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The Performance Lab A place to discuss the role of physical exercise on health in diseased and non-diseased states.

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Old 12-06-2008, 07:45 PM   #1
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Default Functional Fitness

All the rage in the fitness world is the so-called "functional fitness".
It encourages a lot of balance, "core work" and novel implement training.

I found a video that accurately sums up my opinion about this trend and I submit it for the group's discussion:
Functional Fitness
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Old 12-06-2008, 07:51 PM   #2
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Old 12-06-2008, 11:22 PM   #3
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As he has a bad case of Tourette's, he'd have more fun gardening.

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Old 13-06-2008, 07:59 AM   #4
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Wow. I've seen stuff like that at local gyms. Group fitness keeps getting weirder and weirder.

I'm all in favor of functional training vs the conventional approaches that still predominate training in my area, but this guy totally has it nailed. A bunch of crap randomly thrown together and called a workout... is still crap.
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Old 14-06-2008, 01:37 AM   #5
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I look forward to adding the "step scooch" to my workout routine!
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Old 14-06-2008, 01:56 AM   #6
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Step scootch is soo May. Get with the times, the 'step scootch with a twist is the only way to go.
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Old 14-06-2008, 04:10 PM   #7
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That was classic!
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Old 15-06-2008, 02:23 AM   #8
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I think I can speak against and for it easily. Again depends on the individual and their goals.
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Old 16-06-2008, 10:03 PM   #9
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Yes, there are many client goals for which the "step scooch" is an appropriate exercise.
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Old 19-06-2008, 09:38 AM   #10
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It occurs to me that we are passing judgement on an awfully broad array of training methods without defining why. I laugh because idiocy predominates the marketing, and stupid marketing is always a fair target.

However, there is a lot of good to be found in functional training methods, depending on the client's needs and goals. My most challenged clients (MS, brain injury, post-surgery, etc.) benefit greatly from functional training (including novel implements, core work, breath training, balance, etc.), while "conventional" methods and equipment present significant dangers for them.
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Old 19-06-2008, 04:06 PM   #11
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JasonE,
You'll probably enjoy Exuberant Animal. While some of the exercises promoted there occasionally border on the ridiculous, I agree that functional training has a place and for the most part I like the rational Frank Forencic uses to justify his methods.
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Old 20-06-2008, 05:44 AM   #12
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Let's try to get something useful out of this thread:

Why and when can functional training be useful?

Why and when can functional training be a total waste of time?
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Old 15-09-2008, 02:48 AM   #13
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*crickets chirping*

...

Nothing? No opinions?

That's a change!

I'll write something up and post it in a few days.
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Old 15-09-2008, 07:23 AM   #14
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I think like most things, this functional fitness thing exists on a continuum, from one extreme to the other. Having said that, I think the functional fitness folks have earned this sort of backlash, just as the traditionalists earned the move toward functional fitness in the first place.

At it's best, functional fitness can:
-be a great way to break up or change a traditional routine
-provide fun activities for groups for dynamic warmup activities
-attempt to add some activity-specificity or sport-specificity to movement or conditioning
-allow children to experience fitness in a fun way
-contribute to crosstraining via novel stimuli and physical challenges
-encourage creativity in exercise prescription
-keep a client or athlete motivated by changing the routine frequently
-allow flexibility in exercise programming to try to create activities that are specific to the client or athlete's functional goals

At its worst, functional fitness can:
-place a premium on standing balance over other components of fitness
-involve contrived implements and situations that don't replicate any real world or sport application
-show a disinterest in the proven benefits (strength, body comp, function and/or sport ability, injury prevention) of progressively loaded weight training
-not provide a sufficient strength or energy system stimulus to create conditioning
-be centered around expensive training devices
-essentially rely on highly choreographed and unrealistic training scenarios that purport to be "functional"(meaning I suppose specific to a particular activity) but involving too little load, speed, acceleration, or resistance in order to provide a conditioning effect. But there are usually cool toys present.

I think there's a place for intelligently designed "functional" activities - I tend to recommend them more for dynamic warmup or for specific rehab or corrective functions, while recommending the bulk of the program be centered around a more traditional energy system and resistance workout.
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Old 16-09-2008, 08:14 AM   #15
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Quote:
I think there's a place for intelligently designed "functional" activities - I tend to recommend them more for dynamic warmup or for specific rehab or corrective functions, while recommending the bulk of the program be centered around a more traditional energy system and resistance workout.
An interesting comment. You are a CSCS, so you should understand my next question. What is your definition of "a more traditional energy system and resistance workout" ?
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Old 16-09-2008, 08:40 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JasonE View Post
An interesting comment. You are a CSCS, so you should understand my next question. What is your definition of "a more traditional energy system and resistance workout" ?
Well, I would say it consists of:

1. Traditional strength workout
a. Load 70-80% 1RM per exercise
b. 2-4 sets per exercise, 2-3 times per week
c. Workout centers around multijoint movements such as the back squat and bench press
d. Free weights are the modality of choice
e. Use of other supplemental equipment like elastic bands, exercise balls, balancing on one leg, or other implements is rare
f. Workouts are centered around movements to train strength, not movements designed to mimic or simulate the movements or positions of a sport or activity.
Note that I'm not advocating this alone for conditioning, but making a description of what I believe are very typical program variables.

2. Traditional energy system workout
a. Cardiovascular training that matches the desired energy system for the activity or sport in question
b. Use of typical training modalities such as running, cycling, or circuit training
c. Both steady-state and interval modes, with interval training being one of the most studied ways to improve aerobic capacity

After having more than a few public debates with SuperSlow proponents, I've learned to try to be as specific as possible, because as Dennis Miller once said, "How do I know that the color blue to you, is the color blue to me?"
I think these basic parameters are a very reasonable description of what is considered a traditional program, but I'm aware that the definition isn't written in stone and that some may disagree with it.

Hope that helps.
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Last edited by Jason Silvernail; 16-09-2008 at 08:41 PM. Reason: typo...
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Old 17-09-2008, 08:55 AM   #17
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Thank you for being so specific, Jason. That is exactly the kind of answer I was hoping for. It helps me to understand your perspective so we can have a more meaningful dialogue.

The main reason for my question was your use of the word "traditional" as it implies different things to different people. When I think about "traditional" training, I harken back to pre-20th century practices, focusing on methods that have been around for thousands (or at least hundreds) of years. These include a vast array of strength training implements, including hundreds of different weighted clubs, kettlebells, and dumbbells, plus large rocks and other odd implements. These older methods also include dynamic mobility and active stretching methods, bodyweight exercises and gymnastics of all kinds, and many different approaches to training good breathing habits.

Most, if not all, of these methods primarily use multijoint compound movements. Many methods were developed for simple practical purposes, and sophisticated training methods grew out of those rough templates. Though less well-known in the West at this time, these older methods are currently enjoying a real Rennaissance.

I present this perspective so you have a better grasp of where I'm coming from.
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Old 17-09-2008, 05:00 PM   #18
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My position is that one should train for strength and practice for function. As Jason S indicates, practice should include challenging the specific metabolic requirements one is trying to improve.

I would agree with almost everything Jason S has said above with two exceptions (or at least questions):
(1) the benefit from multiple sets of the same exercise is marginal
(2) why would free weights be the modality of choice?

As with most things, the major dependent variable is who you are training and what his or her abilities and goals are.
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Old 17-09-2008, 07:23 PM   #19
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Guys-
First, to the single vs multiple set issue. Nick and I have been over this thing in the "Strength Training Progression Models..." thread, so I won't rehash it here. Those who are interested can check it out there.
Suffice to say we disagree on the single vs multiple set issue, and that we both acknowledge that a true large randomized trial of these two methods in experienced trainees has not been done, so the data isn't rock-solid conclusive either way.

On the preference for free weights:
- I'm describing what can be called a "traditional" program, not necessarily what I would always consider an "optimal" program
- I acknowledge that true tradition would have to harken way back before industrial production of training implements (kind of like the "traditional marriage" being polygamy - but that's OT)
- I consider traditional to be a loose set of guidelines that most modern strength coaches would agree with and that most of the existing literature on strength training is patterned after

On free weights vs machines. First, I was just talking about a "traditional" program, not necessarily one I personally feel is superior.
However, I do feel free weights are superior to machines, and although this is really more opinion than fact, it is what I consider a well thought out and supported opinion.
More on this later.
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Old 17-09-2008, 07:27 PM   #20
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Quote:
(kind of like the "traditional marriage" being polygamy - but that's OT)
Jason, you are a funny, funny man.
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Old 17-09-2008, 11:07 PM   #21
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Thanks, Diane, I try.

On the Free Weights vs Machines Issue:
1. I'm sure your muscles don't know the source of the resistance, and I'm pretty sure there's been few if any direct randomized trials of free weights vs machines. I think all that exists here is rationale and opinion, not absolute fact.

2. I'm of the opinion that free weights are better, I've included some resources below where others share pros/cons, and at the end of the day, that's what it is - a pro/con issue and a rationale that can differ depending on your population, it's not settled science.

3. I like free weights for athletes and for those without injuries because:
-they better approximate what it's like to pick up or work with heavy things in the real world
-many movements with free weights train key movement skills that are important for life as well as sport (eg squat and deadlift)
-if used the way they are "traditionally" (note scare quotes) used, they support multijoint movements which recruit large amounts of muscle fibers and allow a few exercises to provide a full body workout
-my overwhelming anecdotal experience has been that people who train on machines simply do not have the strength that free weight lifters have. I've personally seen many, many people brag about their leg press numbers, but can't parallel squat 1/3 of that
-almost everyone who is serious about strength training or training athletes uses free weights as the cornerstone of their program

4. I like machines for those who:
-haven't been taught proper form for lifting
-are new to resistance training and don't have good coaching
-are recovering from injury
-primarily use free weights but need variety in their program
-lift alone or don't have adequate support for safety at home. Example - I can do high load lifts in the bench press and back squat at home at 5:30 am while my wife is asleep because I have a power rack with safety bars. I couldn't do that safely by myself without the proper equipment.

5. Some examples of people exchanging pros/cons and offering rationales for both approaches here:
-SPORTS-SPECIFIC CONDITIONING: Machines versus Free Weights. Juan Carlos SantanaStrength and Conditioning Journal: Vol. 23, No. 5, pp. 67–68. 2001
-Roundtable Discussion: Machines Versus Free Weights. G. Gregory Haff. Strength and Conditioning Journal: Vol. 22, No. 6, pp. 18–30. 2000
-POINT/COUNTERPOINT: Free Weights Versus Machines. Scott Hilbert. Strength and Conditioning Journal: Vol. 21, No. 6, pp. 66–66. 1999

6. I've attached some NSCA "Hot Topics" about this issue and related issues. As you can see, there's little settled science, and room for rationale and opinion based on the situation.
Attached Files
File Type: pdf Machines vs Free Weights NSCA.pdf (59.0 KB, 11 views)
File Type: pdf Functional Training NSCA.pdf (274.2 KB, 14 views)
File Type: pdf Unstable Resistance Exercises NSCA.pdf (179.4 KB, 11 views)
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Old 20-09-2008, 04:30 AM   #22
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One advantage of machines is you can isolate and load a muscle better than free weights. For example, leg extensions to isolate the quads and put more loading. It is hard to do with free weights since you are using too many other muscles for balancing and stuff.
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Old 27-09-2008, 11:08 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by anoopbal View Post
Let's try to get something useful out of this thread:

Why and when can functional training be useful?

Why and when can functional training be a total waste of time?

I believe that the training method employed must reflect the client's goals and capacities, not just the preferences of the trainer. Therefore functional training can be useful when oriented to improve the client's ability to accomplish daily or performance-related tasks. For example, many basic "rehab" exercises might be considered "remedial functional training." (Heck, look at the array of unusual equipment that may be employed.)

The functional training I've done with clients runs the gamut across breathing drills, yoga, various forms of stretching, resistance machines, balance drills, use of body bars, kettlebells, clubbells, and other free weights, walking, jogging and running drills, a variety of calisthenics, etc. Regardless of the client's goals, I always emphasize the importance of good form and efficient body mechanics over mere effort, and teach them effective warmup and recovery skills to minimize DOMS and improve performance. These skills will serve them well for life, and potentially reduce propensity for injury. And if they aren't sore between sessions, they're more likely to remain consistent and avoid hitting plateaus.

If a client has a particular performance goal other than mere aesthetics, functional training should always be a part of their program.

Functional training is only a waste of time when an athlete is already pretty healthy, only cares about hypertrophy, and doesn't have any particular performance goals other than "more." But effective warmup and recovery skills will benefit them as well, especially in regards to minimizing likelihood of injury... if they are open to it and actually practice these skills consistently.
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Old 27-09-2008, 11:32 PM   #24
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Functional training is only a waste of time when an athlete is already pretty healthy, only cares about hypertrophy, and doesn't have any particular performance goals other than "more."
I'm not sure I agree with this - I think the transfer of training issue is an important one, and depending on how we define "FT", that has some ramifications.
I see conditioning as a separate entity from sport skills, when we're talking athletes. I think making conditioning half about strengthening and half about sport skills gives short shrift to both. There's more to conditioning than hypertrophy, and improvements in strength, endurance, aerobic capacity and strengthening of connective tissue have benefits that are maximized when the focus is squarely on conditioning. I've seen many functional training proponents take a sport skill and add weight or a balance challenge to it and call it "functional" - when I would argue that it's the opposite of functional and both provides an insufficient training stimulus and changes the motor control of the sport skill in a way that isn't conducive to how it will actually be used.

I think if you have limited training time or are working with a non-athlete, then bringing in lower loads with perturbations and balance challenges and trying to simulate life skills makes more sense and there's a better rationale there.
I would say that for most people who are interested in better strength, better exercise capacity, better body composition and appearance, focusing the conditioning on maximizing those variables (especially load with strength training) rather than simulating something else makes the most sense. Of course, to maintain interest and to suit the individual client you've got to mix things up, and I can appreciate that as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by JasonE View Post
But effective warmup and recovery skills will benefit them as well, especially in regards to minimizing likelihood of injury... if they are open to it and actually practice these skills consistently.
This is true, but warmup and recovery skills are hardly newly imported with functional training, wouldn't you agree?
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Old 29-09-2008, 07:21 AM   #25
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Training that is strictly oriented towards hypertrophy tends to lack any functional performance orientation, IMO.

Conditioning designed to improve strength, endurance, connective tissue strength, etc. goes far beyond mere hypertrophy. A well-designed conditioning program should promote multiple benefits that transfer into improved performance across a broad range of activities. Fundamentally, this is the origin of the concept of functional training.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jason Silvernail
I've seen many functional training proponents take a sport skill and add weight or a balance challenge to it and call it "functional" - when I would argue that it's the opposite of functional and both provides an insufficient training stimulus and changes the motor control of the sport skill in a way that isn't conducive to how it will actually be used.
I completely agree with you on this. New drills and/or equipment should be designed and implemented in a manner that stimulates development that will facilitate improved performance of the desired skill(s). Anything that changes the motor control of the sport skill is worse than useless.

The same can be said about remedial exercises designed to improve ADL.

The concept of adding perturbations or balance challenges to a "normal exercise" or to "life skills" is not unique to functional training. And as stated above, adding such may be distinctly dys-functional. To me, functional training means placing the focus of training squarely upon improving useful functions so that performance goals may be achieved. In a truly functional program, every aspect of exercise selection must intentionally enhance desired attributes and develop more efficient use of such.

The practice of randomly adding complexities to a variety of movements is a fun playground for experimenting with new ideas, but it is not functional. It's more like composting, providing plenty of fertilizer from which something desirable may eventually grow.

Warmup and recovery skills have been around for millenia, but most athletes do not put a premium upon them. This is partly because most athletes know so little about such skills, do not understand their benefits, and may perceive them as taking a lot of time. Training an athlete to value and consistently practice effective warmup and recovery skills is perhaps the most functional aspect of good training, IMO.

In my case, I once added 40 lbs to my deadlift by taking 3 weeks off to focus on targeted stretching and full-body mobility drills. The additional weight was added in a single workout immediately upon resuming deadlifting, with less discomfort than before. This is just one example of how intelligently applied functional training may be of use in a "conventional" conditioning program.
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Old 29-09-2008, 07:42 AM   #26
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I was thinking this was quite interesting training, no special equipment, quite functional...

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Old 29-09-2008, 11:41 AM   #27
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Quite functional, but the orang-utans and other primates did it first!

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Old 29-09-2008, 01:41 PM   #28
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Good prep for becoming a stunt double.
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Old 29-09-2008, 02:10 PM   #29
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Quote:
In my case, I once added 40 lbs to my deadlift by taking 3 weeks off to focus on targeted stretching and full-body mobility drills. The additional weight was added in a single workout immediately upon resuming deadlifting, with less discomfort than before. This is just one example of how intelligently applied functional training may be of use in a "conventional" conditioning program.
And perhaps the rest allowed for full expression of the so-called "fast-twitch" fibers. Deadlifts are notorious for the demand placed on the CNS.

And what is more functional than a deadlift? I'm willing to bet most of us perform that motion at least once a day...bending over to pick up a grocery bag at home or stool in the clinic.
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Old 17-02-2009, 04:21 PM   #30
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I see I am WAY late to post on this topic, but i'm new here (my first post) and this is an area (strength and conditioning) that i am interested in, so what the hay.

I figured i'd would post this article by Mr. Siff. I have had the discussion of what 'functional training' is with many folks that have only read magazines off the rack in the nearest book store. My reply to those that swear by 'functional training' is "What isn't functional training?" I personally despise the term and have swore to never use it, though i catch myself once in a while saying 'because it's funct.....let me rephrase that." IMO it is a term that someone made up and put to their own training methods. I plan on posting a couple vids of a strength coach at an NSCA seminar and his "opinion" on the holiness of functional training.

Anyway, good to be here, i enjoy reading everything everyone has to say.
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File Type: pdf Functional Training Revisited...Mel Siff.pdf (89.5 KB, 46 views)
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Old 17-02-2009, 04:31 PM   #31
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Yes here it is....

http://www.sportivnypress.com/English/frames.html

here is the URL...Go to the left and click on "misinformation engineering" and choose either #5 Functional Training or my favorite #13 Integrated Functional Training.....check out the youtube clips and then read the authors description.

Any opinions?
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Old 17-02-2009, 04:41 PM   #32
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Welcome.
Some of the users here remember Mel Siff (and fondly) - a well-researched and experienced scientist, who took it upon himself to puncture many myths and fads in the world of fitness and weightlifting.- as the above article illustrates so well.

Maybe you could introduce yourself a bit more in detail, so we can understand better from what background, training, or perspective you may approach human function?
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Old 17-02-2009, 05:39 PM   #33
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mrupe82, here is a link to our "welcome" forum. Please feel free to start up a thread there about yourself - we'd like to know you a bit better.
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Old 18-02-2009, 01:49 AM   #34
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I'm 51 so I grew up studying these men. I see strength coach medveyev is mentioned. But I don't see professor Verhoshanky mentioned. He had a big impact on american football lifting. Our NSCA research is showing that these lifts do involve instability cleans etc therfore they are functional.
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Old 18-02-2009, 03:42 AM   #35
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I'm glad you posted that article. I lost the hard copy of it at some point over the last few years. Siff was an incredible writer. I used to love how he used logic to tweak the exercise gurus. This article is a great way to shift us back to what we are trying to accomplish with strength and conditioning.
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Old 18-02-2009, 04:41 PM   #36
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Mel Siff used to talk a lot about Verhoshanky and did some research with him.
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Old 06-08-2009, 05:40 PM   #37
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Quote:
In my case, I once added 40 lbs to my deadlift by taking 3 weeks off
It's my experience that the deadlift is the exercise that benefits most from simply not doing the for some time. There are even some professional powerlifters deadlift only once a month or even less and are still strong in the deadlift. Opposed to bench pressing in which most people get rapidly weaker if the don't perform some variation of bench pressing on at least a weekly basis.
I have no explainaition for why this is the case.
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Old 30-01-2011, 09:04 AM   #38
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For fun, here's another video showing a faux functional training workout on par with that in the first video posted by Jason Silvernail:

http://wimp.com/bestworkout/

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Old 31-01-2011, 04:27 AM   #39
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That was worth a good laugh, thanks. Just need to make it an "8 minute" routine and it will sell like hot cakes...
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Old 31-01-2011, 04:36 AM   #40
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these vids are great!

The "8-minute" comment reminds me of a stunt I did a few years back. I had read Jorge Cruise's book "8 minutes in the morning" and my wife and I used that as a springboard for a gag gift for her dad for Christmas. We made our own training workout video: "8 minuten morgens" featuring "Goosavich Hammerdown" (think of Arnold for the inspiration), played by me (with bubble wrap used to pad my biceps ), doing such exercise gems as Beer-stein Bicep Curls...

maybe someday if I know you all well enough I'll try to digitize it from VHS and make it available for comedic purposes
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