Functional Training… Fad?

11/04/2010 at 6:35 PM 2 comments

I just caught the title of an American College of Sports Medicine article titled FUNCTIONAL TRAINING: Fad or Here to Stay? . I did not read the article, but I’m sure it comes to the same conclusion that I do. I just thought it was kind of a strange question.

Functional training is, in essence, training to improve some particular function. Hmmn, big surprise, huh? But here’s the key, since the days that Universal Gyms and Nautilus machines were introduced, weight training took a turn away from function.

In our activities of daily living and in sports, our bodies have to multi-task. We have to stabilize, balance, coordinate movements between body parts, move with strength and power, in many different directions and ranges of motion. Most weight training machines eliminate many of theses challenges. This leaves us muscularly stronger and possibly better in appearance than if we didn’t train, but without many of the other benefits that could help the activities that we may have been training for.

Eventually, we in the strength and conditioning world figured out that, to maximize our improvement of a particular function (i.e. climbing stairs, shovelling snow, playing tennis) our training had to have similar kinds of demands. Thus was discovered (or rediscovered) a different way to train. And it gave birth to the functional training equipment industry in an attempt to give us more tools to work with that can add those additional challenges. Now when people think of functional training they think of stability balls, medicine balls, elastic tubing and bands, wobble boards, TRX, etc.

Is functional training a fad and will it disappear? Not a chance! If you find a better way to train, you’re not going to toss it aside to go back to something that only gives some of those benefits. (although some of the equipment may not last)

The trap is to think that using the equipment itself is functional. It still has to be selected to directly relate to the activity you want to improve. Standing on a stability ball (see below… dangerous and, well, frankly, stupid ) is only really appropriate if you’re going to be doing that in, say, a circus.


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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. SAMUAL  |  11/05/2010 at 4:17 AM

    This is the latest fad. Due to modern living, people get unfit and need personal trainers. As a result, there’s a boom in the fitness industry and any 98 pound weakling gets a fitness certificate and becomes a trainer.
    No client wants a weakling as a trainer, so some trainers have adopted a “new” training style which includes standing on one leg, sitting on a swiss ball etc while lifting weights. This is senseless.
    Any sporting function is improved ONLY by practising that sport. The strength is improved by traditional weight training. The results speak for themselves.

    • 2. mnutting  |  11/13/2010 at 10:55 AM

      That’s an interesting take on it, Samual. Do you reallly feel that the birth of functional training is because “weakling” trainers had to find a way to justify themselves?
      Just as Speed, Agility, and Quickness drills enhance a sport and yet are not the sport, so can other exercise/activities that replicate specific demands of the desired activity, enhance the ability to perform that activity.
      But… I absolutely believe that it is only functional if it directly relates to a specific action/aspect of that activity.


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