Functional Fitness

Eureka… Some science behind my Functional Fitness thinking

I’ve had a long held belief that varied exercise is better for me. It’s never been in my nature to plough all of my efforts in one activity or competitive challenge, instead if done things in parallel. When my weekends were spent kayaking, I was also cycling, when I was windsurfing, I was probably running. So looking back at this, I’ve been getting a whole body workout, albeit probably more by luck than any expert judgement. In more recent years, when family pressures have limited my exercise options, I’ve focussed on cycling, but that has been varied with rides both on & off road, and I’ve also thrown in strength and weight-bearing exercises, if only because I quite enjoy the variety.

What I’m trying to say is that I’ve never had a particularly scientific approach to training, yet seem to have got into my 50’s in reasonably good shape. Now that I’m taking a serious look at offering personal training to other people this approach seemed to fall into the catch-all term of Functional Fitness, yet again this didn’t seem to have any specific science other than a loose assumption that it involved a varied approach to whole body exercise. So it has been a revelation this week to be introduced formally to the concept of primal movements by Alan at D2F, who was providing some rig training in my new role. Suddenly this approach has put a more formal framework around my long-term thinking. This has been a huge boost, as it confirms that I’ve been thinking along the right lines for a long time.

Alan explained his definition of functional fitness in terms of training movement, rather than muscles. So, whereas most gym programmes tend to work on the basis of upper/lower body sessions or specific muscle groups, the approach to functional fitness was based around patterns of body movements, such as a squat movement, pressing movement or rotation.

Again, this is in line with my thinking – I’m sure my gym clients will confirm that I’m the one telling them to drop the size of the weights and to concentrate on range of movement & good technique. You can see the proof of this in every gym up & down the country, where you’ll see someone rocking backwards and forward doing a (very) partial bicep curl with a huge dumbbell, but as soon as you ask them to do a full controlled curl they can’t do it and have to drop the dumbbell weight (significantly). This translates perfectly into how your training benefits your life outside the gym – being able to badly curl a huge dumbbell is no use if you can’t curl the week’s shopping bags into the car.

This all means that I now have a scientific framework to underpin my thinking and to use as I build my programmes.

The functional movements mentioned above are also referred to as Primal moves, and are as follows:

o – Squat

o – Lift

o – Pull

o – Press

o – Rotate

o – Gait/locomotion

o – Carrying

o – Smash, this last one seems to be one of Alan’s and doesn’t in much of the earlier discussion around functional movements, but is a valid movement group in its own right.

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