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Put Functional Training in your life

Looking into the trend in the fitness industry it is interesting to see how much ground Functional Training (FT) is gaining. By data reported in the ACSM Health and Fitness Journal, back in 2014 the concept of FT is ranked at number 8 in a worldwide survey of fitness trends. The overlapping moves and philosophy of FT covers a wide range of identified activities, such as CrossFit, P90X and Core Performance. The efficacy of such a training method is undisputed and with today’s info and “evidence based data”, more popularity and usage of such concept is embraced.

Now you are probably thinking if you should try this method in your own weekly routine, and the answer is pretty clear. Get proper guidance from a pro, to construct a progressively upgraded FT plan and you are on to a well rounded, and soon to come higher index of Fitness. The elements that are involved in this FT are mobility, proprioception, balance, agility, physical endurance, neuromuscular coordination, and of course the important and “must have by all” core strength.

No wonder most athletes in many sports try to develop all of the above before they move into the next level of their training block which can be strength / speed and power.

Now more than ever in our developed societies with the facilities and modern way of life the need to engage into FT on a daily basis is paramount. We spend a lot of hours out of our waking daily hours sitting, working, living in this manner, which has been proven to slowly degenerate our bodies. Spending a big majority of our day in the sitting awkward position creates an almost irreversible damage that year after year is compounding the biomechanical and of course metabolic ailments. The need for movement in a bigger percentage of our “waking hours” can add improved function, increased caloric expenditure, a more fluid motion and better biomechanical efficiency. Unfortunately more evidence comes to life, as sitting becomes more the norm in our daily routine. In all aspects of our life, social eating drinking, working, meeting, driving, discussing, reading, writing, and the list goes on this epidemic has us “deskbound” as Dr. Starret in his book describes, with a few counterattacking ammunition to fight back. Standing a few hours Vs sitting throuought your working day can somewhat improve the efficacy of our movement and the impact on our spines.

By having an additional FT session on a daily basis you are challenging multidirectional physical work tasks that need be addressed and maintaining musculoskeletal and neurological systems. In addition ADL- Activities of daily living, are aided when FT is performed and it strengthens those movement patterns, making the tasks effortless.

As the ACSM Fitness Journal states “Typical resistance training workouts using weight machines and cardio sessions on treadmills, bikes, or elliptical trainers tend to isolate muscle groups and challenge them with single plane or linear movements.” And it continues to id that it fails to train the body in the “multidirectional movements” required for many ADL. If not constantly performing FT for improvement and maintenance, the out of the ordinary activities such as a weekend in the garden or yard, or a mini weekend house project can cause the stiff and sore body experienced by many.

FT does exactly what it says- it promotes healthy and strong function or correct movement patterns. That can be applied in all age levels from kids to adults to seniors to the elderly. All those categories have a special need to address, and FT helps in a great degree. Athletes or non athletes all need to move well and correct their patterns either for performance or for ADL. The concept “kinesthetic awareness” how we feel and understand movement in our activities is the juice of the matter. Feeling and knowing how we move and keep improving this through-ought, is the teaching task in FT. Machines and “self guided” equipment do not teach all the multidirectional movement patterns needed for any individual.

Balance training as described and taught by FT specialists does not require fancy and very expensive equipment, just clear and precise understanding on how to apply the theory we know about FT to a practical application via the mode of exercises. Some examples that explain FT, are exercises that use balance boards, Kettlebells ( active loads) and Swiss balls for added stability. Incorporate all those in, and you are one step ahead in this multidirectional training task, needed in order to stabilize the trunk and pelvis.

An FT specialist with knowledge and experience will also create an environment that also addresses the cardiovascular / metabolic component in training, making sessions more interesting. So FT in conjunction with cardio in one session delivers a more effective and sound method in “killing two birds with one stone”.

K.N. is an Exercise Physiologist, graduate of the University of Alabama, an ACSM certified Health & Fitness Instructor, he holds an ITU Level II Certification as a Triathlon Coach, has been FT since 2000 , and is a multiple Ironman & Half Ironman Triathlon finisher. Currently he coaches Triathletes online, teaches FT at f/3dfts, and performs Exercise Physiology assessments at the Cyprus Sports & Research Center. e – kypros.nicolaou@outlook.com

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