Saturday, 13 December 2014

Common Gym Mistakes and Simple Solutions to them - Part 14

14. Excessive use of Functional/Sports Specific Training (F/SST).

I am a fan of F/SST, I believe it should be part of everyone’s training regime. However, too much of it will decrease performance as much as not enough F/SST will decrease performance.

Firstly, as per Part 7 and Part 3 your F/SST needs to be appropriate to your sport or goals or it will be ineffective. Sounds obvious enough but it’s a common problem even with qualified coaches.

For example, It may seem like a good idea for a tennis player to work on their base line strokes by using a cable machine in the same range of motion to their racket swing. But is it a good idea? I would argue not because the movement on the court will be a lot faster than the movement on the cable machine. Also, in tennis the shot will be followed through, on the cable machine the shot will come to a slow stop and then be reversed with a loaded eccentric phase. It looks the same at first, but it is a different movement.

Lunging onto a Bosu ball is great if you are recovering from or trying to prevent ankle injuries but ultimately you will be limited in how much weight you can lunge. Less weight equals less power/strength so this is less effective than conventional lunges or split squats.

Going backwards on a Cross Trainer is proven to help knee injures recover but that does not mean it will help strengthen your knees. I have always regarded backwards Cross Training to be far too easy an exercise to improve anything and has limited functionality.

What F/SST is great for is converting your strength/power/fitness gains into sports specific movements. Therefore, it is great for the final few weeks of pre-season and then top-ups during the season. It is also excellent for overcoming issues such as plateaus and weaknesses (see Part 13) and fixing form.


For example, squatting knees forward, hardly bending at the hip is really common with most newbies in the gym and even some of the regulars. I have a lot of success using either functional trainers (cable machines) or TRX (Suspension Training) in fixing this issue. So, for example, using the TRX I will get the client to hold onto both handles and squat backwards and down until their bottom is nearly on the floor (if they have the flexibility). It is rare that people cannot do this as part of the original problem is their conscious/sub-conscious thinking they will fall over if the push the hips back in a squat. By holding onto the straps their brain knows they wont/can’t fall over and suddenly the hips bend! A couple of sessions squatting with TRX can be followed by normal squatting and from then on its onwards and upwards. Once their back squatting has got better and they are able to squat with weight I may bring them back to the TRX to carryout pistol (one legged) squats or lunges. However, the main strength/performance gains are from squatting with weight, not TRX/F/SST.