T Nation

Functional Training

My gym is a HUGE advocate of functional training. Every trainer has every client on the ball doing all sorts of crazy movements. They also use these balance discs which make it harder to stand and use a balance board and rubber tubing. I know very little about functional training so I can’t really dispute what they tell me. Are there some books and or websites that give good information on this? What do you guys think about func. training? Is it necessary for everyone? IMO, it should be used only if the client has postural deviations or only for a short while if there are no postural deviations. Feedback is appreciated.

Scott, I happen to be a personal trainer as well and have to fight the “good” fight every day with these disgraces. I’ve gotten feedback from everyone from Poliquin, Charles Staley, Hatfield and other less prominent pro’s and all have shot down the whole functional thing as garbage. An interesting point made by Staley was that motion vocabulary is pretty much fully developed by age 12 and where it could be maintained, improvement is not possible. My advice would be to observe what progress these “ham-n-eggers” are making with their clients and when you’ve figured out that their dispicable enough, get your hands on some literature by King, Poliquin, or Francis and learn how to make your clients grow. Peace!

unfortunately paul chek endorses a lot of this bullshit. I am a member of the supertraining egroup, and Mel Siff spent one long letter explaining how this is a lot of BS and a waste of time.

As with everything, even Mentzer and HIT, functional training has it’s place. But like TapJG said, observe for a month, maybe go up the trainer and ask him/her what they’re trying to accomplish and how long it might take, a month later, what happened? Also you’re paying trainers money and at the gym I work at, if the client wants to do a one hour forearm routine then that’s what we do. It’s your money and time, if you’re thinking about buying, be sure you some say in the matter. Lastly, don’t write it off without trying it, it might be just what you need.

Dman- Siff bashes everyone in the biz- including Poliquin and King. I’ve never heard the guy say a nice thing about another strength coach. I’d take everything he says with a grain of salt given his rep.

I thought maybe I should clarify my position on this subject…

First, I tend to dislike the term “functional” training, since ALL training should enhance function. Also because it implies that barbell exercises, etc., are “non-functional” which of course is absurd.

Next, one has to determine the difference beteen “stability” and “balance,” the latter of which is set in stone by age 12 or so. While many of these so-called functional exercises (done on a ball or wobble board, etc) have rehabilitative and thereputic uses, often, what an athlete does on the playing field is actually less stable than these “functional” exercises! However, if an athlete is injured, these exercises have a place as a way of incrementally increasing challenge to the system on the way back to full functionality.

From my point of view, the problem is not the exercises per se, but the inappropriate and indiscriminate use of them, often for almost every client and for every situation. Typically, this occurs because the trainer is looking for some method that will appear to be unique or unusual so that he or she can stand out from the crowd so to speak. I'm more impressed with trainers who get outstanding results with methods that appear ordinary at first glance.

I think Ian King once said that new methods are met with overreaction in the short term and underreaction in the long term…functional training seems to be a prime example…

I guess I forgot to mention that I’m one of the trainers at my gym. Started 4 weeks ago and all the trainers are trying to mind warp me with their functional training, balance boards, swiss ball crap. The responses given further influence my gut feeling about it. Yeah it can be used effectively for some people with little stability and or recovering from injury. But to say that everyone, including athletes, needs their functional training is laughable. I’ll continue to train as I see fit with my clients and take their advice with a grain of salt.

Scott, it’s funny that you’re in the predicament that you are because I started at my gym, New York Sports Club, around five months ago and found myself in the same spot. Most of these guys were ACE or AFAA trainers who have been Personal trainers for more time than they have actually been training themselves. Stick with it and good luck!

Scott- at my gym the trainers do the same shit. Whether their client is 17 or 70, they have them doing all of their exercises on the ball and balancing shit. I feel that the majority of the time these exercises are either for rehabilitation reasons, or sports specific exercises. But, these trainers use these exercises for everybody. Onr thing is for sure, they’ll never get a penny from me.

First off, let me say that Swiss Ball and balance board training can be very beneficial in regards to improving strength, size and performance. Secondly, let me point that this is a relatively new form of training and when someone who knows absolutely nothing about proper training pays a “Certified Personal Trainer” to get them in shape and they try this “UNIQUE and REVOLUTIONARY” training system then they think they’re getting they’re money’s worth. It certainly isn’t bull shit, but like most things it is certainly misused and/or abused by idiots. Too much training on a ball or other proprioceptive device can actually cause a decrease in total strength as a high enough overload may become impossible. On the other hand, someone who’s benched forever will almost always make gains by incorporating some swiss ball DB presses into their routine. Secondly Paul Chek talks a lot about it, but you must understand the context he’s talking about. Usually it’s in a prehab/rehab situation or for isolation prior to integration. Also, Mr. Staley had excellent points about a “functional” exercise. Chek has an article on his sight that I feel concludes the same thing. Also of note, I saw a study not too long ago that took a group of rugby players and put them all on the same/similiar type programs except that one group did some proprioceptive movements. That group had a 3% incident of knee injuries compared to the other groups 22% incidence. Used properly most training tools are beneficial, you just can’t use a hammer to cut a board or a screw driver to drive a nail.

I know Siff tends to bash everyone for something, but he tends to disagree with Chek’s stuff the most. His point is, and i agree, that getting good at wobble boards will make you good at wobble boards. Same thing applies to much of the core training cult that has risen over the years. Bottom line is that wobble board training (outside of rehab) will only help in improve your “functional” ability in giant, wobbly floor, because that is what it is specific to.

I don’t know about all the bashing or all of the praise, believing that the truth is somewhere in between. I know that my deadlift has skyrocketed lately, but I went roller skating with my 9 year old and there was a feeling of weakness that I don’t want. My lower back was tight, my ankles felt unstable, my knees felt weak. What am I doing about it? I have hunted down a good source for wobble boards, and am going to incorporate some work in to my morning ritual. What have I got to lose? Is there any loss in gaining more stability, more strength, more mobility? I will search for web-sites for the info listed, but I will do what I want, despite the skins on the wall, because my position is that despite their knowing a lot about the body in general, no one knows what my body needs better than I do.