Fitness and health is such a massive industry that the conventional advice is often never questioned. Despite this, a quiet revolution is happening in the fitness industry.
[This is the first in a 2-part series of posts on how the fitness industry has changed and how you can avoid bad advice and hokey marketing gimmicks].
It was bound to happen. After the heyday of the muscle bound bodybuilding hulks in the 1970s and 80s, physical training had to change.
When I began looking into training and physical fitness in the mid-1990s, pretty much the only resources you could find were of a bodybuilding nature. Many fitness programmes relied on weight training and a bit of aerobics to develop that cardiac-respiratory system (aka heart and lungs!)
While all this is great and the average guy or gal could improve their fitness, these routines were limited in scope and therefore may not have been entirely appropriate for the average gym goer.
Recalibrating fitness goals
Muscle growth in and of itself is great but there must be something more to training than that. Whether this was an overt observation of the fitness community or not I can’t be sure of. What I do know is that sports science and the study of kinesiology (how humans move) have come along way since weight training really took off in the period from the 1950s–70s.
The fitness industry as a whole owes a lot to the pioneers of bodybuilding and strength training. The musclebound hulk like figures (such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lou Ferrigno and Lee Haney) were poster boys for an entire generation of trainers.
Bodybuilding is awesome, but in some respects it is a victim of its own success. The huge bulging over-bloated bodybuilders that have become the norm now are such extreme outliers that most guys don’t want to look that way, don’t have the time and simply the perseverance to develop such massive physiques.
Muscle isn’t the end of the story
At heart, all guys are secretly wannabe superheroes. While bodybuilders no longer represent the ideal that most guys are after, professional athletes do inspire awe and respect in the general populace.
It is hard not to admire a Usain Bolt, a Sidney Crosby or a Lebron James. These guys inspire awe in what they can do, rather than in how massive their biceps are.
There’s nothing wrong with big biceps and this post is not an attack on bodybuilding. I’m keen to bloat my chest, shoulders and biceps through training as much as the next guy. An awesome physique is well, awesome! But there is something about a guy who can move like a cheetah, jump like Mike or power his way through opponents like a charging rhino.
What is this functional buzzword anyway?
Modern life combined with the growing realisation that training for just muscular development has led to this functional fitness revolution.
So functional simply refers to the idea that the average person can reach their physique potential in size and ability. Guys can be powerful athletes; ladies can be nimble like a dancer. In fact, these are powerful reasons for why training has gone the functional way — people play sports, hike, cycle, mountain bike and run marathons. Unfortunately for many of us, we spend hours a day de-training ourselves for basic movement by sitting hunched over desks or other suboptimal arrangements.
The sea change in the way training is done can in part be attributed to a number of popular gym disciplines: Pilates, Yoga, Military training approaches and the emergence of Crossfit. Popular exercise magazines are Men’s Health/Women’s Health and Women’s Fitness/Men’s Fitness magazines. There are many more but these publications capture the essence of fitness as a lifestyle rather than an aesthetic only.
- Mayo Clinic resources on functional training
- Functional Movement Systems
- Gray Cook — Functional Movement Screening