Functional Training was a new term to me. I was offered a training session at The Thames Club to find out what it was all about. I have frequented gyms over many years, latterly doing pilates regularly. My 21 year old niece had just been visiting and she was impressed that her middle aged aunt was clearly more flexible than she was (needless to say I was chuffed to bits!), so I embraced my forthcoming training session with confidence.
It turns out that Functional Training involves training the body for activities performed in everyday life. So far so good. It combines muscle work with cardio so that you burn more calories. Studies comparing FT to fixed training equipment showed substantial gains and benefits in the functional training group over fixed training equipment. Functional users had a 58% greater increase in strength over the fixed-form group and their improvements in balance were almost double. After a warm up my personal trainer Nick moved me on to the Power Plate. I had heard about this as the miraculous machine where you will burn lots of calories by just standing still…Err, not quite actually! Nick had me doing press ups on the vibrating plate, squats, step ups and jumping squats. The vibrations made the muscles work harder. They also tired them out quicker. I was starting to realise I have a long way to go…
We moved to sitting to standing, something we all do all day long. But we tend to do it with the least effort and we could in fact be using it to our benefit. Nick showed me how to stand from sitting pushing with my heels and with the right posture. Bang! I felt the difference straight away and was now exercising my quads and bum. The Kettle Bells were compared to lifting bags of shopping. We used 16lb, 12lb and 8lb in a variety of dead lifts. Rather than getting a bad back by lifting incorrectly, try sticking your bum out pushing from the heels and using your legs and all of a sudden you get a work out.
I had heard of VIPR but didn’t know what it was. Interestingly it was developed as a training exercise to imitate the movement of shifting hay bales which works the oblique muscles and arms. A long heavy tube with grab handles are more practical than hay bales for the gym (!) and the interval exercises combine weight lifting with cardio work.
Finally I was introduced to TRX which to the uninitiated looks like a cross between a trapeze and sling. You put your feet or your hands in the straps, the use your core to move your body weight which is suspended. With my feet in the sling and my hands on the ground in a push up position I tried side pulls, pikes and squats using my core.
My session made me admit how readily I take the easy option at the gym and how much I could benefit from someone showing me how to get more out of my visits.