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Industry Buzz: Dys-Functional Fitness


functional fitnessFunctional fitness has been a top 10 trend for the past few years, and shows little sign of losing its popularity. Many gyms have incorporated functional fitness into their facilities, and some have even based their entire concept around the exercise.

However, according to Brian Sutton, the director of content development for the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), functional fitness isn’t always “functional.” It can become dysfunctional, when members or personal training clients try functional moves they aren’t physically capable of executing properly. “Sometimes, instead of performing a simpler exercise with better form, members will try moves they see others doing they aren’t [physically] prepared for,” said Sutton.

This isn’t surprising, due to the spotlight functional fitness has received. “It’s innovative,” said Sutton. “And anything that’s innovative has a fun factor. Trainers, equipment manufactures and owners are always looking for something to keep members engaged.” And many members have taken the bait, hook, line and sinker.

To ensure members and training clients aren’t biting off more than they can chew (in terms of functional exercises), Sutton recommended that all members go through a fitness assessment that flushes out their physical strengths and limitations. And according to Sutton, functional exercises should be progressive — no client or member should jump head first into an intense functional exercise. “Members need to start at a level that’s appropriate to them,” he said.

Sutton explained that NASM-certified trainers are taught to analyze their clients’ “Kinetic Chain,” which compromises the muscular, skeletal and nervous systems. “We observe the clients’ posture during every move, and make sure each body part displays the right form.” If a client isn’t displaying correct form, Sutton brings this to their attention, and has them regress to a less strenuous move, if they can’t keep their form positioned correctly.

Sutton isn’t knocking functional training’s effectiveness. In fact, according to Sutton, it’s a great exercise that can improve not only a members’ physique, but how they feel as in everyday life. However, that’s if the functional moves are conducted with proper form. “Form and quality movement is key,” he said.

In addition, Sutton advised providing your members with more than just functional exercises and equipment. “Right now, a popular trend is functional training,” he said. “But there’s a lot of research that shows combining many different forms of exercise gives people the best bang for their buck. You should focus on an all-inclusive approach.”


Rachel Zabonick is the assistant editor for Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@clubsolutionsmagazine.com. Reach out to her about exciting events or programs your club has implemented, or to share the amazing accomplishments of a member.

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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1 Comment

  1. scott January 19, 2014

    functional fitness routines,the idiotic swinging of kettlebells and the long list of stupefying movements done in so many gyms (p90x,crossfit),including many bosu/floor mat movements…taught and instructed by so many trainers….are mostly just plain stupid,and not supported by good science;YES people CAN lose weight doing these things (vs doing nothing),but with all the other things that are problematic,these modes of training can be dangerous and counterproductive,mostly because the average gymgoer has such a dreadful understanding of proper exercise to begin with,and lacks baseline strength,that they “dont yet know……. what can hurt them”. strength training,full rom, slow+controlled,resistance based movements,using machines and fw’s is easily superior to everything else; the problem??? gym members get too bored,and quietly conclude its too much work,and drop out and that is the dark,ugly side of the business that saw the conception of functional+core (fct) training..;there is a VERY good chance that if you have heard/read statements that bad-mouth proper strength training and advocate for fct (like fct is better for activities in real life),it is from a source that is badly ignorant of the facts of exercise science. you wanna build quality muscle? (im NOT talking about bodybuilding!),have optimal long term bone health,tendon,ligament,cartilage health? blood sugar control (diabetics?)….then take my advice,and DROP all the other assinine crap and LEARN about proper strength training; and never let a trainer tell you otherwise….or better yet,have them read this.

    scott CSCS,design engineer,consultant


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