Functional training is a big buzz word today, leading people to hold it as the gold standard of Fitness, but does training on unstable surfaces actually have any merit?
The term 'functional training' came about from physio therapists who prescribed 'functional' exercises in order to for their clients muscles, joints and tendons to return back to their NORMAL working state. These exercises where used to simply make the muscle/join/tendon FUNCTION again, not get bigger and stronger. Somehow, someone made the jump and thought that it would be a good idea to have everything as 'functional' as possible.
“Functional training” is definitely a hot topic – it’s also one of my biggest pet peeves! Who the hell came up with the notion that standing on a Swiss ball with your eyes closed and a finger in your nose was more “functional” than such great exercises as barbell squats, deadlifts, sled dragging, chin-ups, etc. I guess, like a lot of other good ideas, functional training became a trendy, overused and improperly implemented training tool.
These implements do have their time and place; I just don’t feel they should become the focus of an athlete’s training. The reason I say this is because in all of sports, it is the athlete that moves while the playing surface remains still. (The playing surface doesn’t move as the athlete tries to remain still!) True “functional” training should consist of applying resistance to an athlete while his/her feet are in contact with the ground. The athlete must then adapt to these forces. Also, if you’re always performing exercises on “unstable” devices, you will be limited in the amount of weight you can use. This will prevent you from overloading the prime movers of the exercise, which will limit how strong you can get.
As far as taking “functional” training to the next level, I have found that the strongman-type events have a high degree of transfer to the real world. Sled dragging, tire flipping and farmers walks are all great tools for training the athlete. All of these exercises require the athlete to counter a resistance by driving into the ground with their feet.
Generally, I like using Swiss balls, balance boards, etc. during the initial off-season training of an athlete to overcome any muscular imbalances or injuries. I am also a fan of doing abdominal work on the Swiss ball as it provides a great pre-stretch on the abs – something you can’t get by doing crunches laying on the floor.
Simple guideline to nutrition – If it ever flew, walked, swam or grew in the ground, eat it. If it was man made, leave it.
Step 1: Drop the obvious – cookies, cake, sugar, junk food and excess booze, You don’t have to be a saint all the time, try to follow the 90/10 rule: 90% of the time avoid these bad foods so that 10% of the time you can treat yourself.
Step 2: Get rid of the less obvious – These are the ‘pretend health foods’ that many consider healthy, but, really aren’t. ‘Low fat’ foods are brimming with sugar. Most cereals are ‘High fiber’ and sugar is even ‘gluten free’
Start by cutting or limiting wheat, milk and fruit juices.
Step 3: Replace these with healthy choices. Replace your pastas, breads and cereals with rice, potato’s, quinoa, oatmeal, buckwheat and lots of green, starchy vegetable’s. Replace milk with unsweetened almond, coconut and cashew milk.
Get your protein mainly from fish, white meat, beef and eggs. Don’t be afraid of healthy fats – eggs, coconut butter, red meat and nuts.
All of the above is aiming to reduce inflammation. Most modern diets are very acidic and cause chronic inflammation, not only is this the cause of most illnesses, it also hampers fat loss and muscle gain. To fight it, follow the steps above, eat a ton of veggies and drink plenty of water.
I hope this helps, if you like I have plenty of healthy recipes I can send you, do feel free to ask any questions you have about nutrition anytime.