A very common error that is made in exercise programs, is to confuse the demonstration of strength, speed or so called functional activities with the best methods for actually improving these aspects.

The human body is extremely efficient in the sense, that it will naturally use leverage, and momentum to maximum advantage to accomplish the task at hand. This is a very good thing, if you have to move furniture or help push someone’s vehicle stuck in the snow.

However, when your goal is to develop strength, you need to override this natural efficiency, because your goal is not to lift weight per se, but to fatigue the muscles by creating continuous tension against a given resistance. This is best accomplished by moving slowly, using perfect form, and paying close attention to proper turnarounds (the part of the repetition where you reverse direction). This will make the exercise harder and safer because, even though you will eventually go to maximum effort, you will do so while minimizing force (mass X acceleration). As for the development of speed, it is not necessary or advisable to actually move fast due to the force this will create, but rather to “attempt to move fast” i.e. as a set of an exercise approaches muscular failure, you will be instructed to “speed up” and eventually “go as fast as you can”, however because of the accumulated fatigue, you will still be moving quite slowly.

Speed, as may be required in certain sport activities, is to a large part genetically pre determined and actual speed may only be improved marginally if at all. However skill practice will help to eliminate wasted movement, and use optimal technique so that the athlete is truly being more efficient rather than moving faster per se. Stronger muscles, of course will also help, but again, this is best accomplished with slow continuous tension.

So. called functional training confuses skill acquisition with conditioning. If you participate in a skilled activity whether a sport or non physical, there is no substitute for skill practice, and that practice should be, to the extent possible, identical to the activity you wish to improve. Skill in one activity does not generally transfer to another activity. However, skill practice should be separate from conditioning which is simply strengthening your muscles in the safest most efficient manner possible which is what we offer.

Finally, one might ask, unless someone is a competitive or recreational athlete, what “functions” actually need improving. The functions that most people need to concern themselves with consist of being able to load and unload groceries, play with their children or grandchildren, or do some gardening. As we age, this will come to include avoiding slips and falls, toileting, dressing etc. and the independence that comes from being able to perform these activities of daily living unaided will be critical to quality of life.