Marietta Mehanni

Functional training – it’s hard to let go

Written by Marietta

November 27, 2013

There is a movement. There is a new way of exercising. There is change. There, I said it, the most challenging word in the any language. CHANGE.


Recently I was teaching a Gymstick PT course and discussing the ins and outs of functional training, the whys and hows when an instructor put up his hand. This instructor has just entered the fitness industry, and was keen to learn all things, but he had a question. The question was – “but what if I want to get big?”.


Out of the mouth of babes, this young man said so much of what challenges our current fitness industry. The first word or letter, I should say, was “I”. What if “I” want to get big…and here we are in a personal training workshop. My first thought was “how often do we confuse ‘I’ with ‘client’. How many clients or members have I dealt with personally that come to a fitness facility to get big, is very few. In fact, most want to get smaller (usually) and the rest really want to feel better in their own bodies. Is it the 23 years of experience that has taught me that the focus should be on the client otherwise you will surely loose them, or is it my age that has taught me that moving well and feeling good inside was more important that the size of my biceps or how ripped my abs were? Maybe both, but the first question that I had from this one little statement was – how many other personal trainers and group fitness instructors think the same way.


The next word was ‘want’. I remember my favourite TV personality – Dr. Phil saying, it is not want you want, but what you need that you should place your focus – or something to that effect. True muscular size requires discipline and commitment. You can’t get there by pumping out a few reps with really heavy weights, enough to impress your friends. Usually that ends up in an injury and a membership that goes to waste. Isn’t our job to ensure that people get what their bodies need and to educate what is more important – moving well and feeling like the everyday challenges are easier. Some people’s wants match with their needs, and sometimes it does not. The public come to us for advice, guidance and assistance to achieve their goals, a bit like how people go to a doctor to feel better.


Big – it says so much. In my mind it conjures up mental images of isolated training, single joint movements and exercises that are muscle specific. I have been around long enough to remember that this was the only way to train. If you wanted to lift weights then you had to plan large muscle groups to small ones and have a specific order for the exercises. Is this still valid – in some circumstances, but now we look at the anatomy and way we move differently. This is what we refer to as Functional Training. Personally, I love it. I love that the training can be different every time, only because after being in ‘fitness’ for 27 years, you could not excite me with a normal bicep curl (or preacher curl or concentration curl – they are the same thing in different positions). Functional training is the way we are moving forward – embracing the totality of the body and movement rather than splitting it up into little pieces. The body is a whole and though there are circumstances to do isolation and specific muscle training (not discrediting this form of training), functional training is where it is all heading.


What did I say to this wonderful young man? – as hard as it is to leave old ideals, just let it go.

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