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Functional Training: what’s that all about?

Do you know your Burpees from your Swiss Balls? No, I’m not talking exotic cocktails but something called Functional Training. But if that’s all double Dutch to you and you can’t tell you TRX from your ViPR then you might just be missing a trick when it comes to getting the most out of your exercise programme.

Functional Training essentially means engaging more muscles than the ones that are the prime movers in any given exercise. So instead of using static machines in the gym (which isolate key muscles whilst leaving both the body’s support muscle groups and stabilising muscle groups largely at rest), Functional Training uses tools and movements that destabilise the body.

‘Why would you want to do that?’ – I hear you cry. To better engaging your balance skills, stamina and core fitness, in a nutshell. Because using a full range of muscle groups results in a whole-body workout that improves range of movement, heart and lung capacity, posture, suppleness and balance. In short, Functional Training is a more efficient training approach for full body fitness.

In a similar vein, Michol Dalcourt, a professor at San Francisco University and international lecturer on human movement and performance, was fascinated to discover that his team’s ice hockey players lacked strength. Even though they used his own training programme they consistently lost to a team made up of ‘farm boys’, but it transpired that the ‘farm boys’ spent all day off-season lifting hay bales, fixing fences and digging holes, which made them stronger, fitter and thus better ice hockey players. And lo, ViPR training was born.

And while the fitness industry is FULL of gadgets – including the latest ‘must haves’ that promise miracle results in ludicrously short timespans for minimal effort (don’t get me started on nutritional supplements and meal replacements) – there is ultimately no real substitute for hard work and dedication. But… here are 3 gadgets that I believe can be used beneficially during Functional Training and which have proved their worth:


Invented by former Navy SEAL Randy Hetrick, Suspension training was originally developed for the military to enable service men and women to maintain optimum levels of fitness wherever they were sent on duty.  It involves using a highly-tensioned length of woven strap in two basic pieces, joined by strong buckles and ‘D’ rings.  One strap acts as an anchor and can be tied to static objects (tree, lamppost, door jam etc) while the second strap fits through a loop on the first and consists of two adjustable lengths and locks, and two hoops on each end (for hands or feet). TRX is light, easy to transport and extremely popular as a targeted and effective all body workout tool. It builds core, flexibility, agility and cardio in one piece of kit, and can be used indoors or outside. It’s popular with amateur sporty types, celebrities and professional sports men and women alike.

Swiss balls are a great all round, inexpensive, functional training tool. You might know them as birthing balls…but the great news is that you don’t have to be with child to benefit from bouncing around on one.  Check out a few of the basic moves here.


ViPR is a 3ft (approx) rubber tube of various weights, with hand holes in it, this is a Functional Training tool suitable for everyone from the week-end gardener to the professional rugby player, it improves all levels of fitness and helps develop speed, stamina and agility.  Have a look here to learn more about how the ViPR works the body.
Frankly, you could do far worse things in life than consider incorporating Functional Training into your fitness regime. If you’re tempted, why not give Fit Perfect a call or drop us a line to arrange to talk about how we can help get you started…

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