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Equinox Fitness San Francisco Personal Training Tip: Functional Training

Posted Mar 31 2010 12:00am


Amy Fiske Equinox Fitness Personal Trainer
Functional Training; A workout that that will keep you strong, balanced and fit for life!

How many of you go to the gym and use machines rather than free weights? I know I used to before I became a personal trainer several years ago. I avoided medicine balls, stability balls, the BOSU ball and cable machines and stuck to the comfort of the weights machines and the treadmill. That was until I was introduced to the concept of Functional Training. This method of training completely revolutionized the way I worked and how I trained my clients, as it seemed to make sense. Functional training teaches a person how to handle their own body weight through balance and body awareness that mimics movements each of us do in our daily lives. Michael Boyle, a renowned strength and conditioning coach, states that Functional Training is ‘purposeful training’. It prepares an individual athlete for his or her sport and reduces injury by challenging balance and movement patterns, rather than giving the body a rigid stable environment. Functional Training is characterized by actions such as squatting, lunging, twisting, pushing and pulling. It teaches a person how to handle their own body weight in all planes of motion, without the two dimensionality of machines (NB: It must be acknowledged that the use of weights machines do have a place in some individual’s exercise regimes, for example injury rehabilitation). Functional training is a useful workout that everyone can do regardless of fitness level.


I have been inspired by experts in Functional Training such as Paul Chek , a Holistic Health Practitioner and corrective exercise specialist (works with LA Chiropractic College and many professional athletes). His work includes exercises that are very practical and can be used by a diverse population, from sedentary people to athletes. He bases his concept around movements that our ancestors would use to survive in the wild called “primal patterns”:


2)   BEND

3)   LUNGE

4)   PUSH

5)   PULL

6)   TWIST


Although our environment is very different now he argues that these movements still apply today, for example, ‘the squat’. Many of us do this everyday getting in and out of a chair when sat at a computer screen, however some may acquire back, wrist or neck pain from sitting all day. Chek provides an exercise regime based around performing these seven basic movements correctly so that we can carry out daily lives injury free.

Functional Training works to achieve a chosen goal or objective specific to an individual’s needs. This means training your muscles and how they are used in your life, whether it’s walking upstairs, carrying groceries, picking up your child or playing a particular sport. In my job as a personal trainer at Equinox, San Francisco, I have found that functional training is applicable to everyone, as it encompasses many aspects of life. I work with a diverse clientele, but always keep in mind “training for purpose” and consider specific needs.  Functional training can be applied to:

  • Pre/Post natal- Help prepare for childbirth; movements can be included that emulate lifting a baby from the crib to help build strength and reduce injury.
  • Triathlon Training- A triathlete preparing for a big event. A program can be designed to work on balance, the action and the muscle groups involved in the run, bike and swim.
  • Sedentary- Many of my clients have desk jobs and more often than not muscles can get tight or weak from sitting for prolonged periods. Functional training can help correct muscle imbalances and prevent injuries through stretching and performing bodyweight exercises to become more bodily aware.

To make the body stronger it is vital that exercises are done that challenge the proprioceptive nervous system, in other words your balance, testing your internal sensory feedback about the position of your body. This is a great way to strengthen the body and its major core muscles (muscles of the torso). For example, when you perform a lunge on an uneven surface you become more stable when lunging on a flat surface. Using equipment such as stability balls, cables, medicine balls, foam roller, dumbbells, Kettlebells, the BOSU, TRX can help facilitate this type of training and not to mention it can liven up your workout! You can use any of these pieces of equipment and apply Chek’s seven basic movements. For example, squat on TRX, Lunge on BOSU, pulling using a cable, shoulder raise on stability ball with dumbbells. See below:


Squat     Bosu-Ball-Lunges-Foot-in-Front-of-Bosu3[1] 1armstandcablerowB[1]   Pho_exercise_swiss-ball-unilateral-raise[1]



So next time you head to the gym ask a personal trainer to help you use the equipment correctly to functionalize your workouts, make you stronger, more balanced and fit for your life!

Checkout the following websites for exercises and some of the equipment found in this article;


Michael Boyle ‘Functional Training for Sports’

Paul Chek ‘How to eat, move and be healthy’ 



Amy Fiske Bio: Personal Trainer Equinox Fitness San Francisco .

Education: BA in Religious Studies & Education from University of Stirling in Scotland, Masters in Education from the University of Surrey, London, previously worked as a High School teacher in Scotland and London.

Certifications: NPTI, NSCA-CPT, TRX, Pre/Post Natal, Kettlebells Level 1

Specialties: Weight loss, toning, running, swimming, cycling

Sports/Background: Running, yoga, swimming, cycling

Areas of interest: Nutrition and sports injury rehab

Hometown: Stirling, Scotland

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