The “F” Word – Function

Joe P wrote me the following: You use to use the phrase "all training is functional training". As a matter of fact, you once spoke of moving away from the "F" word. Elaborate on what changed your mind, and if you still stand by that quote. Joe I still stand by the quote, now more than ever. But as you know it must be considered in context. What activity or exercise are you using relative to the desired outcome? I think of function as continuum from 0 to 10, O is death and 10 is the actual activity you are training for. If the majority of your training is not in the 7 to 10 range on the ten point scale then you are lower on the continuum of function and it will probably take longer to achieve your goals if in fact you do.

Yes I tried to get away from using the word function or functional. Around late 2002 early 2003 I felt it all had become trivialized. Everything began to be called “functional training or functional rehab.” Of course by my definition as stated above that was correct, but it all became very confusing. It seemed that more weird and far out you could make the activity the more “functional” it was. In many respects this continues today, it has not reached its nadir. As a person who has been espousing this approach far longer than I would care to remember, I felt a debt of responsibility and still do to clarify and define not confuse and trivialize. That is why I finally finished the new book whose purpose was two fold: 1) to define the field of Athletic Development and 2) to clarify and give parameters to functional training as it is applied to the athlete.

Some of my hesitancy to use the “F” word was an overreaction to an uncomfortable position I was put in week after week while appearing with the Perform Better road show. I was explaining concepts and showing exercises and movements that represented what I espoused to be functional training. Everything that I showed had simple progressions that demanded mastery of one step before moving to the next step. That is the way I was taught and continue to teach. It was more than a hodge podge of exercises and equipment. For me the straw that broke the camels back was the fact that week after week I had the station following Mike Boyle’s station. At his station the people lay on the ground and put a little mini cone on their bellies and tried to suck the cone in to learn the infamous “drawing in maneuver,” the secret to core function. Then they would come to me and we would work through a progression of reaches and bends designed to feed through the core and lead to higher level movements’. This was all done standing and moving involving gait. The juxtaposition could not have been greater.

The options were to fight them, join them or get the hell out of dodge. I chose the later and disappeared for awhile to get my bearing and make sure that I had not lost my compass. I stepped back and looked long and hard at my philosophy and the science behind what I believed in. I came to the conclusion that I had been on the right path, the “functional path.” I decided to retake the high ground and reclaim the use of the word in the context of what I believe it to be in regard to Athletic Development and rehab. That is my mission going forward, no hidden agendas, no impending certifications, no inner circles or outer bands, just education and research to keep learning and moving forward.


At 9/4/07, 2:05 PM, Anonymous Laura Mac said...

Vern - Do you think creating/developing a experiential Master's program that addresses Athletic Development is a possibility? Any suggestions when trying to approach an administration with this concept?

At 9/4/07, 9:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Vern do you find that in a team or group setting an athlete won't question an exercise in fear of questioning the coach?

At 9/10/07, 9:50 PM, Blogger Geoff Neupert said...

Vern, I remember seeing that "PB" catalog with Boyle and the "belly-button cone." I recall thinking, "How pathetic." That was the nail in the coffin for me. Haven't bought anything from them since then.

I enjoy your blog. Thanks for posting routinely.


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