Training must always have a purpose. It’s that simple.
You turn up and you conduct movements with an overarching purpose. That may be to elicit a calorie burn, to add muscle or to get stronger, faster or to develop a skill. Whatever the purpose or purposes, you should ideally choose purposeful movements. Think I’ve made that clear… next point.
The word functional gets a fair amount of use and misuse in the training world. Maybe it’s me, but when I consider function, I immediately visualise movements that relate to our daily lives and occupations. Movements like lifting things up and putting them back down again, pushing, pulling, pressing and of course bracing ourselves to handle those activities.
Just for a moment, reflect on your day-to-day physical activities outside of the gym and then consider how they fit into the above range.
Go on… I’ll wait for you.
These movements above are what I think of when talking about functional training. One more activity that we can’t ignore is carrying ‘stuff’.
How often do you carry armfuls of shopping, maybe gardening activities, carrying those 25s to the bench to press them and a myriad of other carrying? You might find these chores challenging too, exposing your weaknesses. The carry has a much great purpose than just incidental transportation of things, it transforms your weakness to a strength.
The action of successfully carrying heavy implements has a multitude of physical benefits that’ll be sure to toughen you up and give you some real-world ‘strong’.
So what do carries do?
If carries had a sales pitch:
Putting carries into your life will tighten up your posture as good as granny making you walk around with books on your head. Your upper back will get strong like ox whilst your shoulders will boast some impressive wolverine shadows (the hair is a different story though!). Expect your grip to take on a vice like quality… everyone likes a firm handshake. Talking of firm, your backside will develop mighty fine hardware to go along with a torso only the Gods of Mount Olympus could forge. “Holly abs of Zeus”!
How to do carries?
The rules of the carry are simple. Pick up your weight and carry it for a set time or distance. Vague I know, but committing to the carry is vital. Yeah, it might suck a little as every muscle on your frame gives you feedback that time is up. Rule two then is this… don’t let go, don’t give up. Rule three, maintain your postural integrity. We don’t want to see any hunch-backing, bending over sideways or other ugly positions. Stay tight, stay upright, stick with it.
What kind of weights or implements depends on what you have. I like kettlebells because they’re compact and often heavy. Specialised bars can be used as well as dumbbells, barbells, heavy bags, a wheelbarrow full of rocks, rocks by themselves. An adventurous mind will be helpful.
Carrying isn’t just limited to carrying by your side. Here’s a list of options:
- Farmers walk with two weights by your sides
- One arm carry by your side
- Racked on your shoulder, one or two arms
- Overhead carry, one or two arms (depending on shoulder mobility this might or might not work)
- Sled pull and carry anything, anyhow, any way
- Sled pull with a harness, a weighted vest whilst pushing a wheelbarrow – I have never done this one, but wowsers, it sounds pretty cool.
Here are a few videos:
Coach Dan John calls carries the Game Changer. Read what he has to say – just in case you don’t believe me!
An adventurous mind will be helpful but stick to the rules and really do try to include some kind of carries into your training week.
I challenge you to experiment over the next month with carries. You’ll not be disappointed.
Stay strong and mobile,