Functional Training. Two words that collectively mean so much and collectively are so misunderstood. Functional Training (FT) is NOT going through some pre-set TRX routines, bouncing some swiss/gym-balls around and then doing some planks. Seriously, some people out there have businesses that use the words Functional Training in their business name and are delivering stuff like I just described and telling people it’s functional training! Well it’s not.
FT should be easy to understand. After-all it really is first principles training. As human beings we have; arms, legs and brains; a kinetic chain linking it all and a central nervous system interfacing between all these components communicating via the brain. We inherently KNOW how to move and if we don’t these skills can be quickly adapted with simple hand-eye work. It’s stripping down a variety of movements (sporting and otherwise) to components that can be quickly and safely completed and then progressed which forms the basis of FT.
For example lets look at rotational stability. This is required for many activities from picking up a child and placing him/her in a high chair to a heap of different skills when playing sport, for instance catching/passing rugby/netball balls. Standing tall whilst holding a medicine ball out in front and rotating is a starting point. Increasing the weight of the ball increases the difficulty. Standing on a wobble board and going to a lighter ball is another increase in difficulty. And so is doing all of the afore-mentioned activities on 1 foot rather than 2! This is progressing a micro-skill in a functional environment.
Training functionally will help an individual activate muscles and mobilise joints in such a way that when it comes to daily activities, sporting or otherwise, optimal movement patterns are developed, stabilising muscles are are also activated and optimal neural activity occurs. All of this optimise’s performance and minimises injury rates. If you’re a sportsperson, you should be learning about this it will improve you!!
I always mention using machines that you see in gyms cannot be FT. It’s a mostly correct statement. Some machines such as TechnoGym Kinesis is a wonderful example of how technology can indeed help us in functional environment. Check out this link to the UFIT Facebook Page showing Kinesis in action. The link may not work if you’re not a FB user, sorry.
The team in the video is the Serbian Youth Olympic Games Basketball Team that recently won the gold medal here in Singapore. There are 4 Kinesis machines lined up alongside each other and they are using 2 of them here. This is an excellent piece of kit but very exxy!! BTW did you notice the athlete doing the planks in the background? Check it out again. What do you reckon of his form??
So my point is seek out FT as it really is the best type of training we all can engage in but be careful. There is a lot of confusion out there as to what FT really is and the saddest thing is it’s not difficult. People make it difficult by utilising “fad” equipment, by utilising existing equipment incorrectly, by not having a good enough understanding of basic physiology, by copying stuff they see others doing thinking it must be right and by simply being unqualified to be stating they are taking you through a functional workout. I’m sorry but it’s true….
Engage professionals that do know their business!!
Ok first up I’ve been off-line for quite a while now, family matters in Australia took priority for a few weeks there so I’m back now!
I was asked by Suz one of the UFIT members what I thought of treadmills. Not a fan I must say 😦
Why? The biomechanics of running in simple terms are we lift a foot and our hips mobilise and rotate our pelvis. Our other foot reacts by flexing and also lifting before the hip mobilisation switches. This switch helps to rotate the pelvis in the opposite direction and in doing so permit our trailing leg to come through and allow the other foot to strike. And so on and so on! Simple and probably a little vague but nonetheless the most important function is described, that being the pelvic rotation.
Pelvic rotation is crucial to the kinetic chain functioning correctly. The kinetic chain as I have written about previously is the system of muscles, bones and joints that link, as in a chain, our human frame together. If we have a malfunction of the chain, other muscles and joints will have to compensate and this can and usually does lead to some kind of injury.
Now most of us have some kind of kinetic chain malfunction or another going on 🙂 In fact just today I have had treatment for one going on in me! And no, no cranial surgery was required, thank you!
The problem with treadmills is this. The “tread” (or the belt) in a treadmill moves, you DON’T. You’re stationary so your kinetic chain functions way differently to what it would do if you were out on the road. What you do on a treadmill is lift your feet, so the same as running outdoors but then as the belt is moving you simply place your foot back down again and don’t rotate your pelvis. Bang! Interfering with the correct functioning of the kinetic chain!
This can result in any of the following – shin splints, ankle/Achilles soreness, knee pain and lower back pain and maybe all of them, all at once!
Of course I have used treadmills in the past and may use them again in the future. I don’t say eliminate them from your routine but definitely revise their use so that it’s something you do sporadically. There are far better forms of cardio to do!! Doing UFIT or more UFIT’s being one of them! Have YOU tried UFIT Run??
It’s fortunate for me that I do this for a job. But I’m figuring it must be a whole lot harder for you out there that don’t work in the fitness industry…..and perhaps for some that do 😉 I’m talking about keeping your workouts fresh. This is the key to keeping on keeping on! The way to keep the momentum, the way to create a fitness-based lifestyle. If your workouts are fresh, you’ll keep doing them!
Ok so for me it’s not always like that but I know that once I’ve beaten the lazy-arse demons I’ll be hammering it as usual. And why? How do I do it?
One of the key ingredients is scenery. Same old place, same old shit! Go somewhere different to workout. If you don’t have a membership at a gym with different locations, get one. It’s worth the investment. Another is workout options. Tired of the gym? Quit it for 2 weeks and run. And do you do the same old run every time?? Verdict=BORING, plus it’s probably not working for you anymore anyway. Change the route or go to the track! Done that already? The start doing intervals or fartleks. Other workout options are trying yoga or Pilates or any of the multitude of classes offered by the big gyms. My favourite is Body-Balance which is a class by Les Mills and again, offered by most of the gym chains here. Think these classes are for women only or for not-that-macho-type guys? Think again!! The balance required for these type of classes stimulates all sorts of muscles that have probably long ago switched off, the engagement of the core muscles, the breathing needed, the concentration required, it all adds up to an amazingly challenging program – try it 🙂
Then of course there’s UFIT Run, UFIT’s great new session where we time you individually over 6 different runs in Fort Canning. Or BlacknBlue where the Trainer joins in and we just go for it!
Clearly mixing around your training has benefits both physically and mentally.
If you don’t mix it around your body physically adjusts to the training stimulous in something described as “adaptation”. This is also described as hitting a “plateau” and is very common among people new or resuming a training program. Typically you go flat out with a program you have been given or found on a site and it’s all good for 1-2 months maybe 3 and then BANG!! You hit the plateau. Why?? Our bodies are marvelous machines, they constantly want to adapt to any environment they find themselves in, physically or mentally. In a physical environment such as a gym, we go through a series of exercises that initially our body struggles to deal with. But once it has encountered the “stimulous” several times it adjusts, it expects and it meets the challenge. Similarly an overweight person, lets say a new Mum that still has her baby fat around her waist, will start a walking program. Her body is shocked by the “stimulous” and uses a lot of energy to do the walk. Over a period of time her body adjusts, it sheds some weight during the adaptation and then learns to minimise the amount of energy required and adapts. Result? She stops losing weight. She needs to reinvigorate her program with some hills, maybe some light “fartlek”-type jogging or start pushing her pram with baby!
And mentally it’s exactly the same. We go through the same routine each and every time and we “mentally” adapt. Then boredom sets in, we wander mentally and lose our concentration. Any gains we have made become history! We then begin to consider the gym and the program a waste of time because that’s exactly what WE have made it!
It doesn’t need to be that way. For some people it really isn’t. If you regularly read this blog you will get plenty of tips. If you really want help, engage us! Do some UFIT sessions, come do some PT in the gym. In both environments you will learn secrets to mixing around your own training so you won’t hit physical and mental plateaus! Come try us and find out! If you are a member pass the link to this blog on and encourage people you know to read the blog and come along to UFIT!