Show me an article by the latest and greatest fitness guru talking about his new “Functional Training” method you can buy, which is way better than the rest. It takes all that I have not to bury my head in a pillow and scream for a good half hour straight.
Why the strong feelings you may ask?
It's because "Functional Training" is a total buzzword that fitness professionals have used more and more recently to explain away anything they do with your programming, no matter how half-assed the exercises are.
Whether it’s having you stand on one leg, doing a bicep curl with the opposite arm, all while you stand on a Bosu ball or to doing 75 Burpees superset with 75 Box Jumps for rounds, they’re explanation for the “Why are we doing this?” question is always something along the lines of, “Because it’s functional.”
It also implies that if what they’re doing is functional, then there must be lots of non-functional exercises out there, which just isn’t the case.
These same “functional” style trainers are also pretty quick to point out how useless and “unfunctional” a nautilus machine made for trunk rotation is, then proceed right over to the nearest cable machine, made very similarly with pulleys and the like, to show you how to do a cable twist. Anyone else see the irony there.
Look, this is not to say there aren’t exercises out there that are not super beneficial for most people, but that doesn’t mean the movements aren’t functional.
I’ve heard so many people say things like, “I don’t do bicep curls, because they aren’t functional.”
Isn’t the whole function of your bicep to flex the elbow? Wouldn’t flexing at the elbow under load and creating tension in your biceps make you better at performing that same flexion movement? So then why in the hell is that not functional?
A bicep curl may or may not be the best use of your time in the gym depending on your goals, but that doesn’t make it any more or less functional to your body.
Furthermore, you know what is probably the most functional thing any of us can do?
I don’t blame the average gym goer for buying into the “Functional Training” myth either. They see countless infomercials on TV for Jillian Michaels’ newest functional training method all the time, and those workouts look hard.
I’ll bet all of you at one point have been approached by a trainer at your gym and been challenged to do something silly like stand on a Bosu ball for as long as you can. Hell, it was probably challenging too.
Then the trainer, who is supposed to be the expert here, tells you it’s a “functional exercise” and of course you’re gonna buy into that sentiment. Unless you work in the exercise field, why would you doubt that.
I want to be clear here about this, because it may be coming off like I lose my mind any time I hear the term “Functional Training”.
If a non-fitness professional uses this term, I don’t really care too much, and often understand what they’re referring to, if not, I’ll just ask for more clarification as to what they’re talking about.
My beef is with the way we in the fitness industry keep making up the latest and greatest fitness terms which are the solely for marketing purposes and then by doing so indirectly vilify other training methods.
This makes no sense and it does nothing to help people get healthier, it just confuses them.
Every movement is functional, the question is, does it’s function help to further advance you towards your training goals at the time you’re doing them?
If so, have at it, and who cares what the skinny local gym trainer tells you is functional. If it doesn’t, then it’s time to re-evaluate the plan and see if you can find a more productive exercise where it’s function meets your purpose.