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  • Derrick Woods

Functional Body Building?

It wasn't long before "functional" exercises became so popular that they were done all over the gym, which is absolutely expected because they are fun. Then there was a time when heavy lifting became part of functional fitness. So it would go something like this, you would do heavy squats, add the box jumps or squat jumps, and call it all functional fitness. Even heavy dumb bell squat thrust are seen as functional fitness.


But, squat thrusts are functional aren't they? Well my response is always going to be, what movement does it train? When do you squat down and reach up naturally? You don't jump, run, throw, reach, sit, stand or any other natural movement like that. Remember functional isn't simply building strength, it's about being intentional with the design of your body.


Now let's talk about adopting traditional bodybuilding or power lifts into the functional fitness brand. The simple short answer is, it is absolutely NOT functional in any way shape or form, and people who claim it is know it's not, but it does serve a purpose. In the fitness community to be considered "fit" you are judged on your outward appearance and not actual functional movement of the body. (Think body building look versus American Ninja Warrior look.) So being fit means being able to lift heavy and have a 6,8,10, 12 pack instead of the ability to move properly or exercise with any natural design in mind. For all intents and purposes, body building is meant to help build muscle faster and help lose weight, so that "fitness" as a product is appealing or so that the "look" of function can be achieved.


Let's bringing it down to earth with some real life examples. First, functional fitness was covered under the umbrella of HIIT/Bootcamp. If I remember correctly, the slogan usually had something to do with fun, community, and burning fat. Then once they got you in, they said something to the effect of, "We are going to train you with real life movements to make them easier." Then you proceeded to do burpees and star jumps. I'm still trying to figure out what daily movements those exercises get me ready to do?? It's not long before you are trying to workout with heavier dumb bells or weights in the name of better function, which in actuality is just building muscles. In case you haven't picked this up yet, more muscles do not equate to better function.


Nowhere can this be seen so clearly than in Crossfit or Bodybuilding. Cross fit, which is the current pinnacle of "functional fitness" has been responsible for plenty of knee, back, neck, and shoulder injuries. These are just the common injuries that happen due to conflating building muscle with function. You look to Bodybuilders in general because, if we are being honest, that's the look that is equated with any kind of fitness. But, once you get passed the exterior, you find that they are remarkably dysfunctional. Running, cutting, jumping, balancing, coordination, etc. are things that the body naturally should do well. However, bodybuilders aren't typically that good at these basic techniques. Simply put, the look of a cross fitter or bodybuilder doesn't equate to them being highly functional. It means they lifted heavy weights to build muscles. Now, I will say Cross Fitters are more functional than Body Builders, but CrossFit doesn't match up with the definition of functional fitness either because it also causes a lot of dysfunction and injuries. That is my introspection on my time doing functional fitness. Until next time keep it R.A.W





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