T Nation

Everybody Hates Functional Training


On Thursday night my Athletic department was ?lucky? enough to have one of the countries leading ?functional training? experts come and give us a presentation. I went in with an open mind but knew deep down that if I had to do a stand-up comedy job in front of the T-Nation community, this would provide me with more than enough material.

Enter the presenter. 5 foot 10 and 250 pounds. At least 30% fat. Automatically he was behind the 8 ball. Seriously, if you?re going to talk shop with Coaches, at least look like you have trained.

First thing he does is walk into our gym which consists of multiple power racks, platforms, Olympic bars, dumbbells ranging from 1kg ? 50kg, tonnes of free weights, many benches and the list goes on. Clearly a decent strength trainers paradise. He then tells us that ?I could get a better workout at a playground with monkey bars, a sandpit and a see saw.?

He then sits us all down to talk about nutrition. ?Everybody has a background that determines the way they should eat.? We are all either valley men, mountain men, or desert men. I think what he was trying to say was that we were either a ecto, endo or mesomorph. Our category that we fall into is due to our family tree. So mountain men have mountain kids and so on. Yet he had trouble explaining why one sibling may have classic mountain men traits and the other have a desert man body type.

He then goes through the typical spiel of eat only what was available to a caveman. Don?t take supplements, vitamins, fish oil and etc. They weren?t available to a caveman so you shouldn?t eat them. Vaccinations are a way for the government to make money too. He also said that shoes are bad and if it wasn?t unacceptable in society he would walk around in bare feet all day. He was surely stumped when a colleague asked him if he knew the average age of a caveman was mid thirties and things like polio don?t seem to exist anymore.

He then told us about a mate of his. 6 feet tall and 135 pounds. He could wield a 5 foot chainsaw with 1 hand and was the functionally strongest guy he knew. His nickname was Twig. He said if he could choose to look and perform like Arnold or Twig; he would be Twig. He said that covered everything from the sporting arena, in the gym, on the beach (too bulky to pick up chicks), and doing manual labour. ?Why would anyone want to be 6-2, 240 and functionally weak?? he begged. ?Why not be 6, 135 and wield a chainsaw with one hand?? This guy was a clown. On the football field Arnold and Twig are charging head on at 25 mph each. They collide at the same pace, who wins? Our boy, Arnie every time.

He then went on to say that if he was head of our athletic department the following exercises would be black listed. Bench, squats, deadlifts, bb rows, good mornings, cleans, push presses, and of course bicep curls. I will give you his reasoning for the bench press only. If one person is given push ups for a month, and the other is given bench, the person who did push ups will increase his 1rm Bench by more than the guy who exclusively did bench. Who would honestly believe that? I thought he would go the Paul Chek ?What does the sheer amount of weight that someone can push whilst lying flat on their back have to do with anything??

Aerobic training and anaerobic training are bad too. We should try to simulate old school hunting in our training. Running around with a longbow trying to bag a deer was his way of training and he suggested that as a possible team workout. Yep, I?m going to give long bows to 17 and 18 year olds and let them loose in the forest.

The night went on from him bagging out bodybuilders, strongmen comps, the way elite footballers/basketballers train and etc. I found the night a clear insult to the pioneers of strength training and those who challenge themselves under the iron. I have built my individual and my team performances with solid weight training and I am fearful that the strength training world is going this way. I blame Paul Chek and other marketing gimmicks for this. The problem is that resistance training is simple in reality. Simple movements are the key to success. They think that standing on a swiss ball and doing squats with 2kg dumbbells in each arm is going to give them Emmit Smith quads.

I hope you can all share your ?Functional? training stories, as I really had my eyes opened to the frauds in this industry.


I wholeheartedly agree.

In my younger and stupider days, I tried an exclusive bodyweight and fitball program. It was sold to me as the answer for all my problems. My strength decreased, my size diminished, and my sporting performances dropped right off.

I give you functional training.

Loved the bit about Twig and Arnold.



Or this?


yeah, the whole caveman thing gets me. Don't those idiots like Chek understand what Evolution means?

I have read all the articles on his page and they really piss me off.

I used to work with guys who were nuts on Paul Chek. Ever since they got into Chek, the got smaller by the minute.


Hilarious, especially the part about running around with long bows.


I reckon I have actually had that guy present to me too. You have to at least look like you have trained to command any respect.

The push ups thing is complete bullshit. When I did basic training with the Army Reserve I did nothing but push ups. My bench went back 15-20% in 7 weeks. So, I'm talking from experience.

I don't think there would be a Chek practicioner on this entire site.


I know. That was the point where any remaining credibility went out the window.

The guy did have everyone in the department talking for months though.


I've read the articles too. As a coach I like to keep an open mind to just about everything but Chek just annoys the hell out of me.

I think that a tiny portion of his stuff might be okay, but the Bench, Deadlift, Squat and etc will always be the staples of our departments programs.


Spot on Coach. Spot on.

I wouldn't let Paul Chek train me for free.


Did the buy pull out a swiss ball and ?wobble? board.


I love the caveman theory, people say that and I like to remind the average lifespan of a "caveman" was probably 20.


I just started picturing some of my students running around the forest shooting arrows at one another and actually laughed out loud.

Good work, coach.


I remember when Herschel Walker said that all he did was push ups, sit ups and sprints (yeah....sure). Soon, everyone thought that was all it took to be athletic.


You should have said yes to the running around the forest with longbows, so long as you got to hunt that dumbass.


A few thoughts:

-How did this dude get to be 30% body fat just eating greens and berries? He must have found a doughnut tree in the woods huh?

-I don't think there is anything wrong with running through the woods with a long bow. If any of you has ever taken a healthy jog throught the woods you know that you can get a great cardio workout in a very short period of time.

-Functional folks like him can never explain how the muslce built by performing say squats for example is not in fact functional muscle. If I build up my quads, biceps and lats in the gym can't I use those muscles to help me drag a dear out of the woods?

-He's at least partially right about diet. The more natural food that you eat the healthier you will most likely be. But, why exclude supplemnts? Early man ate plenty of fish as they were easier to obtain than large game. So....what's wrong with taking a quality fish oil supplement like Flameout? Vegetables and fruits had a higher degree of vitamins in them thousands of years ago than they do now. So...what's wrong with supplementing with Vitamin C and other important nutrients?

The guy presented partial truths mixed with a bag of crap.


It goes back to the fundamental question: What are you training for? There's nothing necessarily 'wrong' with functional training, its a question of whether or not functional training help you get to your goals. Certainly sprinting through the woods trying to chase a deer (they're rather fast runners...), jumping over obstacles, climbing hills, jumping off of ledges will get you a great workout, if your goal is to be able to run through the woods faster. If one's goal is to be able to lift progressively heavier objects, it makes sense to be try and lift objects of known weight (so you can track your progress) that have convenient handles (as to avoid injury), which is basically what dumbbells and barbells are. Same goes for the supplements thing, is a NO booster really 'good' for you? Depends on your goals. Should you swear off all supplements and just eat regular food? Depends on your goals.

It's like organic-food advocates. Most people on this board would agree that more 'natural' foods are better for you than heavily-processed foods, but some people take it a bit too far, saying things like you can't eat any food that's been made by a corporation, or that you must only eat raw, 100% vegan foods in order to get healthy.

People like being controversial. There's something about saying to other people that: "Everything you're doing is wrong, and my way is right" that seems to appeal to a certain portion of the population. I like lifting weights for nothing other than the warm, happy feeling it gives me, so I don't really care much right now for functional training. Yes, I could probably get more GPP with sandbag, sled-pulling, and running-through-forest-with-longbow training, but right now, I just don't really care for it. There's certainly nothing wrong with it, and if it's your thing, then go nuts. Just don't tell me what I'm doing is crap, and I won't tell you what you're doing is crap. Maybe someday I'll get into it, and I can carry you on my back while I sprint thought the forest with my longbow hunting deer.


That's funny stuff. I agree with Zeb, though, that running/walking with weight (not a long bow, something less stupid like a sandbag) is good GPP. Other than that, everything he said was bull.


Chek sells the weak an empty promise of "core strength" because he practiced a circus stunt enabling him to perform 315 lb squats standing on a physioball. Maybe he can practice blowing me on it too. When he can put a 100 lbs of lead and steel on his back, move out 30-40km for a few days, and then lay it down on a target, I'll buy into his bullshit. Has anyone ever met this prick? He's a certifiable cunt.

[He might be more arrogant than myself.]

Someone please do me a favor and put two in his skull.


"Aerobic training and anaerobic training are bad too. We should try to simulate old school hunting in our training. Running around with a longbow trying to bag a deer was his way of training and he suggested that as a possible team workout. Yep, I?m going to give long bows to 17 and 18 year olds and let them loose in the forest"

I realise that I will get nailed for saying this one ,but here it goes.
Ive talked with some of the canadian native ahtletes. SOMETIMES they have claimed that ;as part of their conditioning , they'd would go into the forest ,chase game ,catch it and eat it.Theyd do so with bow and arrows ,knives and what not.
Many have claimed to have never used barbells or dumbells. They d run up and down hills ,chop wood , and play on the money bars.


Actually, that is partly true. Until he got to UGA he had never touched a weight in his life. They immediately got him started on a training program when he got there, though. Keep in mind, however, that Walker is a genetic freak of the truest kind. Very few people could ever put on the kind of size he did from bodyweight exercises alone. And, obviously, he only responded that much better one he did start picking up the weights.