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Functional training for a fit life

A man training in a gym.

I got to interview Mesut Olcas for the 2 Guys on Fitness podcast this month.

Mesut is a great guy and I wanted to interview him because of his experience of working with clients to help them build their strength and fitness, as well as offering therapeutic support to help them avoid injury. As part of our conversation, Mesut and I also got to talk about functional training and how important this is to build and maintain fitness.

For those unfamiliar with functional training, it involves exercising the body for the activities performed in daily life. It has its origins in rehabilitation, with physical and occupational therapists often using functional training to help patients with movement disorders.

Functional training attempts to adapt or develop exercises that allow individuals to perform the activities of daily life more easily and without injuries. Equipment that can typically be used in functional training includes cables, barbells, dumbbells, medicine balls, and kettlebells and resistance bands, amongst others.

In many cases, however, the equipment requirements of functional training are minimal.

To be effective, a functional training programme should include several different elements which can be adapted to an individual's needs, based on functional tasks and everyday activities. Training programmes should also be tailored to each person, with each programme specific to the goals of the individual. It must also be specific to the individual state of health, including presence or history of injury.

In terms of components, functional training should include a variety of exercises that work on flexibility, core, balance, strength and power, focusing on multiple movement planes. It should also be progressive, steadily increasing the difficulty of the training and its demands.

Finally, functional training should be repeated frequently and can also use real-life object manipulation (great for exercising at home or in a natural environment like a park!) and feedback should be incorporated into the training from the client as the training develops.

As those who know me will be aware, I am a passionate advocate concerning the lifelong benefits of functional training and I train many of my clients using such principles as a core to the training I provide.

The reason for this is because functional training not only builds strength and flexibility for the whole body, it also constantly develops overall fitness. It is also intelligent training for the long-term, whilst providing short-term gains in terms of energy levels and flexibility.

In short, functional training offers benefits today and tomorrow, whilst also engaging the cognitive abilities of the person training. It is training physically and mentally in and for the demands of the real world and not just the mirror.

I particularly advocate functional training as the cornerstone of a long-term fitness programme for those men and women moving out of their early and into their middle years, with an eye on the later years. What functional training offers for people in this position is a pathway to lifelong fitness and the ability to navigate the world with vigour and physical skills. In a way, it reimposes the physical and mental demands of a more demanding environment which in turn builds resilience and agility for everyone that lives in the contemporary advanced society (which in turn tunes the physical for whatever reasonable demands may be placed upon it).

In this context, functional training is the ultimate fitness hack.

Want to see what functional training looks like?

Then take a look at some of my client videos, or have a listen to Mesut and my conversation on the podcast about functional training.

Let me know what you think and how functional training could work for you!


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