Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Monday, October 25, 2010
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Strictly speaking, something is “functional” if it serves a purpose, role, or function. In terms of sports performance, I label an exercise as functional if it improves an athlete's ability to function in their chosen activity. This can be very sport-specific. For example, if you play tennis a chin-up is a highly functional exercise. Within a few weeks of beginning a chin-up program you will add significant speed to your serve and significantly improve your ability to “function” on the courts. For long distance road cyclists the same program of chin-ups would likely be very counter productive as the upper body hypertrophy could decrease performance.
If you train for general fitness and your sport is life, than evaluate things activities are challenging for you and determine what exercises can help improve your function in those particular activities. If you are eighty years old and have trouble getting up from a seated position a heavy dose of bench squats would be highly functional. If you travel for work and carry a heavy suitcase all over the country, farmer’s walk and suitcase deadlifts would be more functional choices.
That being said, certain tools are extremely versatile and can be used to improve function for many types of athletes and regular people alike. The following are some of my favorites in no particular order:
The five minute kettlebell snatch test (along with hill sprints and Tabata protocol rower intervals) is one of the most demanding and time efficient anaerobic workouts one can perform. And life is an anaerobic sport. Think about it: running up the stairs, sprinting with you luggage in an airport to try and make it to the gate on time, moving furniture in your new house, even carrying your laundry basket from your laundry room to the bedroom are all anaerobic activities.
Swings, cleans, & snatches also increase glute strength and psoas flexibility, both common problems in our country. Correcting these common weaknesses can improve running speed, jumping ability, and lower back health.
Kettlebells can also be used to provide variety on almost any basic movement such as front squats and military presses.
A Hex bar is an indispensable tool that will allow almost anyone to deadlift with proper technique. The deadlift is one of the most functional movements around. Everyone needs to pick something up off the ground at some point, and learning how to do this with proper technique and in good position to protect your back is crucial.
The unique shape of the bar helps keep the load centered through body’s midline, reducing stress on the lower back. And the two-handle option helps to accommodate taller people and people with poor calf, hamstring, and hip flexibility.
As either a tool to teach proper deadlifting technique or as a source of variety for a more advanced athlete, the Hex Bar can’t be beat.
The dragging sled is a particularly useful tool for increasing work capacity and rehabbing injuries. Because exercises performed using the sled involve only concentric muscle contractions there is virtually no soreness associated with sled workouts.
People with knee pain on squats and lunges can easily perform a backwards sled drag pain free. Most of the work is handled by the vastus medialis, the chronically underdeveloped head of the quadriceps muscle.
Some other more specialized tools we utilize at Kuzora Fitness are sand bags, strongman logs, an atlas stone, thick handled barbells, and my personal favorite, the half filled keg. Watch this video and you can easily see how lifting that over you head will build significantly more functional strength and core stability than the contra-lateral single arm DB overhead press standing on one leg on the BOSU!
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Friday, October 1, 2010
From time to time I like to search the web and see what my competition is up to. I like to be aware of their training styles and philosophies so I can better identify the advantages of choosing us over anyone else. And I strive to keep my prices competitive so I also search for session rates and special offers.
Lately I haven’t been doing this as much, mostly because anytime I look someone up it seems like they’re out of business. I have been fortunate to remain a strong and viable business during these tough economic times. And while technically my competition shutting their doors is a positive for my business I find no pleasure in others misfortune.
But recently a new client came to the studio to try out some of the strongman workouts we have been specializing in lately. We took him through a workout consisting of five sets of backwards sled drag alternate with one minute Atlas stone holds. The second circuit alternated the keg load with farmer’s walk. Kettlebell man makers were the finisher.
This is a brutally hard workout that improves nearly every aspect of fitness. It burns fat, builds muscle, increases strength, and improves both anaerobic and aerobic endurance. By any definition you want to use, it is a “functional workout.”
I bring this up because this gentleman has worked with one of my competitors in Raleigh who professes to specialize in “function fitness.” It sparked my interest, and I decided to do some research.
The primary claim on this website was that “functional” training builds a lean, flexible body that is resilient to injury while traditional weight training creates a muscle bound physique that is inflexible, unfunctional, and injury prone. In addition, this website claims that functional training workouts are shorter and less monotonous than traditional workouts.
I have many issues with this claim, including the use of the term “unfunctional.” Although I wasn’t an English major in college, I’m pretty sure this isn’t a word. But let’s just assume it was a typo and this person meant nonfunctional…
No one would describe Adrian Peterson, running back for the Minnesota Vikings as nonfunctional. He led the NFL in rushing last season and is following that up with another all-pro year.
Yet in an interview with Men’s Fitness magazine he speaks about how he built his incredible lower body power with barbell squats and lunges, very traditional strength training movements. And while he trains to be a better football player, a side effect of his workout is a very impressive, lean physique.
Adrian Peterson, All Pro NFL Running Back
And did his “unfunctional” barbell training make Adrian more injury prone? I doubt it. He is routinely tackled by men that outweigh him by over 100 pounds, yet he was able to play in all 16 games last year.
While I have never tested Adrian Peterson’s flexibility, this claim is just as ridicules as the others. One of my former clients is a scholarship football player at Penn State. He is 6’2”, 300 pounds and can bench press a Kia. Yet while I was training him he was also able to do a full split!
Don’t think traditional weight training exercises are just for men. Jillian Michaels, celebrity trainer from “The Biggest Loser” also focuses her workouts on basic moves such as lunges and bench presses. Would you describe her as bulky?
Are traditional workouts monotonous? I think that depends more on the abilities of the trainer than anything else.
The bench press is one of the exercises that almost every functional training guru despises. But nothing adds muscle and strength to the chest, shoulders, and triceps as fast as this basic movement. And like it or not many men are looking to build their upper bodies. With many of them we may bench press twice a week. Yet almost every client raves about the variety. How do we do this?
Take a look at the following two workouts.
Workout one – Vince Gironda Volume Training
A) Bench Press – 10 sets of 10 reps
Load a barbell with 50-60% of your one rep max. Set your Gym boss timer to beep every minute for ten minutes. Every time it beeps do a set of ten bench presses. If you don’t have a Gym boss timer go get one. They are an amazing help when performing any type of timed or interval workout.
Workout two – The Chain Drop Set
A1) Bench Press with Three Chains – 5 reps
A2) Bench Press with Two Chains – 5 reps
A3) Bench Press with One Chain – 5 reps
A4) Bench Press – 5 reps
Load a barbell with a combination of plates and three chains. Make sure that you can perform 6-8 reps with the total load. Perform 5 reps and take a chain off each side. Immediately get back down and do 5 more reps. Continue until all the chains are off the bar and perform a final set. Rest three minutes and repeat two more times.
Both workouts include only bench press. Yet both are completely different. No one would feel like they did the same workout two sessions in a row if they were alternated.
Most of our female clients do some type of lunge or split squat every single workout. Most will also tell you that the thing they love most about training with us is that the workouts are always different. Why is that? Because we do over fifty different lunge variations!
One thing I’m not really sure about is why the functional training workouts this trainer puts clients thru are shorter than traditional training. My best guess is that shorter workouts allow him to see more clients in the same amount of time, creating more revenue for his business.