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How to get novice clients moving with functional training
How do you introduce someone to functional fitness for the first time? What are some good ways to get clients moving in multiple planes? These are the challenges PTs face when working with clients who are used to using CV and weight machines rather than whole-body functional training.
So we asked Darren Fox, strength and conditioning trainer at the Escape RAW 32 Training Centre and player/coach with Peterborough Lions rugby union team, to share the way he approaches this situation with clients. Darren uses Escape Fitness products at RAW 32 but the approach he describes will be of interest no matter what training tools you might use.
Over to Darren…
It’s time to get clients moving!
The move across to functional training may seem simple, but it’s a serious challenge for people who have settled into a comfort zone of machine-based workouts. People need to feel comfortable using a range of functional training equipment, yet at the same time really know that they have worked hard.
The role of the PT is to help people make that move and the first couple of sessions are crucial. A good way to share how I approach coaching someone new to functional training is to look at a real-life situation I encountered recently.
Richard is a guy in his early 40s who had been a member of a local gym for six months and had been making steady progress using CV and weight machines. But he was getting bored with that style of training and needed something new to get him motivated.
Originally he wanted me to help him get into weightlifting but when we started him with Olympic-style weights he struggled to adopt the correct technique. I felt that this was due to a combination of a lack of strength and some restrictions in his ability to move.
He needed to get his body moving more to develop his overall flexibility and core strength. This would benefit him in every physical activity he took part in – from gardening to his golf and tennis – and enable him to move on to weightlifting later on if he wanted to.
A structure for the first functional training workout
I invited Richard to join me for a six-week functional training programme to hopefully lay the foundation for years of enjoyable and effective workouts. His time on CV and weight machines would continue, but that would run alongside more dynamic functional training.
Here’s what we did at the first session:
The warm up
As with any workout, I started Richard with a warm up. This is of course important because it gets the body prepared for the workout, helping to prevent injury to muscles.
First, he did 500 metres on a rowing machine to get his heart rate up. Then we did some stretching with arm swings, hamstring walks, walking lunges and Spider-Man stretches.
Then we got down to the workout itself. To start with, I tied two Battle Ropes together and attached them to the Quad Sled, which was weighted with two 25kg lifting plates. Richard had to pull the Quad Sled towards him using the ropes, across 20 metres of the gym floor. Then he had to push the sled back to its original position.
Once Richard had completed this exercise – which only took about a minute – he was breathing hard and his abs and legs were screaming. This was a totally different experience to the workouts he had been doing over the previous few months. His level of discomfort demonstrated that even though he felt he had been working out well at his gym, he was still well below the fitness level he was looking to achieve.
After the Quad Sled workout we walked around the block for a few minutes to let him get his breath back. For someone getting into more intense workouts there is no need to push too hard by having short intervals between sets. All that does is add more difficulty and, often, an element of failure when attempting a workout too soon. This is why I let the client recover properly until they feel ready to go again.
Next we did the same pull/push work with the Quad Sled, but this time adding a third 25kg plate. Starting out at the lower weight gives the client a chance to learn the technique and get some confidence. Then moving up in weight adds more challenge but also a bigger sense of achievement.
Richard was sceptical about whether he could complete the set with 50% more weight and it was a real effort for the last few metres. But he completed the set and, after another recovery period, another one to close off the sled work.
Once Richard recovered we moved on a circuit-style workout with four elements:
- Four flips of the 80kg TIYR.
- Five press-ups.
- 20 Bulgarian Bag spins: ten clockwise and ten anti-clockwise.
- Ten air squats.
This workout is a good example of what functional fitness is all about. It works just about every part of the body, gets the client to move in multiple planes and is full of movements that will feel fairly natural. Richard performed two sets of the workout with a brief interval between them. Here again, we were dealing with exercises that were out of his comfort zone so two sets were enough.
The cool down and review
We closed things off with some more stretching to cool down, followed by a quick chat about how Richard felt, whether the session had been okay for him and whether he wanted to carry on with the weekly programme.
The good news is that, despite getting close to his physical limits on the workouts, he could feel the benefit. He told me that he could see a clear way ahead where our weekly sessions, along with a new approach to working out on his own between sessions, would get him stronger and more mobile.
Of course, the interesting thing will be to see how Richard progresses over the next few weeks and that’s something I’ll be writing about soon. Watch this space!
Find out more about functional fitness
Check out Escape’s range of functional training equipment in our online shop. Alternatively, call us on +44 (0)1733 313535 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to talk to one of our team about what’s available.
You can also see more examples of how Darren works through his Facebook page.