Tuesday, April 14, 2009

More on functional training

Back to the discussion about "functional" training. Doug McGuff explained that there is a real distinction between skill training and strength training. Skill training is very very specific. The idea is to get stronger and then use appropriate skill training to apply that strength.

Drew Baye's latest post expounds the same idea:

Exercise in accordance with proper training principles, then apply your improved fitness to the enjoyment of your chosen recreational activities, but don’t try to mix recreation and exercise - it takes the fun out of recreation and the effectiveness out of exercise.


John Sifferman - Real World Strength Training said...

I'm not sure I agree with this. Sure, we shouldn't try to mix exercise with recreation if it is hurting our health. But mixing the two takes the fun out of recreation and the effectiveness out of exercise ONLY IF you're exercise is harmful, and/or your recreation is boring. Recreation can and should be health-promoting - and exercise can and should be FUN.

A very common false assumption is that running directly causes injuries in and of itself - as if it's just an injury-developing activity to travel quickly with our perfectly designed legs.

IMPROPER running causes injuries. Most people assume that they can just go out for a run, get a good workout, and enjoy the process. What they don't realize is that their body is not accustomed to running, and it's very likely (with our seated culture), that they carry a lot of pre-conditions that would quickly turn into injury if you introduced a high-impact activity like running in over-engineered shoes on asphault or cement. The biggest mistake a new trainee can make when approaching an activity like running or weightlifting is to assume that they are a blank slate. People don't get injured because they run, they get injured because they don't have the knowledge required to run safely - and even Runners World isn't exactly the cream of the crop when it comes to running advice.

I hear what Baye is saying, but I just don't think this is very practical advice. I hear "exercise will and should be boring, and absolutely not fun," and I know that's not true.

My two cents.

Best regards,

John Sifferman

Derek said...

I think I disagree on this one as well. In practicing something like parkour, we do repetitions of certain movements like in an exercise format. But we are also training technique as a result because we're drilling certain skills. An example would be like doing 50 kong to precisions.

Chris said...


I think the point there is that you are doing skill training in those moves.

Doing 50 reps of a gymnastic move is skill training rather than strength development. If you want to exercsise to develop strength there are more efficnet ways than by doing 50 reps of kongs to precisions. That is how you apply your strength.


I think the point in this context is that running is a skill that has to be trained. There is a technique to be applies to run safely (e.g. I think the POSE technique is the best. Running might be yoru recreation. Drew's argument (I think) is that it is not in itself a good exercise for the development of stength....

Derek said...

hmmm...I'm thinking that doing 50 kong to precisions is a lot like doing 50 explosive push-ups along with 50 air squats. Or a wall climb is really just an assisted pull-up to dip and if one were to do reps of something like this, it would be both strength and skill training. I'm also kind of thinking from a movnat perspective: Just climbing a tree is a strength and skill exercise. But by "more efficient" do you mean using weights or just doing specific body weight exercises, rather than the more dynamic movements in parkour? I'm genuinely interested in learning if their is a better way to condition for parkour other than doing reps of movements. I also do various different body weight exercises in rounds (like crossfit)and other movnat stuff.

Chris said...


I see what you are saying but I think the issue is that Baye would see such things are still skill rather than strength training. Yes you will gain some strength, but you could gain that strength more efficiently and safely.

Did you read my interview with Doug McGuff? I asked him about this area as it is something that is intriguing to me.

Chris said...

A related thought from Tom Kurz:


Drew Baye said...

Motor learning texts show transfer of skill between activities is very specific. Performing an exercise that mimics an athletic or vocational skill will not result in positive transfer of skill and can potentially result in negative transfer, and will not be as effective for strengthening the involved muscles as an exercise specifically designed for that purpose.

Check out Motor Learning and Human Performance: An Application to Motor and Movement Behaviors, Robert Singer

When talking about exercise versus recreation it is important to distinguish between exercise effect and effective exercise, as well as the benefits relative the risk.

Most physical recreational activities will have an exercise effect - they will stimulate some kind of adaptive response specific to the demands of the activity. However, this will not be as effective as an exercise program designed specifically for that purpose.

Also, while participation in recreational activities should involve consideration of benefit (personal enjoyment) to risk (potential short or long term harm, in this case), exercise should not, since the goal of exercise should be to improve fitness without compromising health, rather than to improve fitness at the expense of health, as is the case with some recreational activities which people perform for the sake of exercise.

As for Parkour, if you become stronger and better conditioned, you will be able to apply that strength and conditioning during your Parkour sessions, and more importantly, proper strength training will make you more resistant to injury.

Derek said...

After reading through the suggested articles, I think I'm beginning to understand. When I first began parkour, I hardly did any strength training and focused mainly on repetition of particular movements and technique. A friend of mine, who was a personal trainer and had clearly done quite a lot of strength training was able to accomplish things in parkour that took me four times as long to achieve. Of course, he "muscled" his way through a lot of technique and got hurt that way.

So the bottom line is to do both skill and strength training (for parkour) but realize that they are two different and separate things. I think I've got it.

Drew Baye said...

Derek nailed it right on the head - both skill and strength training are essential. While strength helps with both performance and injury prevention, it is definitely no substitute for proper technique, and as your friend found, just muscling through something is not the way to go. If you're doing the movement correctly, using the most efficient body movement possible, you shouldn't have to use a lot of muscular effort, and if someone is just muscling through instead of working on getting the technique down, they're going to suffer for it in the long run.