Aaron Williamson Demystifies Functional Fitness

by Arthur Vandelay on March 12, 2015


What is functional training?
That’s a great question. I get it all the time. Functional training is essentially exercise that mimics real life movements and activities. Most training is based around core strength, which is really important for what I do with my clients. It teaches the muscles how to work together. You are doing full body movements that work more than one body part. For instance, doing a burpee or a jumping jack, you are using your arms and your legs and your chest. The muscle groups in your body are working together.

Why has functional training become so popular?
There’s been so much hype about it. The first reason is just for the fun factor alone. Not having to go from machine to machine at the gym, or be stuck to a dumbbell or a barbell. You truly have to be into another style of training to enjoy that on a daily basis. But for the normal person, when you can go into a functional training facility or a room that has battle ropes and kettle bells and monkey bars and stability balls, you can do so many different exercises. It changes the monotony of the gym. It’s a different feeling of going in there and being depressed because you’re gonna have to get under heavy weight and do ten reps, four different times. In addition, it helps keep your body injury free. If you’re doing it right, your muscles are going to be a lot stronger and you’re going to be more conditioned, which gives you that more lean, toned look people seek, and film actors especially want.

Even when you’re doing a functional training exercise that might be targeted at your legs, you’re still using your back and your arms and other muscles in lesser ways?
Absolutely. These exercises are typically always based around your core stability, so if you’re turning from side to side or you’re jumping down on the floor and then getting back up every time, you transition from one position to another and your core is indirectly engaged. You really don’t think about it engaging, it’s just naturally happening which is such a great way to train.

How does this type of training differ from traditional weight training?
Traditional weight training is exactly how it sounds. It’s your normal gym feel. You go into the gym and you have a specific body part you want to work out. Something very common is for people to come in and train chest and triceps or back and biceps. You’re going in, doing specific exercises for a certain number of sets and a certain number of reps, and you’re targeting a certain body part. But it’s not all working together like it would if you were going into a functional training room and doing a cardio circuit or a plyometrics circuit, where you’re going to engage everything at one time. You’re going to work your whole body through one workout but you can come in again the next day and do another workout, but you’re not going to be overly sore.

It sounds like it reflects real world activities. If I’m going to outside and stack wood, I’m not isolating my biceps. It’s a full body exercise to do that.
Some of the people I train, even non-film people, are folks I’m just trying to get back in shape. And they actually noticed a difference even driving in their car. Turning a corner, they can feel their abs engage and it’s something they’ve never felt before. There’s a connection there now. Even for the average person, it’s a great way to get back into the gym and get into physical fitness because it can be low-impact or high-impact. It can be whatever you make of it. There’s just so much room to be flexible with the training.

Do you recommend one style of training over the other?
It really depends on the goals. If I’m training a film client, it depends on what their character needs to look like. I like both styles and I incorporate both of them into my training. I actually do a lot of functional fitness for my cardio, but I’m a meathead at heart. I love to just get in their with dumbbells and lift heavy stuff all the time but that’s just me. I know it’s not for everybody. There’s more!