LiveWELL Functional Training: Let us Tell you What it IS NOT

By LiveWELL Coach Chris Collins, CPT, NASM

How are those New Year’s resolutions coming along? In addition to being responsible for some of the year’s coldest temperatures, February is also Gut Check Time, that first full month of normalcy that can often be used to determine how successful you will be in sticking to your goals.

Don’t give up! Think of why you set those New Year’s goals in the first place. Continue on bettering yourself every day, and stick to your plan.

And here’s a good one for you: learn to love it. Find pleasure in challenging yourself. When the going gets tough, smile.

This month, I’m going to answer as best I can a common question I receive from most newcomers to LiveWELL. It usually comes after I give the brief rundown of what sets LiveWELL apart from other fitness clubs.

“What is functional training?”

Well, as you might have gathered from above, functional training isn’t as clear-cut and defined as you might think. Ask ten different trainers and coaches their definition of functional training, and you’re liable to get ten different answers.

I can quickly to tell you what it is not. For starters, functional training is not Zumba. Training is independent of music selection and doesn’t borrow from dance. While we like to crank upbeat, fun music on over the club’s speakers, it never determines what we will be doing that day in the gym.

Functional training isn’t Crossfit. There is less emphasis on doing the Olympic lifts with a barbell, and workouts aren’t completed for time.

Functional training is also not how bodybuilders train. Instead of isolating body parts and splitting your training up accordingly (chest, back, and quads, for example), functional training divides your programming into movement patterns (push, pull, and knee). The logic being most of us would rather be more efficient movers as opposed to the most impressive human statue on a stage.

As long as the chosen training method is assisting you in your goals, there is nothing wrong with any of the aforementioned training methods I listed. I believe there is room enough in the fitness world for all of us.

Having said that, I personally believe in the results functional training affords its adherents. I have seen a lot of people train functionally, and I think it’s the best way to get fit.

Apart from the different style of training I mentioned above, most clubs like LiveWELL that specialize in functional training do not have a lot of machines on their floors. This observation is getting us close to a true definition of functional training, for departing from machines forces our own bodies to be strong enough to stabilize in those areas machines usually took care of for us, chiefly the core. There is a huge emphasis on building core strength in functional training.

Functional training focuses on your body’s movement patterns. As such it borrows heavily from principles and ideas prevalent in a wide array of fields, including physical therapy, sport performance, physical education, and movement science. For example,
Mike Boyle, the author of Advances in Functional Training, college hockey coach, and prominent contributor to many national fitness magazines caused waves within the strength and conditioning community when he departed from the traditional back-loaded squat, instead advocating the single leg variety. His rationale being most athletes don’t spend a lot of time playing on both feet. Running, jumping, and cutting, whether on the field or on the court, demands single leg strength.

Training one leg at a time, while furthering athletes’ performance goals, also has the added benefit of exposing weaknesses masked by performing the same exercise on two legs. You can shore up a lot of weaknesses with functional training.

Just as Boyle catered his programming to fit the needs of his athletes, here at LiveWELL, we identify your goals while also taking into account your lifestyle.

I first got into fitness years ago to help me get better at lifting hay bales. I remember doing a lot of bent-over barbell rows that summer. Sure enough, next year when spring rolled back around. Those hay bales didn’t seem quite as heavy. The illustration is a good one and one we continually reinforce at LiveWELL. We just don’t want you fit, we want you to be able to get through your day more efficiently and with enough energy to continue doing the things you love to do for a very long time.

See you at the club.



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