Bulging biceps and six pack abs might get you noticed poolside this summer, but if you can’t erect a parasol without putting your back out, or propel your legs to chase a breeze-blown towel, the only thing you’re going to pull is a muscle.
Traditionally, most people hitting the gym have had their sights set on building muscle strength, perhaps with a bit of speed or endurance work thrown in with sportier types. But things are changing.
The buzzword at the last FitPro Spring Convention, the UK’s largest fitness industry gathering, was ‘Function’.
Fitness Gets Real
“Functional exercise is about training movements, rather than isolated muscles,” says Matt Punsheon of Lifetime, the UK’s top fitness industry training provider:
“It replicates daily activities, with actions like going from sitting to standing, pushing and pulling, or specific movements involved in sports.”
The FitPro Convention saw delegates flocking to lectures and workshops on the functional training, signing up to courses, such as the new Functional Resistance modules offered by Lifetime, and stuffing holdalls with purchases of equipment for use in functional exercises such as, kettlebells, powerbags, resistance cables and bands. With fitness trainers and sports coaches enthusiastically embracing functional training, it seems set to revolutionise the way all of us exercise over the next few years.
“It all started when coaches and sports scientists began looking at why many athletes, despite being well trained, were still getting injured,” says Punsheon. “Also, in health clubs, trainers started to ask why older adults weren’t seeing improvements in their ability to perform everyday tasks even though they were progressing well with their exercise programmes. What we found was that exercises need to replicate normal movements.”
Si Tate, a sports performance coach specialising in functional training says, “In functional training we take account of what happens, on a joint-by-joint basis, throughout the body, loading the muscles in the ways they need to be worked to give you the outcome you require. A lot of professional sports teams are using these techniques and it’s boosting their performance and reducing injuries.”
Function for all
Punsheon adds, “This is almost certainly the future of training, inside and outside of professional sports. It’s being filtered down from top end athletes to health clubs, with more and more equipment being introduced to make it easier.”
Along with sports teams, from Premier League football clubs to Olympic athletics squads, Hollywood stars are now using functional workouts to get into action-movie shape without being hampered by injuries - Sylvester Stallone, Brad Pitt, and Gerard Butler to name a few. Meantime, many ordinary folk are discovering the benefits too.
“I remember in my early days I inherited a client from another trainer,” recalls Tate. “He’d been suffering from severe back pain for 18 months and had arthritis. It was so bad he was struggling to get out of bed in the mornings. He’d tried everything traditional exercise had to offer and it hadn’t helped. But after getting to work with more functional exercises, developed specifically for his needs, he gained a new lease of life. Just four months after starting the programme, he booked a skiing holiday. Needless to say, he remains one of my best customers.”
Weight Loss Wonder
Luckily for most of us, our reasons for sweating it out in the gym are not quite so life-changing - typically we just want to lose flab and gain a bit of muscle. According to Punsheon, functional training is, again, the best option.
“Many traditional exercises only move one set of muscles at a time, so they produce quite minimal calorie expenditure. When you’re moving in a functional way you use many intertwined muscle groups, so you can increase the calorie burn by up to four or five times. This makes it far more effective for someone who wants to tone up and lose weight and they’ll see results in a lot less time.”
If you’d like to learn more about functional training, ask at your local health club, they should have trainers who can help you out. Or if you’d prefer to see a specialist, contact Faster Personal Training via www.fasterglobal.com.
Beginners, Looking Good, Strength Training, Weight Loss