When I was younger my idols were superheroes. I have always had a fascination with them and have always dreamt of becoming one. But the chances of me being able to swim depths of 1000m talk to fish, have super human strength and be Aquaman are… well, let’s be honest low, to pretty much hopeless. But what I knew is, I can do everything in my power to look like these icons. I have had a fascination for sculpting my body from a young age however just sculpting sometimes doesn’t lead to practicality. There is no point looking like superhero if you can’t move like one. I believe CrossFit helps in making that practicality a reality.
When Coach Mike Lee and his athlete Marcus Filly pioneered what is now termed functional bodybuilding it struck a nerve and fascinated me and is now my preferred method of training.
So what is functional bodybuilding? It is a way of training that provides emphasise on the quality of movement, over intensity. Controlled movements and bodybuilding can be used to help an athlete fulfil their function and enhance their performance. For non- athletes it helps them look good, gain mental clarity and move well.
There are three steps that lead to success in functional bodybuilding
- The quality of movement is more important than the amount of load (weight) or intensity (work) applied.
- Be aware, be present! Follow the tempo, (a dictated, pre-planned time duration, in which to complete repetitions and sets) keep to the repetitions, sets and full range of movements, also ensure proper amount of rest. It all has purpose.
- The lifestyle must be balanced. Everything that happens outside the gym is important to success (read previous blog by Matt Stafford)
The principles to a functional bodybuilding programme.
Like any resistance training programme its aim is to use load or weight to increase mass and build strength. Muscles are accustomed to dealing with certain stresses and load. When you increase the loads or intensity your Central Nervous System (CNS) adapts to deal with the stress applied to it by increasing in strength and growing in mass.
What is quite obvious is that functional bodybuilding, borrows heavily from the training methodology of bodybuilding. In bodybuilding there is focus on high rep ranges with the primary goal on hypertrophy (building muscle), physique and recovery. These are also used in a functional bodybuilding programme
Functional bodybuilding also uses mixed functional training, the characteristics of this training include:
- Aerobic capacity
- Bodyweight endurance
- Bodyweight skill
- Mixed modality training
- Power development
Another key is the mind-muscle connection. Athletes learn to send the correct messages/stimulus to their brain in response to movements. After all, functional bodybuilding plays a huge role in restoring balance and function and this starts with healing the mind and connecting it to the muscle.
Functional bodybuilding also builds an athletes muscle endurance. Why? The high number of controlled muscle contractions increases the size and number of capillaries to the specific muscles, and engrains patterns of motor control and efficient movement. It also increases the athlete’s number of muscle fibres available for use.
With all this being said you can see how functional bodybuilding can influence your performance in CrossFit and life. Learning to intuitively know the stimulus of a movement and how your body/muscles should respond. Also with increased number of capillaries at a given muscle means more endurance based qualities i.e. performing more reps in an AMRAP.
If reading this as you interested every Thursday 8-9 at CrossFit Nottingham fellow coach Matt Stafford and I run CrossFit Nottingham’s so called, Functional Hypertrophy (FHT) class. These classes will give you a better insight into this style of training. If you would like to delve deeper into Functional bodybuilding, I would be happy to help and discuss how you can implement it.