July 13, 2024

F1000 Scientist

Health to Life

Personal Training Trends and the Misuse of Functional Training – A Build-a-Better-Body Read

2 min read

You know, one thing that has always bothered me about the fitness arena are its trends. There is always something out there that’s the new thing, and next week, it’ll be something else. One trendy approach that has been milked and abused, at the expense of many paying personal training clients, is the method of “functional training.” Allow me to explain.

Now, functional training in its original pure design is not bad at all and can be very effective. It is simply an approach to address specific functional needs. In most cases, this will be to enhance athletic performance in a specific sport. For example, if an individual skis as a hobby, there are certain “functional” and less traditional exercises that can be applied to enhance their balance and coordination. These functional exercises address the necessary functions of the respective sport. It is important to note, that even in these cases, traditional strength training approaches still serve as the foundation for the exercise regiment; the functional exercises should be supplementary.

The issue is that the vast majority of people who seek assistance from a personal trainer aren’t training for a specific sport; they want to look better, feel better about themselves, and be healthier. People will usually tell me “I want to lose weight” or “I want to work on firming my thighs” and so forth. Let me dedicate some time to explain just why these functional exercises don’t produce the same results to their traditional counterparts in addressing the aforementioned fitness goals.

When we are performing an anaerobic exercise it is for a very specific reason and we try to isolate a certain muscle group, i.e. performing a bicep curl to work your biceps or a chest press to work you chest. We have known for years and years and years that the best way to improve a body part is to isolate it and then exhaust it.

The problem with functional training for the purpose of achieving these results is that it does not isolate or exhaust a particular muscle group. Take for example performing a squat on a bosu ball (a common functional exercise for balance). Your legs are the strongest muscle group in your body; you can’t effectively use enough weight on a bosu ball while maintaining your balance to sufficiently exhaust your leg muscles to achieve improved firmness and shape.

Functional training truly is a legitimate approach; but it is only necessary for a few specific individuals with certain goals, and even then traditional forms of strength training need to be the foundation and building block. There is a science behind developing the human body and there are tested and proven traditional forms of exercise that will yield the greatest results those seeking to improve their figure/physique.

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