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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Functional Training - Every movement Should Have a Purpose

I received a compliment the other day from a client.  I know... A compliment! 

My client told me she enjoys working with me because I don't just walk her through a workout and tell her what to do.  I explain what I am having her do, what the movement does and why I am having her do the movement.

This is one of the biggest mistakes personal trainers make.  They simply walk their clients from exercise to exercise, or even worse from machine to machine, with no thought to why.  Any schmuck can put someone through a workout that "kicks their butt".

But is that workout really making your client better, or are you simply running them into the ground to "burn calories"?

Every movement in a program should have a purpose.  Why do I have every one of my clients squat?  So they develop, and keep, the ability to sit down and stand up.  This movement comes in handy after eating Thanksgiving dinner!  What about situps?  So you can sit up!  Overhead Press?  So you can put stuff on the top shelf!

Not every movement is that cut and dry.  Some are more client specific.  For an example lets look at the superman exercise.
Now why would I have a client do this silly movement?  No, as many trainers will tell you, it's not to "work the lower back".  I use it as an assessment tool to determine someones shoulder mobility and their glute activation.  It is very easy to see a lack of mobility in the shoulder joint when someone can barely lift their arm off the ground.  Or to see a lack of glute activation and hamstring dominance when the knee bends as the client is trying to lift their leg off the ground.

One simple question can be a powerful thing.  WHY?  Ask this question the next time your trainer has you do a movement.  He/she should be able to answer that simple question.  If not, it may be time to get a new trainer.

And be a bit skeptical when someone throws around the term "functional".  A functional exercise is one that transfers to activities outside the gym.  BOSU balls and stability balls are not "functional".



I think you're getting at a couple of different things here. First, working with a trainer.

I'm highly motivated by the science of it all. I want to know why I'm doing a movement, what it's working, and how it translates to real-life movements. Learning that, I can translate real-life movements to exercises in the gym.

On the other hand, some people really *are* motivated by "I just want to lose weight. Get me there, and yell at me if you have to remind me why I hurt."

The other bit is the functional bit. I think stability balls *are* functional. I use one as a weight bench. While obviously I have to lift a little lighter, I'm much more aware of what my core is doing and what it feels like when my back arches. That translates to more awareness of posture in everyday movements.

Your testimonials page says it all! :-)

I'd love to see a reality show with someone like Mike - positive and knowledgeable, but apparently America only likes watching idiots like Jillian Michaels :-p

@Josh You are right. A lot of people (most clients) do not need or want to know the science or reasoning behind a workout prescription. They simply want to be told what to do and be motivated. But my point was the trainers job is to know the reasoning behind what they are prescribing. If the trainer cannot answer the question "why" then they are not providing their client the service they deserve.

As far as stability ball training being functional... I'll be getting to this on Thursday's post about "core" stability.

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