Functional Fitness Impacts Performance

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Conditioning expert Vern Gambetta offers four steps to developing a training program.

Many athletes and fitness enthusiasts are missing the mark by not incorporating fundamental movement skills, according to conditioning expert Vern Gambetta. "Just because an athlete is 'ripped' does not mean that muscle mass will transfer to performance," Gambetta notes.

In "Athletic Development" (Human Kinetics, 2007), Gambetta stresses functional fitness, which involves movement of multiple body parts over many planes rather than simple static exercises. "Function employs an integrated approach," Gambetta says. "The more functional, the more effective the training."    

According to Gambetta, functional training utilizes movements that mimic a desired activity. He suggests that before beginning any functional training program, athletes should develop a four-step sport analysis of the activity that will provide guidelines for training.
1. Analyze the demands of the discipline. To evaluate the demands on the body, Gambetta advises categorizing the activity as sprint, intermittent-sprint, transition-game or endurance sport. He also recommends differentiating between noncontact, contact, collision, and impact sports as appropriate to determine the type of training emphasis required.
2. Understand positioning throughout the activity. Analyze the stress placed on the body in various positions and events. The differing demands of various positions in a specific activity have a profound effect on how athletes should train.
3. Understand the qualities of the athlete. It is important to know what the athlete brings to the discipline. Important factors to consider are how long the athlete has been in formal training for the activity, the athlete's physical qualities and his or her skill level. According to Gambetta, careful consideration of an individual's qualities is the biggest factor in ensuring success of a conditioning program.
4. Understand the common injuries. Assessing the common injuries that occur in an activity is essential for keeping an athlete healthy. Understanding these factors allows for an injury-prevention component in the overall training plan and the ability to design an effective rehabilitation program if the athlete does get injured.

"If there is a secret to the whole process, it is making sure that you have as thorough an understanding of the game that you are preparing for as you possibly can," Gambetta says. "This process will make the training more exact and specific to the sport and the athlete."

For more information on "Athletic Development" or other training resources, visit http://www.HumanKinetics.com.

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Patty Lehn
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