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Mel Siff
07-29-2000, 01:38 PM
The following discussion from another group may also be of interest here:

Someone wrote:

>

*** Periodically many of us refer to "functional" movements and "functional"
training in the scientific and therapeutic settings and I think that we all
know exactly what we mean, but it is often quite confusing and meaningless to
distinguish between "functional" and "non-functional" actions. What actually
constitutes biomechanically or neuromuscularly "non-functional" activity?

After all, most movements, whether they be goal-directed or not, would appear
to serve some function while they are taking place. Under these
circumstances, can we really talk definitively about "functional" exercise,
training or movement? Or should we rather be talking about "sport specific"
or "task specific" actions or activity?

While kneeling and crawling on all fours may appear to be entirely
non-functional for most folk or for athletes, these actions may be profoundly
functional for toddlers, wrestlers and some disabled folk. There are many
other examples of apparently or superficially "non-functional" activity.

Along the lines of our earlier discussions on "core stability" (see URL
below), here we have yet another situation in which terminology can be
misleading and obfuscating. In fact, the concept of "functional training" is
one that is being massively marketed and exploited in the fitness and
therapeutic world outside mainstream physiotherapy, biomechanics and sports
science. You can hardly pick up a current magazine or course brochure that
does not extol the virtues of the latest kid on the block, "functional
training", as if there really is something that is always truly
non-functional training.

What these secular evangelists really mean is "sport specific" training, but
a newly acquired term seems to be much better for marketing an age-old
concept. So, away we merrily go, overusing, abusing and exploiting something
perfectly respectable from the world of science. Not that this is at all
"bad". Certainly, it may be selling the concept to far more people than
before, but, in doing so, it often blurs the issue with a lot of non-science
or nonsense.

Somehow, the paradoxes inherent in the marketing of "functional training" (or
"Special Physical Preparation", SPP) do not always seem to be very apparent
to those who teach or use it, because much of so-called "non-functional
training" may often be regarded as synonymous with what has been called
"General Physical Preparation" (GPP) for many decades (e.g. see Siff &
Verkhoshansky "Supertraining" 1999, Ch 6).

Then, of course, we have the issue of "functional" versus "structural"
training, something that most of us refer to at some time or another. We
often quote expressions such as "function precedes structure" (or "use
determines form"), as if function and structure are entirely separate from
one another at all times, instead of possible being intricately linked via
various feedforward and feedback mechanisms.

What can we do about the whole "functional" situation? Well, maybe what we
need to do, as is the case in all scientific and clinical articles, we must
clearly define what we mean by the term in the context of one's current
application and let it mean "nothing more and nothing less" (thank you, Lewis
Carroll!). Often we may think that this is implicit in what we say, write or
do, but maybe we need to be a lot more explicit than that.

For those who may be interested, the above discussion (of the past 2 weeks)
formed part of a fairly extensive discourse on the very overused and
overmarketed concepts of "core stability" and "core training" on one of the
physio lists. The following website provides access to the archives of this
group:

http://www.mailbase.ac.uk/lists/physio/archive.html

Dr Mel C Siff
Denver, USA
mcsiff@aol.com

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