Sport Skill

This is an area in which there is a lot of confusion among many athletes, coaches and trainers. Skill acquisition and strength levels are two completely different things. Therefore, they should be trained separately and with different methods. In order to optimize the performance of a specific skill or movement, it needs to be practiced EXACTLY as it is performed in competition. It has been shown that each activity or movement has its own neuromuscular pathway and that just because a movement is similar does NOT mean there will be a positive transfer or carryover of skill.

In order to maximize performance, the individual should attempt to perfect their movement or skill with endless hours of practice. The goal of practice should be to improve the technique, accuracy and increase the speed at which the skill can be performed. This topic was addressed earlier in the section titles “Increase Force.”

Genetic Potential

This is the factor that I have found to have the greatest impact on human performance. Genetic potential is something many people overlook. Regardless of what methods of training I use, I will never be a world-class marathoner. I can train twice a week or I can train 5 hours a day, it sill won’t change the fact that my body wasn’t designed to excel at endurance activities. I hear of too many coaches and trainers having people follow dangerous training programs in an attempt to drastically improve their performance. This is not to say that you cannot improve performance. When training yourself or a competitive athlete, always set realistic goals. As stated earlier, the best thing to do is utilize the most effective methods available and work hard!

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Differences Between Functional Training & Machine Based Training

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Most, if not all of the so-called functional exercises fail to supply constant and variable resistance. Most quality machines supply constant tension and variable resistance based on the strength curve of the particular muscle and track proper joint function.

For example, compare dumbbell bicep curls on a Swiss ball to a bicep curl on a quality machine (such as Hammer Strength.) While performing the dumbbell curl, there is no tension on the biceps in the bottom or top positions. The resistance is greatest when the dumbbell is perpendicular to the floor. The amount of stimulus is also decreased due to the fact that the individual must balance his/her self on the ball.

While using a machine, there is constant tension on the biceps and the amount of tension varies during the exercise based on the strength curve of the biceps muscle. Which is going to make the individual stronger? Which is going to stimulate more muscle fibers in the biceps?

In my opinion, machine based training is by far superior if the goal is to increase strength and/or muscle tissue. Keep in mind that more muscle equates to a faster, stronger and better athlete, providing they practice their specific skill(s) or movement(s).

This is not to say that functional exercises serve no purpose. There are benefits to functional exercise; just not as many as some people are lead to believe. Exercise selection and the training methods used should be based on the individual’s goals. Instances where functional training may be effective would be in individuals who need to improve balance, stability and neuromuscular coordination. Below is a chart that shows the differences between Functional Training and Machine Based Training.

 

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Conclusion

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Functional training obviously has some benefit and can be a great addition to a well-designed strength program. However, I personally feel it should never take the place of a structured strength training routine. I recommend using a combination approach, which utilizes machines, free-weights, bodyweight, balls, bands and anything that is going to deliver the desired results.

Always remember that training for strength and/or increases in muscle tissue and training for skill are two completely different things. When designing or assessing a training program, the following questions should be asked: What is the goal? Is it time efficient? Is it safe? Is it delivering the desired results? Is it optimal?

References

1. Schmidt, R.A: Motor Learning and Performance -> From Principles to Practice. Human Kinetics Books; Champaign, IL 1991

2. Bryzcki, Matt: A Practical Approach to Strength Training, Masters Press; Indianapolis, IN 1995

3. Magil, R: Motor Learning – Concepts and Application, 4th Edition, C. Brown Publishing, Madison, WI 1993

4. Chek, Paul: What is Functional Exercise? (Article), C.H.E.K Institute

5. Calais-Germaine, Blandine: Anatomy of Movement, Easterland Press, Seattle, WA 1993

6. Tortora, Gerard, J: Principles of Human Anatomy, 5th Edition, Harper Collins Publishers, New York, NY 1989

7. Stein, Alan: Improving Athletic Power (Article), Hard Training Newsletter

8. Manny, Ken: Skill Development: An Open and Closed Case (Article) www.naturalstrength.com

9. Kielbaso, Jim: Ploys – My Story (Article) www.cyberpump.com

TAKU’s NOTE : About the Author

Article written by certified fitness trainer and best-selling author, Jesse Cannone. For more great fitness articles be sure to visit Jesse’s website http://www.gethealthyandfit.com

© 2006-2009 HybridFitness.tv. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction without permission prohibited.

“Functional Training”

By Jim Bryan 10-12-11

 

Recently our area has been overtaken with the “Functional Training Craze.” CrossFit, Boot Camp Training, and Training with implements other than traditional weight training (free weights, and machines) can be a good thing but does come with a higher rate of injury due to the nature of this training. None of it is new and none of it is more “Scientific” than traditional Training. Basic Traditional Weight Training actually has more science backing it since it has been going on for years. The fact that you strengthen and condition your muscles makes you more functional than you were and no amount of flipping tires,  using kettle Bells, or beating tires with a sledge makes you more “Functional.” How you choose to train is up to you. Most methods work but some are safer than others. Being involved in “Jack of all trades, & master of none training” comes with a risk/reward disclaimer…..or should.

 

The statement that free weights make you more “Functional” than using machines is another buzzword/falsehood. Let’s face the facts: Trainers have to come up with something that sets them apart or makes them appear to be more informed/ scientific/ in the know. Truth is, its just smokescreen packaging. You can get a good workout using anything mentioned thus far. The smart thing would be to use the safer alternatives, with an occasional look at different methods.

 

The newer gyms are popular because of the group training but usually offer less equipment (chin up bars, tires, chains, TRX or rings, Sledge Hammers, and a few weight sets, being the staple) These gyms are easy to set up but do require a higher Certification fee for the instructor/trainer. Face it, they are money makers for the “Owners of the Brand.” These gyms can come and go quickly but in fairness I have seen some really good ones, and I do this type of training myself at times.  I was doing it years before it became a “Brand.” Having been involved in training for over 50 years I have seen many things come and go and come back again.

If you like that kind of training, go for it. It can be fun. It’s not better, just different. In order to be successful you have to enjoy what ever training you decide to do and be consistent with it. Bottom line:  Your training shouldn’t hurt you, and you should look forward to it, not be intimidated by it. Don’t fall for the hype. “A fool and his money are soon to part.”

It looks like fun and can be. Remember the “Aerobics Craze” of a few years ago? Remember how they had to come up with “Low Impact Aerobics?” Well folks, this newer version called “Functional Training” is high impact. Know that before you get involved and make the informed decisions to keep it safe for you.

 

I think I’ll start a new Fitness Trend. It’s going to consist of Mowing, raking, clipping, chopping, pulling, hauling, and digging. I’ll call it “Yard Fit.” I can get my yard done and make money too! Stay informed about training , and don’t fall for gimmicks.

 

 TAKU’ Note: Thanks to Jim Bryan for this weeks awesome article.

W.O.W #6 “Santa Cruz”

By Wayne “Scrapper” Fischer

Don’t be misled by the subtle appearance of this workout. It’s very tough, and has the ability to challenge you on multiple levels.

Progress through each exercise with no rest.

Take a :60 rest after each round.

Record your total number of rounds completed and the overall completion time.

Push yourself on the next run-through and see if you can improve your time. Be aware of individual areas where you can shave seconds off your workout. Transitions between exercises and times on the Concept 2 & Versa Climber machines are 2 of the most obvious.

Good luck and train hard!

Santa Cruz
EXERCISE REP COUNT
VersaClimber OR Concept 2 Rower : VC: 250ft. C2: 500m
Overhead Lunges (KB or DB) : x30
Wall Ball Toss : x20
Hanging Knee Raises : x15


Perform 3 to 5 rounds for time

Note: “KB” and “DB” refer to Kettlebells and Dumbbells, respectively

TAKU’s NOTE: This is one of many Workouts of the Week that we create at Hybrid Fitness. If you are feeling hammered when your done, be sure to let Scrapper know.

© 2006-2009 HybridFitness.tv. All Rights Reserved. Reproduction without permission prohibited.

Don’t Short Circuit Your Training

By Jim Bryan

One of the biggest problems I see is Over Thinking Things. Much of the time this leads to Analysis Paralysis. This  is where you spend more time thinking about doing something, than you actually spend doing it. How much does it matter about the speed of a rep? Does it matter more than actually going to the gym and  having a workout? How much does it matter what “Camp” your from? Is that more important then getting to the gym? About “Camps.” How important is it really to identify yourself as a “Volume Trainee,” a “Power Lifter,” an “Olympic Lifter,” A “HIT Trainee?”  Who are you training for? Yourself or the approval of someone else? Training isn’t really all that complicated. Some would have you think that it is, so they can sell you on Their Method. So much information and so little time. Might as well use that time by going to the gym.

When you go to most discussion boards you have the group looking for the One best way to train” and the one’s that just like to argue that Their way is the one true way.” Ever wonder if the same one’s that Know the One best Way” are just as confused as you? Many are and will argue for something else down the line. You also have the most Dogmatic types that will continue to argue long after their arguments are invalid. They are confused and need to be in the gym, instead of cruising the “Boards” so they can argue for their way, “The one best way.”

There is NO one best way! People have different goals. What works for you is what keeps you going to the gym and enjoying the trip there. Different ways of training have different levels of safety. Educate yourself, form an opinion and then follow through. The simplest way to Strength Train is to pick a group of exercises Starting with the legs and working to the upper body. Go up in weight when things get easy. Machines or Free Weights? What do you have? If you have both, try both. Try to be in and out within an hour.  Do you like “One set Training?” Then do it. Want to use “more than one set?” Then do that. Don’t fret and worry if someone is going to disapprove. It’s your workout! Go to the gym two or three days a week. You can add some cardio if you want. Cut down your rest periods and you may not need much cardio. Do it for yourself, because you want to.  Live long……..be strong!

TAKU’s Note:

Thanks to Jim Bryan for sharing another one of his excellent articles with us this week.

PRODUCT UPDATE:

In September I announced the arrival of a great new training tool from my friend coach Tom Kelso; a CD-ROM titled “100 of the best Strength Training Workouts”.

As I mentioned in my original announcement, the Data CD holds 40 x Total-Body, 30 x Upper-body and 30 x Lower-Body workouts that allow you to plug in any exercise based on your training facility.

Also included are an introductory text, workout catalog, workout descriptions, workout recording forms and a complete list of exercises are on file.

This is indeed an outstanding reference for the avid trainee, trainer or sport coach.

Well now Tom has made it even easier for you to get your hands on this great information. Visit his web-site, and you can purchase the CD, “100 of the best Strength Training Workouts”, as a download. No need to wait.

I highly recommend this training tool for trainers, athletes, coaches, and strength training enthusiasts of all levels.

Get yours now!

PAU for NOW

TAKU

Four Week Strength Cycle

This week I offer a simple strength cycle. Each week you will vary the reps striving to use the maximum possible weight and still complete the desired number of reps (with perfect form). If you can complete at least 90% of the reps then you are doing fine. Any time you can complete the desired reps of each set with perfect technique, then it is time to add a little more weight at the next workout.

 

  1. Trap Bar Dead-lift & Shrug*
  2. Front Squat
  3. Glute-Ham Raise**(see black & white image below)
  4. Chin-Up**
  5. Standing BB Press
  6. TRX Row / Recline Pull**
  7. Towel Bench Press
  8. Land-Mine Anti-rotation (see photo and video links at bottom)
  9. Plank w/ V-up + Static Hold**

 

WEEK 1:

Movement 1.) 3-4 sets x 5 reps rest 90-120 seconds

Movement 2 – 7.) 1-3 sets x 10 reps rest 60 seconds

Movement 8-9.) 60-90 seconds each

WEEK 2:

Movement 1.) 3-4 sets x 3 reps rest 90-120 seconds

Movement 2-7.) 1-3 sets x 5 reps rest 90 seconds

Movement 8-9.) 60-90 seconds each

WEEK 3:

Movement 1.) 3-4 sets x 5 reps rest 90-120 seconds

Movement 2-7.) 1-3 sets x 8 reps rest 60 seconds

Movement 8-9.) 60-90 seconds each

WEEK 4:

Movement 1.) 3-4 sets x 2 reps rest 90-120 seconds

Movement 2-7.) 1-3 sets x 3 reps rest 90 seconds

Movement 8-9.) 60-90 seconds each

*For those of you who enjoy using quick-lift movements, replace the Trap BarDL&S w / your favorite Barbell, Dumbbell or K-Bell Snatch or Clean variation.

**Add weight if needed. (I recommend using an X-vest or similar device)

https://i0.wp.com/z.about.com/d/weighttraining/1/0/D/1/-/-/gluteham_small.jpg

https://i2.wp.com/www.designmyworkout.com/images/Landmine.jpg

The video links below will show how to execute the Ant-rotation exercise with the Landmine or with a regular barbell.

http://tinyurl.com/29rtexj

http://tinyurl.com/2etcj8g

PAU for NOW

TAKU

http://www.hybridfitness.tv
http://www.blackjackfitness.com

Don’t miss out!

Just wanted to let you know that the crew over at Iron Woody Fitness is having a closeout sale on Kettlebells and Medicine Balls!  If you’re looking to pick up some gear, now’s you’re chance.

Iron Woody also has some of the best sandbags and sportbands in the business.  They guarantee their products and I can personally attest to their durability – I still use the same bands and bags that I bought almost 5 years ago.  They’ve been beat up by everyone from retirees to firefighters and they’re still holding strong.  The bands alone offer almost unlimited variety.  Throw in some bags and ‘bells and you’ve got workouts to last a lifetime.

Get while the gettins’ good!

We’ve put together a huge video library at Hybrid Fitness, so if you pick up some of this gear and need ideas on what to do and how to do them, we’ve got the answers.

Keep training hard!

Jason
www.hybridfitness.tv