Is Functional Training Right for You?

Functional training is a very popular term in the fitness community and with the general public these days. Although fitness professionals and enthusiasts are teaching and using the concepts, many in the mainstream population are not that familiar with the potential benefits and actual improvements these training methods could bring to their daily lives.

What is Functional Training?

Functional training has its origins in rehabilitation. Physical therapists developed exercises that mimicked what patients did at home or work in order to return them to their lives or jobs after an injury or surgery. I have come across many definitions of functional training, both in strict literal terms and loose interpretations. As you do your research, I suspect you’ll encounter the same.

Functional training has actually evolved from, and now seems to encompass, some of the terms and benefits of core training. I like the following definition of functional training: A range of total body activities that build strength, balance and coordination for general fitness, and also improves your ability to easily perform day-to-day movements or activities. 

What Are the Benefits of Functional Training?

As with most fitness programs, functional training may be performed using various levels of difficulty and intensity. Although the average person can use it as a tool to help with every day activities, elite athletes and their trainers are using it to gain a competitive edge on the field of play.

To begin to understand functional training and its benefits, we must take a look at how it differs from traditional training methods we have used in the past.

  1. Functional training engages large groups of muscles and multiple joints; not just a single muscle or small group of closely related muscles.
  2. Functional training involves unrestricted, user-defined motion against resistance, which activates the neuromuscular system in ways that increase your balance and coordination.
  3. Finally, many of the exercises involve the core muscles of the body, which when trained properly, provide the strong foundation you need to live a healthy active life, perform activities you enjoy, or compete in your favorite sport.

In functional training, it is as critical to train the specific movement as it is to train the muscles involved in the movement. The brain, which controls the muscular movement, thinks in terms of whole motions, not individual muscles. Exercises that isolate joints and muscles are training muscles, not movements, which results in less functional improvement.

For example, a “non-functional,” single-joint exercise can play a critical role in helping to strengthen a weak link (weaker muscle) that a person may have, in order to restore proper muscle balance. Doing such an exercise can allow an individual to more effectively participate in functional training activities, while also reducing the risk of injury. For strength exercises to effectively translate to other daily movements (example, getting up from a chair), several components of the training movement need to be similar to the actual performance movement. This includes coordination, types of muscle contractions, speed of movement and range of motion.

There is also the “multiple planes of motion” theory many experts adhere to. Although this subject can get complicated in a hurry, it is quite simple in its premise. As we stated above, functional training is a user-defined movement which is not restricted by a predetermined path set by a machine. Therefore, the person working out determines the angles and planes on which to perform that movement. Moving forward and backward is one plane while side to side is another. Experts feel that a person gets maximum advantage through exercises that involve multiple planes of motion.

Is Functional Training for You?

We have all seen the warnings “to consult your physician before undertaking an exercise routine,” or something similar, posted in owner’s manuals of exercise equipment purchased. That’s always sound advice, but I would also advise you to consult a fitness professional if and when you decide to try functional training. User-defined and multiple plane training can open the door to injury if performed without some basic knowledge and direction.

In final analysis, it must be remembered that functional training, when properly applied, can provide exercise variety and additional training benefits that more directly transfer to improvements in real life activities. However, in my opinion, functional training should serve as a supplement to traditional strength training, not as a replacement.

Have you had success with functional training? Share your experience with us in the comments below.

Sources

  • Functional Training For Sports, Michael Boyle, Copyright 2004
  • Wikipedia
  • www.acefitness.org

Choosing the Perfect Workout Playlist

By Bryce Faddis via eReplacementParts

All of us have our own unique workout routine. For many, this means spending your lunches at the gym, working specific muscle groups or listening to your favorite songs. Music has become a necessary workout companion for most fitness nuts. And believe it or not, there are good reasons behind this phenomenon. Scientists have discovered a direct correlation between fast-paced music and a successful workout. The science can be broken down to explain that a song’s BPM (beats per minute) is directly correlated with your heart rate and overall workout performance. Take some time to create the perfect workout playlist and improve your workouts.

Choose Your Workout

The key to putting together a perfect workout playlist lies in the type of exercise with which you intend to use it. You will want to do your best to match up your heart rate with the beat of the song. So, if you must use your favorite Janet Jackson song, make sure the BPM is appropriate for your specific workout.

I’ve listed the BPM range you’ll want to use for the most common workouts below:

Running:

  • 5k: 130-140 BPM
  • 10k: 120-130 BPM
  • Marathon: 100-130 BPM

Weight Training: 80-130 BPM

Yoga/Pilates: 60-90 BPM

Calculating BPM

There are several different ways to calculate the BPM of a song. The simplest being to just count manually. However, for less rhythm-savvy people such as myself, there are several programs available for download on your media player’s app store and on the Internet that will automate the process for you. No matter the route you choose to find BPM of songs for your playlist, the end result should be the same.

If you do find that a song seems to be out of place, it probably is. Keep track of these songs, so you can remove them from your playlist when your workout is complete.

Before you attempt to build your own specialized workout playlist, I recommend using a sample playlist that can be found for free on the Internet. Using a pre-made playlist will give you a greater understanding of how the BPM of music can affect your workout. You’ll know what to include and what to leave out based on your personal preferences.

Putting Together Your Playlist

Once you have made the decision to make your own specialized playlist, you will need to consider the order in which you place each song. Once again, this varies depending on the type of workout you would like to achieve. For the sake of simplicity, you can plan on putting the highest-tempo (BPM) songs in areas of your workout where you need a lift. This is especially important for those tough minutes near the end of your routine. These power songs will help raise your heart rate and give you the energy to push past fatigue to complete your workout.

There is no single playlist that will work for everyone. You are bound to use a lot of trial and error to find what songs work best for you in your playlist. Do not get frustrated! The hard work will pay off with a greater drive and heightened energy to complete your workouts and achieve your ultimate goals.

Reaping the Rewards

Exercising is not intended to be easy. If you’re finding that it is, you’re either doing it wrong or not pushing yourself. However, by creating a personalized workout playlist focused on BPM, you are opening the possibility of achieving a better overall workout experience. And who knows, you might actually start enjoying the hardest part of your exercise routine.

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Some of the Best Elliptical Features: Incline and Foldable Frame

There are numerous choices when it comes to Elliptical trainers. But which choice is best for you? There are a number of things to consider when purchasing an elliptical for your home: How does the elliptical feel, what price point are you most comfortable with, which features you require, where will you put the elliptical and how much space do you have to work with. Two extremely popular choices are folding ellipticals and Suspension Elliptical™ trainers. Both choices offer space saving qualities, help you maintain proper form and provide the user with a great feel.

Folding Elliptical

Vision Fitness was the first company to develop and deliver a folding elliptical and recently, we’ve created the next generation of folding ellipticals for those who are ‘tight’ on space. The Vision Fitness XF40 features a highly durable, welded-steel frame design with patented folding pedal arms that allow compact storage. It is easy to fold and offers a hydraulic assist that effortlessly lowers the pedal arms (similar to how a folding treadmill ‘drops’) when it’s time for your workout. When it’s folded, there are four wheels for easy maneuvering from within a room or moving the elliptical to another room.

XF40 folding elliptical trainer

 

The space-saving features are great but I know some are asking, “How does it feel?” Quite simply, the feel is great. The XF40 folding elliptical offers everything that a traditional ellipticals offers and more. Superior motion, zero foot pedal spacing, premium oversized footpads and multiple handgrip options all provide a comfortable fit for multiple users. Of course, not everyone requires a folding elliptical. Perhaps you are looking for something that offers a little more variety but are still conscious of space? Keep reading!

 

Suspension Elliptical™ with incline feature

Most Vision Fitness Suspension Elliptical trainers offer a unique ‘incline’ feature that have become very popular over the years.

Quite simply, the incline of the trainer changes the angles of your legs while working out. Benefits of having incline are numerous:

  • Proven to burn more calories
  • Activates & targets more of your leg muscles, which is great for toning
  • Increases intensity, making your workouts more challenging
  • Decrease the effects of ‘muscle memory’
  • Provides the ability to increase length of stride when the incline is increased
  • Ability to change your routine and reduce workout ‘boredom’
  • Provides a customized feel for multiple users (i.e. Families)

Some incline ellipticals require the user to manually adjust the incline. Typically, this can be tedious and frustrating for a user. Ellipticals that have automatic/electronic elevation are generally better since they offer more range and don’t require the user to pause their workout to make the desired adjustment(s).

Another really useful feature of the incline elliptical is the ability to target specific muscle groups quickly and efficiently. When you pedal forward on an elliptical and change the incline, you incorporate different sets of muscles. When you pedal backwards and change the incline, you target the same muscle groups but different parts of the muscle. Going backwards and forwards, while using the incline, is a great way to change up your routine, utilize all of your leg muscles and minimize the dreaded ‘workout boredom’ that most people encounter at some point.Vision Fitness Suspension Elliptical Trainer

The Vision Fitness S7100, S7200 and S70 all offer the incline feature as well as the other benefits of a suspension trainer. Although the suspension trainers do not fold, they do take up considerably less space and offer the following advantages over most traditional ellipticals:

  • No track/wheels
  • Superior stability
  • Incline
  • Small footprint
  • 2-inch pedal spacing, which keeps the hips aligned properly
  • Vision’s ‘Perfect Stride’

Whether you choose a suspension trainer that offers incline or a space saving folding elliptical, the bottom line is to choose what feels best to the person(s) who will be using it. Remember, the best piece of fitness equipment is the piece that you will use and enjoy.

Exercising During Pregnancy

Exercising during pregnancy is just as important as eating right and getting good rest. Sure, we women attempt to take good care of ourselves on a regular basis, but pregnancy seems to elevate our focus on seeking out nutritious foods to help baby develop. But sometimes fitness can fall by the wayside to first trimester exhaustion or third trimester aches and pains. So how does one healthfully incorporate fitness into their daily routine once she finds she is expecting? Here are some tips to get you going on the right path.

The first question you have to consider is, were you exercising when you got pregnant or are you looking to start a program now that you are pregnant? Either scenario is fine, but different precautions and plans should be followed based on your situation.

If you were exercising before you got pregnant, it is advisable to continue. Be sure to communicate this with your physician so that together you can determine appropriate frequency, duration and intensity. There are many advantages to exercising prior to getting pregnant but, in my opinion, the number one advantage is that you know how to listen to your body. During pregnancy, you are naturally sensitive to your body’s changes. Mainly because there are so many! If you are in tune with your body already, some of these changes can be welcomed with little alarm. However, if you do not already have that built in awareness, every little change could potentially cause you to worry. The last thing you need right now is stress (save that for the sleepless nights the first few weeks).

If you were not exercising before you got pregnant but want to start now, no worries.  Your timing is just fine. The key is to take it slow. As with experienced exercisers, be sure to discuss your plans with your physician. And as with all exercise programs, start out slow and build into a routine of longer and more frequent workouts. If you are totally new to exercise, I would advise you to seek out a fitness specialist who can give advice on proper programs and techniques. The last thing you want to do is injure yourself!  There is a great deal of information out there on the subject of exercise and pregnancy.  Just keep in mind that this is written for the general public. That is why it is important to discuss your intentions with your physician and possibly a fitness specialist who can tailor your needs based on your situation.

Once the baby is born, it seems like our number one goal (aside from taking care of Junior) is losing that baby weight. Just think how much easier that can potentially be if you exercised and ate well during your pregnancy! During both of my pregnancies, I exercised all the way through. Swimming was my main focus. The one thing no one told me was how hard it was to get back into the swing of things six to eight weeks after the babies were born. I was so ready to start back, but when I actually went out to walk, run or swim – things felt different. I had stop and remember what my body had just been through. I took it slow and eased back into my workouts. I definitely could not just jump back in like I imagined and that was a little frustrating. I am so glad that I did work out during my pregnancy because if I did not and felt the way I did after each of my babies was born I probably never would have started exercising!

Jen is the mother of two children: Sarah, age 3 ½, and Connor, age 9 months.

Should I Exercise When I Have a Cold?

If you’re dedicated to your fitness routine or hit the gym on a consistent basis, coming down with a cold may be enough to derail your workouts indefinitely. But do you really need to abandon the exercise ship at the first sign of some sniffling or sinus congestion? Before you throw in the towel, consider these tips when choosing to exercise with a cold.

Find out what kind of illness you have

First, it is important that you determine whether you have a cold or the flu. A cold is considered to present symptoms above the neck only. If you experience symptoms such as fever, extreme tiredness, muscle aches and/or swollen lymph glands, you more likely have the flu and your immune system will need all the energy it can get to do its job. If you’re experiencing flu-like symptoms, it is recommended that you wait two to four weeks prior to performing any form of intense exercise. If you are not sure if you have the flu or a cold, consult your physician.

According to both ACE (American Council on Exercise) and ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine), it is fine to perform moderate intensity exercise while suffering from a cold. Studies are cited to indicate that moderate intense exercise temporarily boosts your immune system by 50 to 300 percent. And, when not already ill, exercise reduces your chances of catching a cold. Prevention is the best medicine after all.

Exercise with caution

If you decide to take on a moderate exercise routine while dealing with a cold, be sure you stop immediately if you experience coughing, wheezing or an increase in congestion. Although it does seem to be OK to take on moderate exercise when you have a cold, there is no apparent effect on the duration or severity of the common cold. Doing some light exercise may just make you feel better psychologically in knowing that you are taking steps to minimize the setbacks being down with a cold could have on your physical fitness.

Sources

http://www.acsm.org/docs/current-comments/exerciseandcommoncold.pdf http://www.acefitness.org/fitfacts/fitfacts_display.aspx?itemid=2613&category=4