RAW Coach – Karyss Adams
There is a stigma about functional training that the typical person representing its difficult variations usually have no shirts, ripped abs, fad diets, too many supplements, tight clothes, no cellulite and lift ridiculous weights… should I go on? Yes, in 2019 people who do functional training are a certain type of person. Personally I hate when people call it “functional training” because to me it’s just training. It’s just using a variation of cues, timing, repetitions or load to improve your ability to move a certain way. Put simply, it makes moving much easier. People who are not familiar with training in a gym or lifting weights see them as tools of the steroid infused bodybuilding guy. The same shirtless guy who attends summer festivals and hopefully attracts girls. I can honestly say I have never written a program for myself or gone to the gym with the intention of building a certain muscle group in order for it to ‘look better’. Sure I’ve done sessions with other people (commonly known as beach body sessions) where I have worked my guns or my chest specifically but personally it has always been my goal in every session to improve sports performance.
Focusing on improving your performance over time will help you to reap the physical benefits as well. It becomes a byproduct of the training itself and as you get stronger, fitter and build more muscle your body naturally adapts to allow for more functional movements. Yup I said it, functional movements, what the hell are they Kaz? When I think of functional movements I usually think of a full squat, a farmers walk or a full push up with maximum range of motion for that individual (its different depending on your mobility). Taught correctly these movements can help you with almost every movement in your life. However, more importantly it will help you to create longevity with mobility (more on longevity soon). We squat everyday – when you sit in a chair, when you hop out of your car, when you pick up heavy things (you should be squatting) you are squatting. Carrying anything anywhere, kids, beach gear, groceries, items from your car, you are doing a farmers walk of some kind. Push ups – you may not directly push up like the movement itself but we rely heavily on the triceps and shoulders for extending through the elbow and stabilizing the shoulder girdle, mainly for things like getting out of cars, chairs or even just out of bed.
Longevity in your mobility – you don’t need me to pull up a study to show you that if you make it into your late forties and fifties or later you will start to experience a lack of mobility. It really starts to shine light on the saying “if you don’t use it you’ll lose it” which in my experience is exactly what happens. I have even seen it start to happen as young as mid to late thirties. One of the most frequent accidents for elderly (70 years or older) is falling over. Therefore one of the most common studies is resistance training on elderly who are prone to falling. One randomized controlled trial studied the effects of a low-to moderate-intensity group exercise program on strength, endurance, mobility and fall rates in fall-prone elderly men with chronic impairments. This study demonstrated that a simple program of progressive resistance exercises, walking, and balance training can improve muscle endurance and functional mobility in elderly men with chronic impairments and risk factors for falls (Laurence Z. Rubenstein, Karen R. Josephson, Peggy R. Trueblood, Steven Loy, Judith O. Harker, Fern M. Pietruszka, Alan S. Robbins, Effects of a Group Exercise Program on Strength, Mobility, and Falls Among Fall-Prone Elderly Men, 2000).
“Do you carry the groceries inside your house?” used to be the selling point I would use for encouraging women to do weights. It would usually be women who didn’t want to gain weight and thought lifting weights would increase body weight which is not always the case. I would identify all of the daily activities they already perform and how those things pale in comparison to lifting a few small weights or even bodyweight at the gym. Stay at home mums and women alike do amazing tasks like lift multiple children, lift heavy groceries, heavy prams and objects around the house which can weigh on average around 5-15kgs. However, when it came to a 15kg KB at the gym, due to their lack of familiarity, they would highly underestimate themselves and go for something lighter. Adding my perspective and reassurance that with correct technique and program design we could avoid ‘bulking up’ always seemed to help them get around the old stigma with lifting weights and getting big. I’ve trained women who lost weight and increased their back squat well up over 70-80kg which is relatively heavy for the average person. Perspective from someone who is experienced is all it will take to shift your mindset on this matter. Once you can start to identify the practical application of specific movements eg, squatting, hinging, pressing and pulling, you will start to see their significance and why improving these movements under load or repetition will not only be important for your daily tasks but also the longevity of your mobility.