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With Functional Fitness, Start From Square One

Functional fitness.

Functional fitness. One key piece of advice applies to both exercisers and facility members alike when addressing functional fitness: start at the beginning.

What does that mean? For exercisers, it’s simple. Unless there is a solid understanding of biomechanics and planes of motion, as an athlete or personal trainer would have, it’s best to start with the basics. Focusing on balance and using body weight for resistance, rather than getting distracted by all of the cool toys and accessories available, is important.

Think about the average new member that walks into a fitness facility. They are probably looking to feel better about themselves and achieve wellness. They could also be there at the encouragement of their doctor to lose a few pounds or reduce the risk of diabetes or heart attack, or lower their blood pressure. Whatever their motivation, they probably don’t know where to start. They’ll most likely wind up on a recumbent bike or treadmill. While getting started in any manner is a great first step, what can really help them achieve their goals and attain total-body wellness is functional training.

New members that are unsure about functional training need to know how to start and where to go. Plus, the workout needs to be challenging, yet approachable. Thus, this simple piece of advice can help your members: start at the beginning to understand the basics of balance and unilateral strength. Only then can they move on to more advanced exercises that incorporate all of the fun functional fitness accessories such as kettlebells, battle ropes and unstable surfaces like BOSU balls and balance boards.

This same approach to functional fitness applies to facility owners as well. Everyone wants to work on their core, improve their balance and attain overall wellness. Functional fitness is a great option and something members are now seeking out as much as the traditional cardio and strength equipment. Facility owners and operators owe it to their members to set them up for success, and they need to start at the beginning.

Carve out space! It doesn’t take much space, but it does take dedicated space where people can safely perform their functional exercise of choice without fear of intruding upon a free-weight area or an errant arm moving with an elliptical.

Start simple. Sure, it’s enticing to have battle ropes and racks upon racks of every type of ball. But what people really need to get started is space. A few options like kettlebells, medicine balls, foam square trainers and balance balls are great tools that don’t take up too much space. However, ensure your members have the knowledge to use these tools effectively and safely.

Education is key. If someone new to functional fitness sees everyone doing medicine ball slams, they might think that’s what they should do, even if they aren’t ready for it. Or, they could be so intimidated that they’ll shy away from the functional area forever. Offer education about how to do it right with posters, a trainer that periodically stops by, or an introductory class.

Once the dedicated space is available and accessible to everyone, then it’s time for the fun. Incorporate any number of great functional training options, especially those “old faithful” pieces like kettlebells. The handle of a kettlebell offers an equal distribution of weight, it comes in a variety of weights to challenge any exerciser and the number of workout options is limitless. It can train the whole body, focus on the core and target specific muscles and movements with unilateral and bilateral training options. Incorporate cable-based selectorized equipment for those who want a more traditional selectorized workout with the benefit of core training. Circuits require as little as 250 square feet, with limitless exercise options.

When it comes to functional fitness, less is more. What’s old is new again. Exercisers and facility owners alike need to start with the basics to build a foundation. It might sound cliché, but everyone must walk before they can run.


Sonja Friend-Uhl is the Star Trac Lead Master Trainer of Star Trac. She can be contacted at 714.508.3384 or by e-mail at sfrienduhl@startrac.com.

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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