Is Functional Training another Fitness Fad?

Being a personal trainer, I deal with a lot of different fitness goals, but mainly I deal with either weight loss or weight gain (muscle hypertrophy). So basically, when I walk into the main gym and I see an overweight person performing a cable woodchopper or standing on inflatable discs performing a barbell bicep curl, because they are seen as “functional” and “good” for them. Later on finding out their goal to start with months ago was weight loss. I can’t help but think what an absolute waste of time! Have gym goers been sucked into a craze of performing exercises completely irrelevant to their goals and forgetting what sort of exercise promotes weight loss or even hypertrophy? All I am saying is these people would have been better off doing any one of our different classes or performing simple but extremely effective exercises such as squats, chin ups, pushups or lunges (all without a bosu or inflatable discs) and all the variations that come with them. Forgetting about such exercise as performing intervals on the rower or even the bike to not only burn calories but create an afterburn!!, which is completely in line with their goals!

My own definition of functional exercises is “performing exercises relative to ones fitness goal”. Basically what that means is suddenly a bicep curl becomes extremely functional for a bodybuilder or weight gain but extremely un-functional for someone wanting weight loss or core strength say.

Is performing a flat db bench press deemed “un-functional” to weight loss? I would seriously argue the point it isn’t! Weight loss requires you to build your lean muscle therefore building your metabolism. Performing a bench press will seriously do that as it is a compound movement for the chest. It is one of the biggest muscle groups of the body, so why that is deemed “un-functional” or to some a waste of time is beyond me. Is performing a farmer’s walk any better? It all comes down to what you are training for. And there is nothing more frustrating than being a trainer and seeing people waste time in the gym, especially considering how time poor everybody is. Then they end up leaving and cancelling memberships because they achieved no results.

The web defines functional fitness as “The ability to perform normal daily activities around the house or at work, without undue fatigue.” In our normal daily lives do we ever stand on a wobbly ball performing squats? We definitely don’t. How “functional” training got to a point where we are training to perform in a circus I will never know. What we do in everyday life is potentially squat or lift 40kg plus of whatever you can think of. We put ourselves in positions like a BB Bent-Over Row and of course a deadlift. These exercises to me are “functional” Positions that need to be able to bear weight, not balance on wobbly surfaces!

In saying all this, equipment such as a bosu or inflatable discs are extremely useful for rehab purposes when injury has occurred. That I fully recommended and see time well spent.

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