It’s easy to get carried away with the term Functional Training. It’s a term that is given to forms of training that mimic the individual needs of clients, and it just so happens to be that the average ‘Joe Blogs’ is our bread and butter client. Therefore the typical needs of our clients are everyday movements: squats, lunges, pushes, pulls, bends and twists.
And although I’m in massive favour of all of the above, don’t forget about specificity! Just because a Squat Press lends itself nicely as a functional movement doesn’t necessarily mean it’s specific to the needs of an average Joe. What if the average Joe naturally carries a lot of stress through the shoulders/upper traps? Sure, the exercise itself might still be a functional one, but the application is inappropriate for that individual because this exercise could put this client at risk of a shoulder impingement as the scapula retractors are inhibited.
Just as I wouldn’t give an Overhead BB Walking Lunge to a client who has lax shoulders even though it’s a fantastic exercise; the risk posed by the local instability verses reward for compound exercises probably won’t work out in favour of the client.
So then why do I see Personal Trainers time and time again taking that risk? For a number of reasons, but lack of exercise vocabulary is usually the main one. They don’t have a list of progressional exercises to take the client from a beginner to an advanced level movement. Think you need some inspiration? We have an easy tool to create virtually limitless progressions for exercises in our eBook: Functional Training Zone Specialist, which you can download now for FREE! Just click here.
So the next time you’re writing up a client’s program with plenty of popular functional exercises, be sure to ask yourself: are these movements also specific to the needs that I have found during my client assessment, or do I need to give them something safer and more relevant?
Tristan Hill, Masters of Sports Coaching, author of Lifting the Bar and mentor to Personal Trainers.