The Functional Training Fallacy

Functional and Sport Specific Training are frequently used terms in the sport performance industry. They are catchy terms that trick athletes and parents into thinking they are getting a superior form of training that will somehow translate better to their sport. The thinking behind these two terms is extremely misguided and those trainers that apply the terms and practice towards their training are doing their athletes a disservice.

If you see a trainer advertising functional, sport-specific training it is B.S. and they likely do not understand what they are talking about. Here is why.

There is no sport specific exercise than can be done in the weight room. Only general and general specific exercises. The only thing that is truly sport specific is the athlete playing or practicing their sport.

Functional training is often seen in the form of an athlete balancing on bosu balls and aerek pads or performing light medicine ball throws while balancing. This type of training has no carryover to the athlete’s ability to play their sport. It may have its place in a rehabilitation setting but it disadvantages athletes, especially power athletes. A healthy athlete should never perform exercises on unstable surfaces to elicit co-contractions. (Bompa, 2015).

In order for an exercise to be truly functional it must be plane specific while matching the duration, intensity, and speed of the movement trying to be improved (DeFranco, Smith, 2014). As you can see balancing on an aerek pad matches none of the aforementioned criteria. Many athletes are hindered by these functional training gadgets employed by coaches as they are not truly functional!

 A good program should begin with general exercises and focus on getting the athlete strong on bodyweight and compound exercises, as the athlete progress the program should progress from general to general specific exercises that bridge the gap to the playing field.

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-Graham Wilkerson



Graham WilkersonComment