If you're reading this review, you likely know what functional training is and probably know far more than I do about it. But for those who may not know, let me clarify.
At it's most basic, functional training is a classification of exercise which involves training the body for the activities performed in daily life.
So my interest in it is to make the second half of my life full of quality. I know that as we age we lose a tremendous amount of muscle, strength and power. To be able to lift large sacks of groceries and throw 50 pounds of dog food on your shoulder and take it to the basement without pain or effort, is functional to me. I'm not training for the NFL.
So, to a large extent, this book isn't written to me. In fact, the real audience for this book are coaches, personal trainers and athletes.
The author tells us, "Coaches need to move forward in their programming and use exercises that make sense and will actually reduce the potential of injury." That's the basis of the ideas in this book. Exercises that make sense and reduce the potential of injury.
ACE (American Council on Exercise) says, "At the extreme, some individuals believe that by mimicking the explosive, ballistic activities of high-level competitive athletes, they are training in a functional manner. All too often, however, such training programs greatly exceed the physiological capabilities of the average exerciser, which ultimately increases the possibility that an injury might occur. Most would agree that there is nothing functional about sustaining an injury due to improper training."
So the author, using many sources and resources, teaches the safe way to train for function. You won't find crunches or exercises that can be dangerous at most and ineffective at the least.
"The real key," says the author, "is for the athlete to possess a good ratio of pulling to pushing strength. This is best estimated by comparing an athlete's maximum number of pull-ups to his maximum bench press weight."
This is similar to the way yoga uses poses and counter-poses. In other words, if the front is not worked equal to the back, problems will crop up and injury can result. And when you work one area of the body, you need to do an equal amount of work to the opposite area of that muscle or muscle group.
The author tells us that pain in the knees is usually not a problem in the knees but the ankle or the hip. I found this valuable information as I always assumed that if you did knee exercises you would cure your knee problems. The truth is, according to the book, you only mask the symptoms. So, you have to exercise the area where the real problem exists if you want to cure the problem.
I was surprised to learn the author doesn't favor leg extensions in a functional training program. He recommends the slideboard leg curl variation, which is a classic yoga pose called the bridge. At least, it's similar.
Functional training trumps training for form or beauty --- unless that's what you're after. In truth, you won't look like Arnold Schwartznegger used to look unless you take steroids or have the right body type. And washboard abs are a dream for most people --- a dream that can't come true. You might have a flat stomach in your twenties. But that gives way to a more natural belly as you age. That doesn't mean it has to be a fat belly without a strong core, however. That's where functional training is so powerful.
According to the author, "The reality is, hypertrophy for most non-anabolic-using clients is very hard to come by. And one unfortunate problem with hypertrophy training is our concept of how to train for hypertrophy has also been heavily influenced by steroid users.
Hypertrophy may in fact be a function of diet and body type and really have very little to do with training style."
You'll learn a lot in this book. And, while it's written for the professional trainer and athlete, don't let that turn you off if you want to learn about training for function. I learned a lot from it and I'm not trainer or athlete. But I can put what I learned to use today. And so can you.
The book has a short section on terminology used in functional training. It has some suggested resources and an index. All that makes the book a high-quality product.
But, beyond that, there is not one typo, misspelling or grammar error. I say that because good editing is the exception today --- not the rule. Whenever I find a book that is error-free and edited perfectly, I have to mention it, just as I always mention horrible editing.
I highly recommend this well-written book to every coach, trainer and athlete and even to those like myself who train for the main event --- everyday living.
- Susanna K. Hutcheson