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Functional Training: Get Extraordinary Results (Part 1)

Posted Nov 16 2009 10:02pm

As founder of Beantown Bootcamp, a bootcamp fitness program in downtown Boston, I’ve seen tremendous results with the type of training that I teach. Although I’m biased, our Bootcamp is most likely the toughest around. In the winter our program runs indoors in a local basketball gymnasium and outdoors the rest of the year. The program is marketed to professionals of all ages, but the majority of participants are females in their 20s and 30s.

Bootcamp involves what we call functional training techniques that trainers and coaches use with athletes; and the military uses in basic training. This type of training simulates motions people perform every day, such as bending, reaching, lunging, pushing, pulling, running, and jumping. However, the training adds resistance and challenges to these motions. The class is nonstop and incorporates exercises such as squat thrusts, jumping rope, plyometric (jumping) training, agility training, pushups and wind sprints, just to name a few. In the class we utilize a lot of different types of athletic equipment. The class is not for everyone and at times past injuries and medical histories can limit individual’s abilities in class or from participating at all.

There are a lot of benefits to functional training. In general, the results of functional training can supersede those of general exercise. To better understand the benefits, we’ve outlined them in detail below:

  • Killing a Few Muscles with One Exercise: Movements done during functional training simulate activities of daily living and have a carryover effect in movement function. Many exercise experts state that isolation exercises involving nautilus equipment like an adductor machine or a glute-blaster focus strictly in one plane of motion and on one muscle group and is far less beneficial than an exercise like wrapping an exercise band around your ankles, stretching it out and squatting while pressing a medicine ball overhead at the same time. The second type of exercises target the same muscles groups as the two machines but is far more beneficial because it simulates motions we use daily.
  • Greater Calorie Burn: Functional training works effectively because the calorie burn is greater due to the fact that multiple muscle groups are being challenged all at once.
  • Diversity in Exercise Types: Functional exercises can be easily varied by changing the type of resistance used, position and /or the type of surface on which you do the exercise. For example, there are many different types of resistance one can utilize while performing an exercise such as a bicep curl. A person could do curls with dumbbells, a resistance band, a barbell or a kettlebell. They could also do the same exercise in a number of different positions such as standing, kneeling or sitting. And instead of just standing on the floor or sitting on a bench, one can stand on balance disks or sit on an exercise ball. This technique constantly keeps the body guessing.
  • Variation Keeps your Muscles on their Toes: Variation of exercise is very important to an exercise routine. Muscles have ‘muscle memory’. If one performs the same exercise all the time, the activity becomes easier over time because the body has adapted and developed improved neuromuscular pathways. The exercise becomes mastered by the body when your balance, coordination and strength improves, and as a result, the exercise becomes less of a stress to the body and muscle transformation will cease. Adding in new exercises causes the body to make continual changes. This same philosophy also applies to cardiovascular exercise. Someone that is a long distance runner may not display great endurance when biking or swimming. It is just as important to cross train with cardiovascular exercise as it is important with weight training.

Obviously, functional training has its benefits. It is important, however, to understand that safety is imperative. Clients that do functional training are urged to listen closely to their body and make sure to take rests when needed. These techniques are used by athletes and it is important to get proper supervision and instruction to ensure you are performing the exercises safely and with proper form. Injury from exercise can be a major set back and cause one to not achieve results.

Lastly, individuals training like athletes must eat like athletes. It is important to nourish yourself so that your body can adequately stand up to the task. Make sure that if you undergo a training program such as the one outlined above that you eat 5 small meals a day, with each consisting of lean proteins, healthy fats and good carbohydrate sources. And always make sure to hydrate yourself properly every day.

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