Deadlifts, Push-ups, Swings,Turkish Get-Ups … functional training, really?
Take my friend Judy, she’s over 60 and wanted to get fit. She’s always been active and enjoys tennis, but not of late. She wanted to know what she could do on her own when she made it to the gym — maybe how to use the machines in a circuit.
The first thing Judy learned was a Sumo deadlift. Once she grooved that pattern she learned the kettlebell swing and then onto the push-up and a pull-up (assisted pull-up machine). That’s only four movements, but its very time and energy efficient — functional!
One of the definitions I found online referred to functional training as a “classification of exercise.” That’s kinda the problem, forget about “classifying” exercise as functional or not, I mean, if its not functional, you shouldn’t do it. That’s why I’ve referred to the term, “functional training” as redundant. Let’s just define it as: activities that are specific to your daily life that are practical and useful.
“Functional training involves activities that are specific to your daily life that are practical and useful”
As Bruce Lee said, “absorb what is useful, reject what is useless.” This makes sense to us and more importantly the above definition is simple and easy to wrap your mind around. It also gives you a foundation from which to create training strategies.
So try not to think about functional training as a “working the core” thing or Cirque de Sole Le type balancing stuff like the fitness industry has for over two decades. Instead, think about what you’d like to achieve and apply a strategy that will move you toward YOUR goals…purposeful training.
We usually find working with competitive athletes and general fitness enthusiasts differ by degrees, not methods.
If you’re a bodybuilder, you train for muscle size/symmetry as do fitness figure competitors. Your training will be different than a college lacrosse player, but you’ll have similarities — the foundational stuff. You’ll both need strength, power, endurance, muscle mass and symmetry.
Body weight exercises are a great place to start. Make sure you can control your own body weight first, or you have no business being under a bar. Sadly, we see this quite a bit with high school athletes. They’ll squat, bench and deadlift without first grooving the proper movement patterns and end up with a whole lot of ugly (and pain).
Get on a functional path — Do this first:
- learn the push-up before a bench press
- learn the sumo deadlift on a bench or with light weight before the squat with a bar on your back
- learn how to press overhead with a broom stick or dowel before using weight
Become proficient at the fundamentals…groove the right movement patterns and be consistent.
Even if you think you’re good to go…have a coach look at your form.
Are the exercises you do specific to your Activities of Daily Living (ADLs)? Or do you go to the gym and grind through a circuit of 10 machines, 20 minutes on the cross-trainer and call it a day?
If that’s you and you’d like few suggestions on what to tweak, leave a comment — or ask me.