Functional Training Looking Back


Yesterday when I was swimming I got this profound thought. Before I share the thought let me tell you what I think triggered it. I have been preparing for the GAIN Apprentorship which begins next Thursday, that coupled with my with my visit with Nort Thornton last week had me looking over some old material from my first several years of coaching and some material from college (1964-68). The thought is that function and functional training was what we all did before we knew any better, before we got smart. Programs were balanced and trained all components and biomotor abilities. We used the body, climbing ropes, pull-ups, push-ups, stairs, Indian clubs, stall bars and medicine balls. Why did we get away from this? Why, because of technology and the reductionism of scientific studies quoted out of context. We got more “scientific” and less pedagogically sound. We stopped training teachers and coaches; we eliminated true physical education and became too worried about the kids self esteem. We moved to Universal Gyms and then Nautilus because they were easier and “safer” to use. I am certainly not anti science, but sports science evolved out of physical education, now you have a generation of sport scientists who grew up in the lab and never were trained first as physical educators, so many of them don’t want to get their hands dirty. Go back and look at Franklin Henry’s research on sprinting done at Cal Berkeley, look at Benke’s work on body comp, those dudes got down and dirty. Look at Paavo Komi who cut open his Achilles tendon and put a force transducer on his Achilles to study forces in vivo or Dave Costill who was a subject in many of his studies. Why have we moved away from that? In sport we have gotten excessively specialized. Forty years ago coaches coached more than one sport. We need more generalists who can understand the big picture. To me that is why we have gotten less functional, we have become too narrow, too focused, to the point where we cannot see the forest for the tress. No doubt we need to understand function, which I maintain that we do understand it. We just need to broaden our vistas, open our eyes. Watch kids play that is functional training. No inhibitions, big amplitude movements, hopping, jumping, twisting and turning.
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Vern Gambetta

Vern Gambetta

Director at Gambetta Sports Training Systems
Vern is the Director of Gambetta Sports Training Systems. He has been the a conditioning coach for several MLS teams as well as the conditioning consultant to the US Men's World Cup Soccer team. Vern is the former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets. He has lectured and conducted clinics in Canada, Japan, Australia and Europe and has authored six books and over one hundred articles related to coaching and sport performance in a variety of sports. He has a BA in teaching with a coaching minor and an MA in Education with an emphasis in physical education from Stanford University.
Vern Gambetta


Athletic Development Coach & Consultant. Founder of GAIN Network. Proud dad. Love to read everything.
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Vern Gambetta

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