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Functional Exercise

December 14, 2007

Balancing on one leg on top of a Bosu ball while performing overhead presses. Balancing on a stability ball on your knees while someone tosses a medicine ball back and forth to you. Performing squats on a criminally expensive machine that vibrates (aka The Power Plate).

I’ve seen these types of exercises performed by clueless people, yet I still do not understand the reason why trainers have their clients perform such silly, ineffective exercises. The reason I say this with such strong conviction is that most of these gadgets do not have the right scientific research to back up the claims that they make about their validity.

I believe that functional exercise is a wonderful tool to add to any one’s current program; however, the reason for doing so should be exact, and planning is absolutely necessary. To put a 60 year old woman on a Bosu ball to perform squats, telling her that she is working her core and other small muscles, is not only dangerous, it is an outright lie.

I approach training from a practical standpoint. If the exercise you are about to perform is not coherent with your goals, then that particular exercise may not be one that you should be doing. You should always be doing exercises that you want to do, and those that are congruent with your goals!!!

I understand the importance of balance, stability, and functional training-they are all very important elements to a well-rounded program, especially as one ages and starts to lose motor control. However, I don’t feel that it is necessary to put someone in danger to improve balance and coordination.

Most people start to improve these skills just by partaking in a weight training program. Adding weird gizmos and gadgets isn’t always necessary. Most importantly, if a client has no interest in using these types of instruments, I will not add them to their program. Plain and simple.

I have seen a few trainers, despite their clients objection, add these “functional” tools to their programs, telling them some outrageous claim they’ve read in some silly fitness magazine. And of course, clients listen, because most of the time, they haven’t done any research or they just don’t know any better.

I have read many glorious articles about these functional training tools. Some people claim that doing squats on a Bosu ball will give you “ripped abs” in no time (I read that this is how Eva Longoria got her abs, didn’t you know?) It has nothing to do with genetics, tons of cardio, and a clean diet) And Madonna uses the Power Plate, so I better go spend $10,000 on one right now!

What people need to realize is that Madonna didn’t get her legs or abs from the Power Plate, she got them through 20+ years of extremely HARD WORK and dedication, weight lifting, running, and meticulous eating. It makes me sick when I see these tools glorified by the use of a celebrity name. Of course we should know better, but sometimes it is easy to get sucked into the deception. We all want the easy way out.

I do believe that some of these items are great and should be included in your program. I love doing abdominal work on a Bosu ball and stability ball-when performed correctly, they will add intensity to ab exercises and challenge you in a way that floor work cannot.

But when I hear an outrageous claim such as getting ripped abs from standing on top of a ball while performing an exercise meant to work another muscle group, I just have to question that. Show me the evidence-where is the scientific proof? Where are the studies?

There are many ways to improve balance and coordination-putting someone who lacks good balance on top of a unstable surface is not a smart option. Telling someone something that lacks the right research is just irresponsible.

The purpose of this blog is to inform you all to not always believe the hype, or even what the current fitness trend may be. Everyone is looking to sell, sell, sell.

For example, I love yoga; however, it is a beautiful practice that also had to use a celebrity name (umm…Madonna!) to gain popularity. Now, you see a yoga studio on every corner and more types of yoga that I can mention-and even yoga for pets (please!).

There is no escape-a well rounded program consists of proper cardiovascular exercise, weight training, flexibility, and rest. Oh, don’t forget–HARD WORK. There are no gimmicks.

Until next time-train smart!

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