Historically the role of a Personal Trainer has focussed on sports specific training, that is, training athletes and sports people to be fitter and stronger specifically for their sport. Footballers may have had a Coach to motivate them and teach them tactics and a PT to take them to the gym to ensure they’re fit for the game. Over the last 20 or so years there has been a huge shift in a PT’s every day role. You find Personal Trainers in public gyms, training outdoors, working from private studios and even going to clients’ houses. Now, not all these clients are athletes, and not all these people are already fit.

The majority of my clients are ‘everyday’ folk who would simply like to be a bit fitter, trimmer and have more energy in their day to day life. Functional fitness encompasses exercises to help you function better in life. I first started focussing on this idea when I used to train at Holmes Place gym in the Omni Centre. The doors to the centre were quite heavy and difficult to open, especially on a gusty evening. Over a number of weeks, I started concentrating on my rowing form and so the previously difficult door became easier and lighter to fling open. It got me thinking about how to make weight training relevant to everyday life. Doing a squat is like sitting down in a chair, a dumbbell row is like sawing a piece of wood, lunges work your hill walking muscles at the front of your thigh (quads), an upright row like lifting up a heavy back pack to put on your back.

Many traditional gym programmes focus on the muscles that you can see in the mirror (chest, abs and the front of the body). This is all very well if you want to pose in your underwear, but if you’re interested in remaining injury free in everyday life, you need to remember to work the muscles that you can’t see equally to keep your back safe when you’re lifting and carrying. Rather than using machine weights that tend to isolate muscle groups, try body weight and dumbbell exercises that encourage muscle groups to work together. Your ‘form’ (posture) when you practise pulling and heaving movements needs to be precise, so it is often helpful to have someone else training with you (fitness trainer or a ‘spotter’). Also remember that there are loads of exercises you can do from home that will help your functional fitness, so there are no excuses…