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2. Functional exercise is always a means to an end (with examples of gathering wood to stay warm, lifting stones, and doing calisthenics in army to stay "strong enough" to fulfill duties). In other words, perform movement patterns that are essential to your work or sports environment. I work at a computer for most part, and so perhaps I should perform some keyboard typing overload exercises. Sarcasm aside, most of us have enough strength to complete daily activities, and to mimic those activities with resistance often does us worse than good. An example in sports would be sprinting with heavy weights attached to body with notion that our sprinting will improve, although sprinting mechanics obviously would alter under such circumstances. Moreover, consider elbow flexion that occurs when we lift an object, and elbow flexion that occurs during dumbbell or machine arm curls. Would latter not have a positive bearing on former? Certainly it would, but since it is not "exact" to everyday movements, author condemns such actions, and without realizing that any "functional exercise" also is not exact to daily activities (unless same resistance and movement patterns exist, and if so, it no longer would be exercise but activities of daily living).
The author talks around issue of isolation training to improve function by stating following: "Training muscles with isolation methods to achieve increased mass in specific muscle is only functional if your goal is to compete in bodybuilding competitions, or specific rehabilitation procedures or as part of a well-designed isolation-to-integration program." Certainly "isolation to integration" could mean performing daily tasks and activities better as a result of larger and stronger muscles that were produced as a result of using machines or free-weights, as has been done for several decades.
He continues: "There must be a goal motivating selection of exercises or one cannot ascertain whether outcome is functional or dysfunctional." In previous paragraph he clearly acknowledges that a weak chain can be made stronger by (greater) isolation, yet ignores its value unless it can be proven that outcome improves function (in individualís best interests to achieve another goal). If that goal is to feel better, look better, and function better, then any exercise in any medium (free weight, machine, rubber band, calisthenics, etc.) has that potential. The extent to which that happens varies, thus depending on quality of movement and effort far more than how dynamic (the use of several muscles in an unfixed environment) or unstable an exercise happens to be.
Moreover, a few things are wrong with authorís statement above. One, ultimate goal may be aesthetics, and there is nothing wrong with that, but pointless according to author since that aspect of a fitness program means nothing to him. Two, injuries are result of weak links, and there is no better way of addressing this issue than through means of specific exercise that is as isolated as possible, whether through single-joint movements or not. It is like working on an entire house when you know problem to be support beams. If you need to strengthen support beams, then forget about shingles or windows. Three, function required in specific activity requires practice of specific activity to improve that ability, whereas exercise provides general conditioning and strength improvements that then support specific sporting movements. Hence, truly functional training involves specific motor skills of a particular activity, and not movement patterns that "sort of" resemble an activity but which uses different loads, different velocities, different movement patterns, different balancing requirements, etc.
3. Selection of an exercise or exercise regimen must consider desired outcome on all primary physiological systems of body (including hormonal, musculoskeletal, circulatory, immune, thermoregulatory, visceral and neurological). And "every intent and attempt should be to improve exerciserís physiology through exercise, or exercise regimen canít be considered functional." Please explain how stabilizing on a Swiss ball while performing dumbbell presses can account for all primary physiological systems, whereas working muscles with heavier resistance and with greater physical/mental effort in a stable environment cannot.
Moreover, it takes little effort to improve all these systems even on worst program (whether stable or unstable), and so it goes without saying that improvement will occur in all aspects to some extent. To what extent improvement will occur depends on many factors more important than trying to maintain balance while moving weights in hopes that you will not fall off a ball or wobble board as opposed to using a machine, factors such as quality and effort of program overall. Differences in results become obvious if one were to compare a person who (purposely) puts forth little effort while following authorís "functional" workout with rubber cables and Swiss balls as opposed to a person who tries very hard with an Author Jones intense workout on Nautilus or MedX machines. In this example it should be obvious who will make best changes, and opposite also would be true of a person who tries very hard on any so-called "functional" program as opposed to a person whose performance is lackluster while using exercise machines.
4. Selection of an exercise or exercise regimen must take into account a personís emotional, mental and spiritual components. This statement is obvious, in that a properly prescribed program takes into account individual, but author suggests that "the expenditure of life-force energy on a leg press is not bringing exercisers closer to complete well-being!" (exclamation his). Why should this be case with leg press, or why should it not be case? There is no explanation behind his statement, but he does disclose following: "when an exercise program is functional, it supports collective needs of living organism and body becomes progressively healthier, which positively influences emotions and mind and affording spirit greater freedom of expression." What a load! (exclamation mine). How is it that a person can become one with Universe by balancing on a ball or wobble board, or by moving about while yanking on some rubber bands or cable system, yet this cannot be achieved on a leg press? What is scientific evidence?
Brian D. Johnston is the Director of Education and President of the I.A.R.T. fitness certification institute at www.ExerciseCertification.com. He has written over 12 books and is a contributor author to the Merck Medical Manual. An international lecturer, Mr. Johnston wears many hats in the fitness and health industries, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.