Something that has been a bit of buzz word in the fitness community for the past several years is the term “functional strength.”
Something that has been a bit of buzz word in the fitness community for the past several years is the term “functional strength.” I’ve never really liked the term because it is usually espoused by someone who is sitting on a proverbial high horse. They usually profess that we should all be training like athletes, and that training “for show” is somehow less noble than the programs they put forth. I can’t help but take offense to this stance because I’m no fan of fitness snobbery, and I don’t care for sports, either. I simply train to look and feel better. Granted, I’d get my butt handed to me in an athletic event, but that doesn’t bother me too much. If I’m improving my overall health and appearance, I’m more than satisfied with my exercise routine.
Now that my rant is out of the way, there is something to be said for functional training. Increased muscular endurance, core strength, grip strength and flexibility are all very desirable things that would benefit the average person much more than a set of 24 inch-pythons, brother. While a minority of us are content with simply looking good, many more understandably want a combination of performance and appearance. The functional-training gurus have a point that appeals to a lot of people: What’s the point in looking good if it isn’t backed up by enhanced performance in the real world?
My vote for the coolest way to building functional strength, endurance and flexibility? Try rock climbing (Okay, number one is actually bare-knuckle boxing to the death over one of those “Mortal Kombat” spike pits, but these articles are supposed to be a positive influence on readers). Think about it. Rock climbing requires an insane degree of coordination, flexibility, strength and endurance. While the resistance is limited to ones body weight and climbing gear, the average meathead type wouldn’t last very long on the side of a mountain. They’re just not used to performing complex movements that require the entire body working harmoniously in awkward positions.
The grip strength required to rock climb is particularly impressive, and I see it as perhaps having the most carryover into day-to-day life. We’re constantly lugging around book bags, groceries and so forth. Over any considerable distance, it’s not uncommon to start losing one’s grip on whatever object they’re carrying. Think rock climbers have any problem with sort of thing? Not a chance! The entire sport of rock climbing revolves around gripping crevices (or relatively small “handles” on an indoor wall) and then pulling up one’s entire body with only those small areas to grip. It’s pretty much a guaranteed recipe for gorilla-like gripping powers.
From an endurance aspect, there is no true rest in rock climbing. When lifting weights, I take multiple short breaks. While this allows the trainee to produce considerable amounts of strength in short bursts, I tend to find my muscles become quickly fatigued when I have to engage in activity that requires more muscular endurance than absolute strength. A good example would be moving furniture up a flight of stairs. That’s just one more common event in which the rock climber would outperform someone who concentrates on weightlifting.
So, are you ready to give rock climbing a try yet? Well, Campus Rec has a pretty sweet indoor climbing wall, and they even offer classes. Beginners should check out the Tuesday class at 12 p.m. each week, while those with some experience can attend the intermediate class on Fridays at 1 p.m. Belay, bouldering, top roping and movement classes are also offered.
For complete details, visit the climbing website at pdx.edu/recreation/climbing-center. ?