Fitness goes freestyle
Perhaps one of the most buzzing new trends in fitness is functional training. This is an approach to exercise designed to train the body for everyday life. Its origins lie in rehabilitation and physical therapy but it has since been adopted right across the sports and fitness training world.
As more and more gym goers move away from old fashioned endurance and isolation training, this has brought about a reshape of the gym floor as treadmills and isolation machines are replaced with open functional training spaces equiped with a variety of functional fitness equipment including:
- Bodyweight trainers
- Bosu balls
- Power bags
- Steps & platforms
Functional training offers a range of benefits over traditional exercise. As Craig Fraser explains, using a variety of exercises to work combinations of muscle groups, overall strength and fitness improves, unlike isolation training which strengthens individual muscles allowing for weakness to occur elsewhere and leaves potential for injury. Also by introducing imbalance helps to promote greater core strength and prepare the body for the imbalanced and imperfect real world. Futhermore, functional training can also incorporate intense HIIT and plyometric exercises, functional training can effectively burn more calories in less time and reps with lower risk of repetitive stress injuries.
We discussed the functional fitness trend with trainer Omid Soltani at FIBO 2013
In many ways functional training represents a return to a more naturalistic approach to fitness by training for function rather than vanity. This raises the question of how best to train a body that was forged over millions of years to hunt and forage, to function in the modern world?
Early humans probably wouldn’t of relied all that much on brute force to ensure survival, but rather speed cunning and resiliency. Also, not being builders and only using small hand tools, they wouldn’t have been the bulky bolder pushers as portrayed in the Flintstones.
Speed was very useful to cave dwellers, both for hunting or evading predators and aggressors. This would almost certainly have involved short, intense bursts of high speed (barefoot), with the occasional leap, on uneven terrain, before a walk home. Never long distance running.
The caveman lifestyle would have been a very active one, hunting and foraging by day, and sleeping throughout the night. However with nothing but logs and rocks for furniture it would have been somewhat uncomfortable.
As well as the odd bump start, today’s humans generally carry a greater combined weight of giant handbags and laptops for greater durations. Maintaining strength is certainly useful, unless taken to body builder extremes, without toning, which can hinder overall functionality.
Speed does play a part in modern life. There’s the occasional sprint for the bus or train, as well as legging it from would be muggers. HIIT is still the best way to run, as well as free running to introduce plyometric movements, never long distance jogging on pavement.
Stressful desk jobs and televisions have contributed to modern people failing to achieve required daily activity and sleep. Best to get regular exercise and activity before switching off and sleeping in the pitch black.
Craig Fraser talks functional fitness in the modern urban environment