Over the Thanksgiving weekend we made a few minor adjustments to the way we have our equipment arranged. We moved the kettlebells into their new permanent home along the north wall next to the ball throw area. This completes the layout of our new functional training area along the perimeter walls of the main weight room. We are expecting some new heavier kettlebells to arrive any day, and with this addition anyone who is into Crossfit style workouts should have everything they need. The free weight area suffered a few temporary casualties, but more about that later.
One of the most interesting things that we noticed when we were adding all of our new racks, platforms, and functional equipment was the generation gap that it exposed. The border seemed to be set somewhere between 35 and 40 years of age. The people older than that would look at what we were doing and ask “what’s this for?” Younger people’s eyes would light up and they would simply exclaim “YES!” Many had seen the same brand of equipment (Rogue) featured on the telecast of the Crossfit Games on television.
At its core functional training is a return to many of the same exercises that were popular at the birth of the fitness movement in the first half of the 20th century. Pull-ups, kettlebells, olympic lifts, medicine ball training, and working out with rings and ropes were all popular more than half a century ago. Gradually the industry moved away from this type of training, and with a big assist from our ex-governor, became more reliant on machines that trained specific body parts. These machines were heavily promoted as being easier and safer for beginners to use and became the standard equipment everywhere. While they definitely work as advertised, over the last decade we have come to realize that there are some drawbacks to this type of training.
Often this type of machine keeps your movement isolated in a fixed plane of motion. This is fine if you’re a bodybuilder focused on making one specific muscle larger or stronger. But most of us aren’t bodybuilders. Most of us want to have the type of strength that allows us to be physically active. Whether that’s playing a sport or lifting groceries out of our car, it’s something that involves multiple muscle groups acting together. Functional training is all about training your body to be able to handle whatever life throws at you.
Here’s a quick and extreme example of the difference. Take your inner and outer thigh machines….standard equipment in virtually any weight room. Does isolating and training your adductors and abductors really serve any useful purpose? Those machines were only created for one purpose…to sell memberships! When someone comes in and asks what they can do to firm up their flabby thighs, we’re supposed to say “try these great machines”. They’re easy exercises to learn, easy machines to use, and for those reasons some people like them. But how effective they are is debatable.
Functional training is at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Take a heavy medicine ball and see how far up the wall you can throw it. Pick it up and do it again. Repeat. Repeat. It won’t take you long to find out why this type of exercise is so much more effective. You’re activating nearly every muscle in your body, from your toes on up through your core and into your fingers. It’s hard work! It’s also incredibly efficient and it trains us in a way that is more suitable to the rigors of our daily lives. That’s why these exercises were first developed decades ago, and why they’ve returned to popularity today.
It’s also the reason we are devoting more space to the balls, bells, the racks, and this type of training. Granted not everyone is going to want to be doing power cleans; that’s why we’ll also be adding more machines that are functionally based. While they will look similar to many of the machines you’re used to using, they will add a functional element. Arms will operate independently and handles will be attached to cables, allowing more freedom of movement and more muscle activation.
Once our temporary front desk gets moved out of the weight room, we’ll also begin rearranging our selection of free weights. The bench presses will move into the same room as the dumbbells, which will clear space for new power racks and some new plate loaded equipment. Upon completion there will be a few less single-purpose machines and a lot more equipment and space that is adaptable to use in multiple different ways.
If you have any specific requests for new equipment (or old standbys you can’t live without) be sure to let us know. While we have already gotten lots of feedback and advice, we are making every attempt to move forward in a way that all of our members will appreciate and enjoy. There is no single “best” way to train; we’re all individuals with different needs. HealthQuest’s goal is to make sure that we have the most diverse selection of equipment possible so that everyone can perform the type of workout that they feel will be best for them!