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Monday, May 18, 2009

Revew: Functional Training for Sports

I wasn't really sure what to expect when I cracked open Mike Boyle's "Functional Training for Sports". Truthfully, I'm not entirely sure how I ended up with a copy. I know only a little bit about Mike Boyle, and half of it because he apparently made some controversial (or at least unkind) statements about Crossfit, and ended up on Crossfit Radio in the same episode as Coach Blauer. In any case, I decided to finally pull the book off the shelves and actually go through it.

"Functional Training" is one of those buzzwords that has been floating around for at least a decade or two, and it always struck me as something that wasn't terribly well-defined, but involved a lot of bosu balls and core boards. The cover, which depicts a man standing on a core board, near a squat rack, with a medicine ball in hand, did little to dissuade me from that view. But what about the content itself.

The content is interesting, though I confess to having mixed feelings about the utility of it. Functional Training for Sports is Boyle's attempt to bring the concepts, methods, and specific drills of Functional Training to the non-trainer. The book is aimed at the layman, or at least, the non-science oriented trainer. Boyle eschews a lot of the in-depth scientific terminology in favor of a rather straight-forward, basic writing style. The writing is, for the most part, readable and easily understandable, even to someone with a relatively poor science background (like yours truly). Boyle begins by defining functional training in a general sense before delving into specific components of the training, and finally providing some sample plans.

So why the mixed feelings?

On the one hand, the book does a pretty good job of doing what ti sets out to do. It provides a solid outline of various training methods that comprise Boyle's style of "Functional Training". The only section that I felt was a bit sparse was the section on Olympic Lifting, which is a highly technical subject and I think Boyle gives it short shrift. Perhaps he feels that you can learn Olympic Lifts from a book, which is understandable, but in that case, he might have done better to not include them. The short descriptions combined with a few pictures did not quite work for me.

The problem I found with the book was, having finished it, I found very little I could take away from it. Most of the books programming is oriented towards sports like hockey, football, basketball, and so on. I could probably adapt some of the material to Muay Thai with a bit of effort, and some of the principles definitely can carry over, but I could just as easily get more focused information from other sources (Kevin Kearns, Ross Enamait, etc.). As someone who is just sort of a general fitness nut, I found a lot of Boyle's programs just to long and complex for my needs. Most of his workouts are designed to take an hour to an hour and a half, which is more time than I usually spend on my S&C.

That said, none of those are really fair criticism in the sense that the book is bad. It just didn't offer a whole for my needs, which is less of a failing of the book,and more just a failing of matched purposes. It's certainly nice to have, and I may steal some stuff from it, but for the moment, it doesn't hold a place in my highest rankings.

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