“Functional Training, Functional Movements, Functional Fitness” We have all heard one of these terms before. But what do they mean? What is Functional Training? A coach might tell you something, a physio might tell you another. In this series of articles, we are going to discuss what Functional Training is based on the various settings this term is used.

In this third part of the series, we are going to discuss what Functional Training looks like in a commercial gym.

From Bodybuilding to Functional Training

Before we kickstart this segment I just want to define a few terms to avoid confusion:

  • Globo-Gym: is a commercial gym set up. Typically includes: various studios for spinning, yoga or exercise classes; free-weights section; cable machine section; cardio section; and a swimming pool if its a well big gym like Fitness First.
  • Bodybuilding: a form of training to yield the result of perfectly defined muscles by enlarging them through hypertrophy training and then refining them by working very specific angles (isolation exercises) to grow specific parts of that muscle and extreme reduction of visceral body fat.
  • Compound exercise: an exercise that involves more than one joint in motion.
  • Hypertrophy: is the enlargement of muscle as an adaptation to a training stimulus.

Since Functional Training has become such a big boom, commercial gyms had to find a way to adapt to a possible threat to their memberships. Once CrossFit boxes and other forms of functional fitness facilities established themselves in and around main cities, the commercial gyms answered with their own functional zones and circuit workouts that simulate that of what the brand of fitness had brought to the table. This was done in order to stay relevant with the trends.

As a by-product of this process, we saw a hybrid of Bodybuilding and Functional Training develop. Some of those who did traditional bodybuilding dabbled with the idea and found it interesting, my guess is because the results of doing compounded exercises vs isolation exercises was increased hypertrophy. These compounded exercises started being referred to as functional exercises because they involve more than one joint motion.

At this point, Functional Training was a buzz word, and it started being slapped onto almost anything exercise related. Personal Trainers added “specialize in functional training” to their list of skills, globo-gyms bought the “functional training” equipment to replicate the feel of Functional Training ie. Kettlebells, Bumper Plates, Training Rigs, Wall Balls, and even the types of classes changed. Typical step classes had a new competitor, The Grid or Fit45 which aimed at the same target market.

Judging from what I observed in my time at a commercial gym, the shift from bodybuilding to functional training was not a drastic change. My biggest observation from a programming perspective was the increased use of free weights and compounded exercises.

Functional Training in a Commercial Gym

As we work through what a typical functional training program in a globo-gym might look like, see if you can find any major similarities or differences between this form of functional training and that of the previous articles. We will compare all 3 of them in the final article.

What type of Equipment is typically used?
  • BOSU
  • Kettlebells
  • Dumbbells
  • Barbells
  • Power/Sand Bags
  • Med Balls
What type of exercises are performed?
  • Bent over row (with KB, DB, BB or sandbags)
  • Single arm chest press
  • Squats on a BOSU
  • Curl and Press
  • Lunge and twist (with Med ball)
  • Power lifts (Bench, Squat, Deadlift)
  • Hanging Straight leg raises
  • Pull ups
What are the typical workout formats?
  • Standard Sets & Reps
  • Circuits
  • Intervals such as TABATA

Wrap up

As you can see, it can be confusing to the average joe who has been involved in all 3 set ups and had someone explain what their version of functional training is. This person might go back to their therapist and say they hurt themselves doing functional training, resulting in their therapist telling them, that exercise is not functional. Awkward!

Well we like to think of all of them as relevant, and in the next article we are going to talk about what our programs look like and why we consider ourselves experts in functional training.

I hope you enjoyed this article and be sure to check out next weeks article.

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