Friday, June 6, 2014

Cutting Edge Workouts with Functional Traning

Is this machine extinct? Functional fitness is the new exercise trend in gyms nation-wide. In a previous post in February, I wrote about the three main approaches to strength training. Foundational fitness is represented by work on machines, such as Cybex machines, in a gym setting. Here, muscles work on a fixed path focusing on one muscle at a time. Fundamental strength training is performed with free weights and less body support. This requires multiple muscles to work together. Functional fitness facilitates freedom of movement and uses unstable conditions that require all your muscles to function as a unit, as they do in real life.

A 2008 study found that exercisers using a free-form cable machine became 58% stronger than those doing similar moves on fixed-path equipment. Functional strength equipment requires you to move in all sorts of directions, which means your body must recruit both the primary muscles and stabilizer muscles to keep the load traveling in a certain path. William Kramer, Professor of Kinesiology at University of Connecticut, says, "It's a more complex movement than doing an exercise on a fixed-path machine, involving more coordination, more body parts and more brainpower to direct all that action."

The good news is you can get rid of the machines completely. Doing toning exercises without any form of machine will give you similar advantages to those in the afore-mentioned study. On the downside, going machine-free calls for more know-how on the exerciser's part. And if you don't understand what you are doing, you can increase your chances of getting hurt. Kinesiologist Paul Juris points out, "Anything that involves more of the body and incorporates more dynamic elements, like waving battle ropes or swinging a kettlebell, may put you at a greater risk for injury if you don't know the proper technique." Your best bet is to build your skills in a small group class or invest in a session or two with a personal trainer.

The bottom line: If you are looking for a way to challenge your body and see changes in your fitness level, ditch the machines and mix up your routine.

Next week: Advantages of Functional Fitness

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