March 16, 2011

Fitness conference highlights

Just got back from a three and a half day fitness conference and thought I would share some of the highlights (and lowlights) with you over the next few posts:

“Functional training” continues as a dominant buzzword in the fitness industry. Functional training simply means training to make your body stronger in life, rather than just in the gym.  Traditional strength training can help you excel at bicep curls, but it probably will not help you hit a ball harder or drag your resisting dog into the tub.
Functional training involves working multiple joints in a manner that should translate better into everyday life. The exercises are usually weight-bearing activities, and often include a balance component.  Examples include the wood chop and the one legged dead lift:

There are those in the fitness industry who advocate a functional only approach, but most of us are are not ready to throw away the machines.  Traditional weight training improves body composition, reduces blood pressure, and decreases the severity of diabetes and heart disease, among other benefits.  It is a good place for those new to exercise, as you do not need good balance or core stability to perform a seated hamstring curl.  One groundbreaking study had nursing home residents who were in wheelchairs or walked with a cane perform leg presses, hamstring curls and leg extensions (very traditional “non functional” exercises) for several months.  At the end of the study, several who had been in wheelchairs were walking with canes, and all who walked with canes were able to walk unassisted.  If that is not functional, I do not know what is!

So what is the best way to workout?  As usual, my answer is variety; include a combination of traditional strength training and multiple joint functional exercises.  You will get a body that looks better AND works better.

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