Sunday, February 1, 2009

Functional Strength

Recently on Rosstraining’s forum, the topic of “functional strength” came up. For those who didn’t read the thread, I responded by commenting that I don’t like to use the term much anymore because I believe that too often its uttered by people who have no idea what training is functional. I can say with some certainty that a large part of Ross Enamait’s respectability and popularity in the fitness world is because he can talk intelligently about what kind of training is functional. He uses his body for a living.

Every pop culture term has its subtle variation on meaning but I think that we could all agree that functional strength is strength that you use to get through strenuous physical tasks. This could cover a lot of gound since athletes’s training could fall under the definition of “functional strength.” What it usually entails is training for the tasks that the proletariat use on a regular basis. I see it as the antithesis of bodybuilding. Bodybuilding revolves around look rather than function. So, this is training that has a point. The problem with functional strength training is that so few people work in jobs that are physically demanding.

What complicates the matter even further is most people who do labor for a living are hardly models of functional strength either. I do some manual labor in my job and people who are in good physical condition are uncommon. Most who do hard, laborious jobs abuse their bodies into physical decline.

In a way, I think that true, functional strength training is a little bit of a dying art. I think that’s a shame because this is what training should be about. We should do exercise that strengthens us enough to do strenuous tasks and also protect us from injuring ourselves when we do them. I’ll discuss this in other blog posts but I’ll leave you with a few questions to ponder: Are you doing things that are going to help you do things in your life or is your training largely motivated by the need to impress and look good?

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