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Functional Training and Beyond Book Summary – Adam Sinicki

What you will learn from reading Functional Training and Beyond:

– A comprehensive understanding of functional training and its importance in enhancing physical functionality and adaptability.

– Exploration of different training modalities and their impact on performance.

– Guidance on designing effective workouts and structuring training routines.

Functional Training and Beyond Book Summary:

“Functional Training and Beyond” offers a fresh take on fitness, emphasising functionality over aesthetics. Adam Sinicki does a great job of introducing the readers to an array of lesser-known fitness disciplines, and their profound impact on movement development and daily practicality.

At its core, the book advocates a departure from the specialisation mindset for those who are not attempting to be olympic athletes, and instead advocates a holisticc approach, encouraging individuals to embrace a diverse spectrum of fitness practices.

I highly recommend this book, especially for those immersed in gym culture, as it provides a much more comprehensive understanding of physical development.

Welcome to Functional Training

When people focus on a particular fitness goal, they can end up doing so at the expense of other fitness requirements. As they grow more and more with their chosen sport or program, investing time in their chosen hobby and becoming a part of the community, they might well adopt a tribal mindset. They might covet their particular form of training at the expense of all others. One of the biggest issues with the current approach to training is that it is so tribal. Each approach to training has its die-hard fans who will tell you that their way is superior to all others.

“Limiting yourself to a single form of training is unnecessarily restrictive. Every system of training has something to offer. Likewise, there’s no single style of training that can possibly cover the entire gamut of what constitutes ‘fitness.’”

True functionality comes from versatility and variety. It comes from being able to thrive in any situation. This demands a multidisciplinary approach.

By levelling up every aspect of your brain and body, you increase the number of possibilities available to you. 

Why We Need to Go Beyond Regular Training

Training for aesthetics is not the same as training for function. 

For most of us, it is better to be an all-rounder. To be highly capable in every physical and cognitive attribute to deal with unpredictable circumstances. You may not be an Olympic contender, but you can be better than 99.9 per cent of the population at pretty much everything

Since dopamine also helps mediate attention and focus, this effect also bleeds over into general motivation, awareness, and brain function. Being less functional reduces your opportunities for development. When you stop receiving that information as a result of having fewer options, you eventually cull the relevant neural pathways. In other words, you lose the ability to receive that proprioceptive feedback even when it’s available. This not only causes us to move incorrectly, but it also reduces the amount of information coming into the brain. Loss of sensory information may even be linked with dementia:

We have designed our environment to be convenient and easy to navigate, meaning our adaptable nature will regress rather than develop. It’s not like navigating a jungle and constantly problem-solving a path.

Ironically, by developing our environment, we have become less developed

“Your current capabilities are what put a limit on your potential and the possibilities available to you. “Always do what you’ve always done, and you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”

The SAID Principle

One of the most effective ways to improve specific skills is to use the “SAID principle”: Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands

What is SuperFunctional Training

Functional Training Definition

Training for the demands of a given event. This includes training that might supplement the practice of skills, but also “pre-habilitation” to avoid injury.

Functional Training Involves Seven Primal Movements

  1. Push
  2. Pull
  3. Squat
  4. Lunge
  5. Bend
  6. Twist
  7. Gait

However, the list is not comprehensive in describing human movement. For example, it does not incorporate the different planes of motion, the vertical and horizontal components, and the variations and derivates of these movements. 

A focus should be put on combining these movements and moving between them freely

Several training systems attempt to train some of these movements, including kettlebell training, callisthenics, parkour (free running), XMA, Animal Flow, MovNat, gymnastics, and strength training.

Then there is functional training itself, which is the purposeful introduction of movements designed to strengthen human movement patterns. Therefore, if we choose the right movement patterns, to begin with, we don’t need corrective exercise.

SuperFunctional Training

“If functional training means training for the functions required by life or by specific sports and activities, SuperFunctional means training to do more than is required of you.”

Just as the MMA fighter cherry-picks the most useful movements from any and all martial arts, so too can we choose the best moves and strategies from disparate styles of physical training.

Bruce Lee again: “Absorb what is useful, reject what is useless, add what is essentially your own.”

The Ability Tree

How do we select the best exercises for the intended goal? 

The ATSP Hierarchy – (Specific Physical Attributes Traits Skills and techniques Proficiencies)

  • Skills: The component that relies on technique
  • Traits: These are force multipliers that amplify the output from a consistent input
    • By isolating and specifically training traits, we can increase the challenge and thereby trigger more profound adaptations. 
  • Specific physical attributes: These underpin traits and pertain to an individual’s biology. 
    • They are also things we can target specifically with the right exercises. They expose the areas that we need to focus on, and therefore the exercises and programming that will provide the best results.

Baseball example: 

  • Skill: The “baseball swing”
  • Traits: things  relevant to the baseball swing:
    • Explosive rotational strength
    • Precise motor control
    • Hand-eye coordination
    • Endurance
  • Specific physical attributes: Someone who has explosive rotational power can also be said to have:
    • A high density of fast-twitch fibres in the torso – specifically located in obliques, serratus, and anterior rhomboids. 
    • A high level of inter and intramuscular coordination, meaning they can access this explosive strength. 

Therefore we can use the ATSP system to break down any sport into its specific skills, underlying traits, and specific physical attributes. However, knowledge of the intended sport is required so you know what to break it into. Essentially by choosing a goal first, you can then work backwards to find the best forms of training.

“There comes a point of diminishing returns. Is being able to squat 200 kg that much more useful than being able to squat 180kg? When is that ever necessary in daily life?

The Science of Movement and Strength

How You Move

The intention to engage in movement occurs in the posterior parietal cortex of the brain. From here, other brain regions such as the basal ganglia and cerebrum get involved. The basal ganglia play a role in “action selection,” helping you to commit to that intention. The cerebrum takes into account information from your senses: where you are in space, your orientation, and your balance. That information is then relayed to the premotor cortex, which refines the movement accordingly. Meanwhile, the cerebellum aids in providing balance and coordination during the movement, utilising feedback from the muscles (proprioception).

By addressing muscle length and tension in the bicep (using sensors in the muscles called muscle spindles and the Golgi tendon organ), the body knows how heavy the dumbbell is and how much force to exert. We use this information to decide how strong the signal to our bicep needs to be. Without it, we might just overshoot, smack ourselves in the face, and knock our teeth out! (The cerebellum also plays a role in timing, which is an often overlooked aspect of athletic performance.)

The supplementary motor cortex also chimes in to aid with more complex movements, especially those involving both hands. We also call on our procedural memory, the recall of thousands of previous bicep curls stored across these and other brain regions. The main action, however, comes from the motor cortex itself, the literal “prime mover” if you will. This part of the brain has neurons (called motor neurons) that correspond to particular points of the body, like a tiny map.

Multiple body parts are involved in the bicep curl. The bicep is a given, but we also need to involve the forearm, the fingers, and even the legs and core to keep us upright.

These signals travel along the axons (tails) of their respective motor neurons to the spine. They then head down the spinal cord as nerve impulses to the relevant muscles. From there, they jump across the neuromuscular junction to act on the muscle cells themselves.

Muscle Contractions

Muscle fibres are individual muscle cells (myocytes), that have the ability to collapse on themselves once they receive the necessary stimulus to contract. Muscle cells are comprised of thousands of rod-like myofibrils, which are built from myosin filaments and actin filaments—the outer and inner tubes of the “telescopes.” Via a chemical reaction, the myosin filaments get pulled inside the actin, shortening the length of the myofibrils. When this occurs on a large scale, it is enough to cause the entire muscle to contract and shorten. Bundles of myofibrils are called “sarcomeres.” 

Every muscle is made of hundreds of thousands of tiny muscle fibres, but these are collected into groups called “motor units.” Each motor unit is controlled (innervated) by a single nerve, which in turn is controlled by a single motor neuron in the motor cortex. This means a nerve cannot cause a singular muscle cell to contract. Rather, it will control the entire group—the motor unit. These signals are binary. That is to say, the motor unit either contracts or does not. To that end, our motor neurons have an “excitation threshold.”

For example, if one nearby neuron should stimulate another, this might not be enough to cause the signal to continue (depending on how sensitive it is). Thus, depending on the strength of the signal you send to your bicep (subjectively perceived as “effort”), determines whether you recruit a greater or smaller proportion of your motor units to complete the curl.

A muscle cell’s single contraction termed a “twitch contraction,” lasts about 100 milliseconds, preceded by a 10-millisecond latent period and followed by a 60-millisecond relaxation phase.

Sustained contraction results from multiple twitch contractions occurring one after the other across the muscle. The sensation you interpret as continuous tension is, in fact, a swift and unceasing pulsation, preventing the dumbbell from descending. Termed a tetanic contraction, this phenomenon clarifies why you might observe a slight muscle vibration when attempting to stabilise a heavy object.

We actually tap into only a very small proportion of our latent strength at any given time. This holds true even when endeavouring to lift your maximal weight in a single repetition. Typically estimated at approximately 30 per cent for the average individual, this threshold can escalate to as much as 50 per cent for highly trained athletes.

Muscle Fibre Types

Type 1, also known as slow twitch; Type 2a, referred to as fast twitch; and Type 2x, known as superfast twitch. The Type 1 muscle fibre, while relatively slower and less potent, boasts exceptional energy efficiency. Type 2a is swifter and mightier, albeit prone to faster fatigue. Type 2x, the zenith of power, outpaces even its predecessors in succumbing to exhaustion. Specifically, fast-twitch fibres generate five to six times more power than slow-twitch, while superfast twitch surges to approximately twenty times the power. Notably, Type 1 fibres are oxidative, housing abundant mitochondria, whereas Type 2a and 2x lean toward anaerobic attributes, consequently housing fewer mitochondria. Fast-twitch fibres epitomise explosiveness, while slow-twitch fibres embody endurance. Through training, the conversion of Type 2a to Type 2x occurs, amplifying strength and explosiveness. Innate genetic tendencies dictate the fibre composition, determining whether someone excels in endurance or sprinting. The diverse proportions of slow and fast-twitch fibres in distinct muscles mirror their functional usage.

Motor units inherently consist predominantly of a singular muscle fibre type. Notably, those constituted by Type 2a and Type 2x fibres exhibit both larger dimensions and a higher cell count. Additionally, they exhibit an elevated excitation threshold. Consequently, a feeble signal not only activates a diminished number of motor units but also selectively triggers those composed of slower twitch fibres. Conversely, a potent signal engages not only the smaller motor units but also an array of larger ones.

This is called Henneman’s Size Principle, which tells us that the body will recruit motor units in order of size and will only recruit as many as is necessary for that action. At lower levels of force, we actually have far more precise control over our movement. As we exert more force, the step change becomes larger.

Hypertrophy and Strength Gains

The body doesn’t see a difference between acceleration and strength; it all just amounts to force. Either way, a strong signal is being sent to recruit lots of big motor units.

Plyometric movements prioritise rapid force, limiting time for effective “cross bridges” between actin and myosin. In essence, this implies that the muscle doesn’t linger sufficiently in an activated state to transmit the most favourable growth signals. Thus, heavy weights are typically preferred for building maximum strength and size. This will convert more muscle fibres to Type 2 as the body calls on larger motor units.

The three main stimuli that signal hypertrophy are: 

Mechanical tension: This entails the actual perception of tension within the muscle by mechanoreceptors or mechanosensory neurons. When the muscle executes potent contractions, this stimulus triggers the release of growth factors like myokines.

Muscle damage: Muscle damage results from microtrauma to fibres, akin to an elastic band slightly fraying. The body responds by fortifying tissue to prevent further harm, with the most significant damage occurring in the eccentric exercise phase.

Metabolic stress: Performing twelve repetitions of dumbbell curls triggers vasodilation and metabolic stimulation, directing blood flow to the muscle. Muscle contractions induce an occlusion effect that captures and pools blood, bathing the muscle in growth factors and promoting cellular swelling for enhanced growth. This seems to be increased most in the concentric phase.

Training appears to heighten the manifestation of androgen receptors within muscles, rendering them more amenable to anabolic hormones such as testosterone and growth hormone. Through substantial stimulation, satellite cells are bestowed upon muscle cells, amplifying protein synthesis and bolstering the muscle’s capacity for subsequent growth.

“This is important, seeing as muscle cells can contain multiple nuclei. Since nuclei house the DNA, they are pivotal for facilitating growth. Yet, myonuclei exhibit a confined “myonuclei domain.” As the muscle cell size amplifies, a greater count of nuclei becomes necessary to effectively oversee the area and provide the needed protein synthesis. Moreover, studies indicate that myonuclei tend to persist post-training, implying the potential permanence of these alterations.

The Biphasic Nature of Muscle Growth

“Training provides the stimulus, but recovery is when the actual growth happens.”

At a certain point, we must stimulate anabolic processes, maximising the release of growth-related hormones like testosterone, growth hormone, and IGF1. During this window, adequate protein intake allows protein to be broken down into amino acids for muscle repair and growth. The extent of recovery required correlates with the level of muscle damage and neurological fatigue induced by training.

Anabolism lies in contrast to “catabolism,” which is when the body is aroused and focused on exertion and the breakdown of tissue.

The Current State of Training


Modern bodybuilding focuses on single-joint exercises, which involve keeping the body rigid while moving one or two joints against resistance. This type of training focuses all the effort onto one muscle, allowing the bodybuilder to take it to the point of complete fatigue, while also allowing for the maximum build-up of metabolites within the muscle. This will be combined with a relatively lightweight (often around 60 to 70 per cent of the athlete’s one-rep maximum) taken to a high number of total repetitions (ten to fifteen), often with “continuous time under tension.”

Continuous time under tension means that the joint is never locked out, such that the muscle is kept under some amount of pressure for the entire set of exercises. 

Towards their last set, they will have fatigued the majority of their muscle fibres, forcing the larger motor units to take over. There will also be a large simultaneous build-up of metabolites (as the blood hasn’t had a chance to escape from the muscle), resulting in a huge temporary swelling of the muscle, and subsequent sarcoplasmic hypertrophy.

The reason bodybuilders don’t train a lot of compound exercises is that no single muscle group has been taken 100 per cent to failure. Therefore, it leaves gains on the table. 

Intensity Techniques

Bodybuilders use a selection of interesting methods called “intensity techniques” to help them go beyond their maximum capacity. These include: 

  • Drop Sets 
  • Burns 
  • Flush Sets 
  • Negatives Supersets 
  • Assisted Reps 
  • Partial Reps 
  • Cheats 
  • Pre-Exhaust

A classic bodybuilding training split involves targeting a single muscle group (or two or three) during each workout. This way, you can increase your training volume per workout (meaning lots of stimulus), while also maximising recovery time between workouts for a given muscle. A good bodybuilding split should aim to keep similar muscle groups as far apart as possible.

The issue with body-building training is that training muscles in isolation do not build intermuscular coordination and strength. Thus, many people believe it to be the least functional form of training.

Benefits of bodybuilding training

When you go to failure on any given exercise, you actually exhaust your smaller and intermediate motor units, meaning that the body has no choice but to recruit the largest and strongest ones to complete the set. This means that rep ten of your 70 per cent 1RM is in some ways very similar to rep 1 of your 100 per cent 1RM! This does build strength.

Training for pump and volume will also increase your strength and endurance. By adding to the glycogen stores in the muscle cells (along with other adaptations, such as an increase in capillaries fueling the muscles with blood), you improve your ability to exert strength over time.


Powerlifting excels for building maximum strength, epitomised by its focus on bench press, squat, and deadlift movements. 

These three compound lifts involve numerous muscles in unison, so they are considered compound lifts. These mirror real-world actions like squatting, pressing, and bending – three fundamental primal movements.

To build strength, lift 80-90% of your 1RM for 1-4 reps. This approach stimulates heightened neural drive, maximises through maximal muscle fibre engagement and generates muscle damage and tension. While training at 100% 1RM is feasible, its efficacy is diminished and it may compromise explosiveness.

This approach is demanding, causing significant nervous system fatigue and requiring ample recovery time, which heightens injury risks and hampers progress. Consequently, many trainers suggest sticking to 75-85% of one-rep max for most sessions.

Dynamic Effort Method: This approach offers an alternative route to strength enhancement. The goal here is to amplify the rate of force generation by prioritising acceleration over heavy resistance. It’s crucial to recognise that, from the perspective of your nervous system, explosive speed and explosive strength are indistinguishable. In terms of motor unit recruitment, rapidly lifting 50 to 70 per cent of your one-rep maximum is akin to lifting 80 to 90 per cent at a standard pace.

Heavy Partials: Another technique for strength advancement involves lifting a weight surpassing your 1RM but within a limited range of motion. A great example is the rack pull. Here, the barbell begins elevated to approximately knee height, positioned on cage pins. This exploits the strongest phase of the deadlift motion, allowing training with exceptional weights.

Progressive Overload

Progressive overload simply means increasing the challenge over time as your body adapts.

Novice lifters typically experience a steady and dependable progression in strength. Yet, a plateau arrives when consistent strength gains taper off.

Optimal strength adaptation seems to favour a cyclical approach. This involves gradual strength escalation followed by deliberate periods of reduction. Achieved by adopting micro, meso, and macrocycles.

“Just like learning any skill, a period of consolidation is needed to cement the gains before moving on.”

The Forgotten History of Techniques of Physical Culture

Old Time Strongmen

The title “old-time strongman” typically refers to travelling strongmen during the early 1900s, who would perform feats of incredible physicality for audiences.

Early Olympic lifting competitions included “freestyle rounds,” dumbbell pushes, and one-armed lifts. It wasn’t until the 1920s that these began to be standardised. However, by 1928 there were just three lifts: the military press, clean and jerk, and snatch. One-handed movements were dropped altogether. These two-handed exercises allowed the athlete to lift as much weight as possible over their heads with any technique using two separate weights. Thus the focus moved away from perfect form and instead to greater weight. 

The obliques sit on either side of our torso and assist in rotation and lateral bending. There is little involvement of these muscles in conventional powerlifting other than to help stabilise the trunk, whereas they help considerably with one-hand movements. 

It’s no surprise then that the record for this lift is still held by Arthur Saxon, who lifted a 336-pound barbell and 112-pound kettlebell simultaneously in the early 1900s.

The fact is that these exercises that involve lifting something perfectly flat and straight with two hands are very rare. 

Offset Exercises: These are exercises that involve one-handed movements, or movement with different weights loaded on each side. Such movements require that you engage the obliques on the opposite side of the body to prevent it from bending under the load.

Anti-lateral flexion: These are movements that involve resisting gravity’s attempt to bend you sideways in the lumbar spine. 

Grip Strength

Showmen would use thicker bars on their barbells and dumbbells.

The ulnar digits (smaller fingers) contribute 34 to 67 per cent of total grip strength. This is because the hand is designed to work as a single functional unit. For example, merely placing the knuckle of the pinky finger on top of the bar during a pull-up (rather than hanging from the fingers), increases lat activation.

Interestingly, if your brain senses that you don’t have a tight grip on something, it won’t let you exert your maximum force.

Mind-Muscle Connection

Old-time strongmen achieved mind-muscle connection by 1) consciously controlling the muscle, and 2) by using overcoming isometrics.

Consciously controlling the muscle: By simply practising activating muscles at will you can improve the mind-muscle connection. With training and apt cues, precise control over diverse muscles is achievable, contingent on their usage frequency.

Isometric contraction: This is any contraction of the muscle that doesn’t result in movement. If you were to lift a weight and then hold it at arm’s length, you would be maintaining isometric contractions in several muscle groups.

Overcoming isometrics: Overcoming isometrics involves exerting force against an immovable object, thus enhancing strength by increasing neural drive – the capacity to activate muscle fibres in a given muscle. Employing this method will allow you to tap into the full extent of your latent strength and power. 

An overcoming isometric mimics attempting to lift 110 per cent of your 1RM. It demands full-strength engagement, however, because they are without a strength curve, you can sustain this peak effort for an extended duration. They often involve holding this max power for six to ten seconds for each rep.

Ballistic isometric: This technique infuses explosiveness into isometric actions by imbuing them with explosive intent. Imagine trying to press the wall forcefully and suddenly, as though exploding into it. This can entail sustained maximum contraction or successive explosive efforts.

Quasi-Isometric: This technique entails an ultra-slow movement throughout an exercise’s full range of motion. Commonly applied to bodyweight movements like pull-ups or push-ups, a single repetition can span thirty to sixty seconds. This cultivates a strong mind-muscle connection and emphasises precise technique.

Passive Quai-Isometrics: These can develop even greater control as they involve deliberately relaxing most of the body and focusing force only on necessary muscles for the movement. In contrast, “active quasi-isometrics” involve engaging the entire body for maximal tension.

Kettlebells: A Secret Weapon for Functional Power

The distinct kettlebell design places the weight away from the handle’s centre, offering control over the centre of mass for leverage and swinging. Swinging introduces momentum, torque, and dynamic angles of resistance.

Start with a kettlebell with around 15% of body weight for safety, progressing to about 30% for experienced users. Unlike linear dumbbells and barbells, kettlebells encourage continuous core engagement through varied positions.

The Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing’s explosive nature engages fast-twitch fibres, particularly in the glutes, the body’s powerhouse muscles designed for propulsion. This often translates to enhanced deadlifts, squats, sprints, and vertical jumps.

The swing’s continuous, cyclical motion suits extended rep ranges, fostering strength endurance and work capacity.

Loaded Carries

Another prevalent technique with kettlebells involves gripping one in each hand and walking, referred to as a “loaded carry.” This exercise mimics functional daily tasks and enhances walking under load. It fortifies hips, core, and balance. 

This exercise can be made more challenging by not just adding more weight, but also greater distance, time, or speed. Introducing unilateral loading also adds to the difficulty.  

Heavy Clubs

Similar to kettlebells, heavy clubs are versatile tools. The gama cast, akin to kettlebell halos, involves driving the club around your head while maintaining a straight torso. This targets shoulder stability and enhances mobility. Other club movements include windmills, barbarian squats, push press, and hammer exercises.

Unique to clubbells (and somewhat to kettlebells), they create tractional force in joints, differing from compressive force seen in most gym exercises. This promotes a range of motion and safeguards against joint issues in the long run.

Hardstyle Kettlebell Training

In hardstyle kettlebell training, emphasis is placed on manipulating muscle tension during movements. Originating from Russia, this approach supports combat training used by Soviet Union spec ops in the 1980s, particularly goju ryu karate.

A key distinction lies in shifting between a state of looseness and swiftness versus hardness and rigidity. Inspired by goju ryu principles, this method fosters exceptional muscle control and power. Slight changes in intent and focus can completely alter a movement’s impact on the body. An example is when fighters are encouraged to stay loose and whip-like as they throw a punch, only to contract and become hard as a rock at the moment of impact.

Is Crossfit Functional?

CrossFit incorporates a variety of exercises including deadlifts, medicine ball cleans, air squats, push jerks, kipping pull-ups, runs, rope climbs, and hand walking.

While these exercises are indeed functional, there are some limitations to CrossFit, such as:

  • Performing technical lifts like the deadlift to failure—especially when already fatigued can lead to injury.
  • Movements such as the “kipping push-up” intentionally sacrifice form at the altar of volume.

One of CrossFit’s strengths is its commitment to training even in a fatigued state, mirroring real-life demands where performing effectively under fatigue is crucial for functionality. It also adopts a high-repetition format which yields capillary density, sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, cardiovascular challenge, and reduced body fat.

CrossFit appears to pick and choose the aspects of fitness that appeal, which is fine so long as those are the areas you’re interested in. However, CrossFit is ultimately a sport, meaning that there is a set prescription of movements that must be trained. So, even when performed carefully, CrossFit still pulls from a limited pool of exercises with the focus being very much on volume and time.

Kettlebell Flows

Kettlebell “flows” blend exercises into seamless movements, enhancing stability and functional strength through transitions. Flows represent a form of “hybrid exercise,” fusing two or more movements into a single repetition. Kettlebell flows and hybrid exercises break free from confined, repetitive movement patterns, showcasing truly functional training methods.

KB flows can also be performed with a partner, such as throwing or handing a kettlebell to another person, combining ballistic strength, and timing, which contributes to “deceleration training” as you’re forced to absorb and control an incoming force.

Unusual Tools for Unusual Strength

Training functionally allows you to use a greater array of tools to develop stabilising muscles and dynamic strength in ways that supplement athletic training or a regular lifestyle. Some of these include:

Tires: Tire flipping, for example, has the unique benefit of being a concentric-only movement, which is able to provide muscle growth through mechanical tension and metabolic stress.

Sledgehammers: Repeatedly smacking a tire with a sledgehammer provides a host of unique benefits, such as a brilliant form of ballistic training that works a huge number of muscles together.

Sandbags: Sandbags are heavy canvas bags of sand that can be hauled around a gym. These take some of the concepts of kettlebell and club training even further, by providing a tool that has a changing centre of gravity, meaning no two lifts are ever exactly the same. 

  • Sandbag training also supports plenty of movements that work outside the sagittal plane, such as the woodchop which involves swinging the bag diagonally from above one shoulder down to the opposite lower side of the body. This develops rotational strength, engaging the obliques to create torque.
  • The position of a sandbag front squat therefore forces the athlete to brace the spine more to prevent flexion (forward bending) and accompanying rounding of the back that may lead to injury. Purposefully challenging the spine in this way may sound dangerous, but in fact, it is just the opposite. By developing this kind of strength consciously, you become better at preventing accidental rounding of the spine during a deadlift, squat, or house move.

Medicine balls: A medicine ball is a heavy ball, often with two handles. In some cases, it will have a slight bounce, while other times it will be designed to absorb impact. Either way, it is intended to be thrown ballistically against a wall or into the ground, which provides the perfect way for athletes to train their acceleration and rate of force development.

  • Taking the medicine ball overhead and then slamming it into the ground is known as a ‘medicine ball slam’ and is another amazing full-body, explosive movement. Rotational throws and shot-put throws once again incorporate movement in the transverse plane (meaning the body is twisting). 

Stability Balls and Balance Boards: Many coaches now engage in “Unstable Surface Training” or UST, by using stability balls and balance balls to help their athletes develop increased core stability and proprioception. 

  • To maintain balance, core muscles and stabilisers in the shoulders, hips, and wrists must be engaged. 
  • However, it is worth acknowledging that unstable surfaces are extremely unsuitable for training with heavy weights, due to the risk of injury. 

Resistance Bands: Resistance bands can be used to develop mobility, while also providing gentle resistance for movements in less stable positions. A unique property of resistance band training is that the band offers more resistance the further it is stretched—thereby altering the strength curve

  • Cables and bands are also extremely useful because they can be fixed at different points, thereby altering the angle of resistance to suit the specific aims of a given exercise. Using cables to perform wood chops means that the obliques, hips, and core are all engaged during the movement.

Atlas Stones: Lifting the Atlas stone requires rounding of the spine but since your upper body is wrapped around the stone, the risk of injury is minimised. These are brilliant for developing real-world strength and lifting weights and objects with no convenient handles or bars.

“Any item can become an effective functional training tool when used in the right way.”

Proprioception Training

Proprioception refers to your body’s ability to sense where it is in space. It achieves this by receiving feedback from the muscles regarding stretch and contraction.

Muscle spindles: These are stretch receptors that detect when muscles change length. By knowing the length of each muscle in the body, the brain can create a mental image of the body.

Golgi tendon organs: These are found in the tendons and tell us about alterations in muscle tension. It’s thanks to our Golgi tendon organs that we aren’t constantly ripping handles off of doors. They also allow for precise movements during balancing exercises.

Pacinian Corpuscles: These are located in the skin and detect pressure changes. These tell us about texture and temperature but can also help us know how much weight is placed on one foot versus the other, for example.

Proprioceptors work in tandem with information from the senses to help us balance and move.

  • For example, when your eyes and vestibular system detect a 30-degree tilt in the world, your neck and core muscles provide vital information to interpret this as leaning to one side. This prevents the body from perceiving a fall and triggering corrective actions.

Neck Training

Neck training carries remarkable significance, enhancing both central nervous system signalling and spatial awareness. The neck, rich in muscle spindles, plays a pivotal role in proprioception.

Maintaining a steady head fosters balance and overall performance. The neck and head possess self-stabilising mechanisms, crucial for steady vision, aided by small eye muscles. They are vital in counteracting forces during actions like jumping and running.

An intriguing phenomenon is “eye-head coupling,” wherein the neck complements vision for object tracking and environmental awareness. “Where the head goes, the body follows.” A head harness targets neck muscles, training their flexion, lateral flexion, extension, protrusion, retraction, and rotation.

The Serape Effect

The Serape effect involves rotational moves that stretch torso muscles for maximal power. It stems from diagonal muscle alignments—rhomboids, serratus anterior, and obliques—forming an X-shape (resembling the Mexican “serape” that gives the effect its name).

Contralateral movement is ubiquitous in activities like walking, where the supporting footsteps are back while the opposite shoulder swings forward.

In martial arts, punches exemplify this principle—rotating the dominant shoulder back and the opposing hip forward readies the fighter for the subsequent punch. This linkage of movements is termed “kinetic linking.”

Mastering Your Body


Calisthenics, often termed bodyweight training, encompasses exercises employing your body weight for resistance. The nervous system doesn’t differentiate between external weights and your own limbs—resistance remains resistance. As bodyweight is utilised, strength gains enhance relative strength.

The issue, of course, is that these moves can only ever provide a limited amount of resistance. The solutions to this are: 

  • Perform extremely high-rep ranges 
  • Switch to unilateral (one-sided) movements   
  • Extend the lever arm 
  • Train explosively

Training Stability and Anti-extension Movements

Rigidity is essential in the body’s kinematic chains—rigid bodies and mobile joints—for force translation. Core stability training involves not just maintaining rigidity, but also achieving it when required.

The best anti-extension move, used commonly by gymnasts, is the hollow body. This movement teaches you to create a rigid core that will make many other advanced callisthenics movements possible.

Another example is the LaLanne push-up which involves a push-up position with arms extended forward, using only fingers for support. Full-range push-ups test shoulder, finger, and core strength. Similarly, ab rollouts, particularly from a standing position, engage anti-extension and flexion movements. Inverting your position challenges leg-body perception and orientation.

The Freestanding Handstand

The handstand is a prime exercise for authentic proprioception development. Inverting your position challenges orientation and leg-body perception. For a heightened proprioceptive impact, practice hand balancing with closed eyes, this will force you to rely solely on your vestibular system and proprioception for balance.

Plyometric Training for Explosive Performance

Plyometrics are explosive movements utilising the stretch-shortening cycle to engage fast-twitch muscle fibres. This cycle involves storing elastic energy during muscle lengthening.

In callisthenics, plyometrics typically involve launching yourself into the air in some way. Popular examples include: 

  • Clapping push-ups 
  • Clapping pull-ups 
  • Squat jumps

Rate of Loading: While the serape effect focuses on force generation via stretching, the ‘rate of loading’ pertains to the speed of this lengthening and shortening process. Faster transitions between these stages channel more power into the final movement.

For example, in a squat jump, you rapidly rise from the bottom position. In a countermovement jump, you swing arms, stretch, squat, and thrust upwards, extending the muscle’s active state for potential cross-bridging – the attachment of actin and myosin, enabling filament shortening. This leads to heightened traction, resulting in a significantly higher vertical leap than a standard squat jump. In short, this is not about storing elastic energy at all.

To delve deeper into this concept, you can incorporate “shock training.” Here, you perform a countermovement while absorbing impact, as seen in depth jumps. This approach taps into the myotatic reflex, which instinctively contracts stretched muscles. The myotatic reflex is monosynaptic, requiring just two connections.

This training fosters enduring explosive power gains by conditioning the central nervous system to anticipate abrupt forceful contractions upon entering stretched positions.

(Re)learning to Move

“With greater mastery over your body, you gain greater mastery over your environment. You can move more freely through it and manipulate it more easily too. The stronger and fitter you are, the more options you have when it comes to your movement, and the fewer obstacles you will face. Strength is movement, and movement is freedom.”

We have designed our environments around us to the point that we barely even need to stoop at any point during the day, let alone run, climb, crawl, or swing.

Training movement

The basic idea behind Ido Portal’s philosophy is for the movement to be viewed as the primary goal, not a means to an end. Instead of working on muscles, Ido works on movements and skills.

Animal Flow

One way to achieve this is through ‘Animal Flows,’ which place particular emphasis on animal movements, or “travelling forms.” The three staples are ape, beast, and crab, and the transitions between these positions. 

Some of the organisations that offer this type of training are: 

  • GMB
  • Movement 20x
  • Movnat

These methods introduce unconventional positions in resistance training. Conventional training often involves repetitive movements in a single plane, while even advanced approaches like kettlebell flows maintain predictable sequences. Movement training emphasises improvisation, creativity, and adaptability, promoting strength and mobility in unanticipated angles and patterns. Athletes fluidly transition between movements, expressing themselves through intuitive and inventive exploration.

Animal movements and crawls enhance strength and mobility. Quadrupedal postures engage upper body muscles, relieve hip pressure, and challenge coordination. These movements also align the core and enhance cognitive-muscle control. They mirror developmental patterns from crawling to walking.

“If we constantly move in a symmetrical manner, those neural patterns become ingrained and we lose a large number of movement options as a result.”

However, there’s a risk that “movement training” focuses solely on ground exercises and crawls. For optimal effectiveness, movement training should encompass climbing, hanging, swinging (brachiation), upright bipedal movements, object manipulation, and swimming. An ideal training environment for this type of training might resemble an assault course.


The practicality is focused almost exclusively on the efficiency of movement. 

Parkour and freerunning have now evolved to become two slightly different expressions of the same initial concept. Parkour is about moving gracefully and efficiently from point A to point B, and free running is more about acrobatic self-expression performed in a flowing and graceful manner.

What this movement training philosophy emphasises is that there is no “right way” to move or to train, one should just start to explore. 

The Evolution of Movement

In “The Functional Training Bible,” Guido Bruscia emphasises differentiating between muscle functions and actions. For instance, the adductor brevis’s action is to adduct the thigh, but its crucial function is stabilising walking. Understanding the functional origins of muscles and muscle groups informs more effective training by addressing real-world challenges.

Training in Barefeet

Wearing shoes during training disconnects us from essential proprioception, resulting in muscular and neural atrophy, and diminished strength, balance, and performance. 

The feet’s sensory receptors—muscle spindles, Pacinian corpuscles, and golgi-organ tendons—inform us about the ground’s shape, angle, texture, and more, shaping our movements.

The flexor hallucis longus is a muscle that connects to the big toe which propels us through running and jumping and can be directly trained to improve jump height, running speed, balance, and more. The flexor digitorum longus on the other hand supports the arch, which enhances power generation through the posterior chain by aligning the body and activating the glutes. 

This significance lies in the fact that our glutes, the body’s largest muscles, are hindered by modern cushioned running shoes that encourage unnatural heel striking. This disrupts our natural ball-of-foot stride, causing us to tip forward, and preventing us from optimal engagement of these powerful muscles.

Training Outdoors

Outdoor training stimulates the nervous system and strengthens stabilising muscles in the feet, ankles, and legs. For example, performing pull-ups from a tree branch offers dynamic variations due to the branch’s unique features, unlike a fixed pull-up bar.

Cold exposure elicits testosterone release, boosts metabolism, improves thermoregulation, and potentially serves as a type of “discomfort training.”

The “Mammalian diving response” involves applying cold water to the face, activating specialised receptors. This action can lower the heart rate by 10 to 25 per cent, enhance blood flow to vital organs, trigger spleen contraction for increased blood release, and lead to internal pressure adjustments.

Human Mobility

Flexibility: refers to your ability to get into a position with or without an external aid (such as pushing your leg against a beam in order to stretch)

Mobility refers to freedom of movement. What positions can you get into through your own strength and control alone?

To develop mobility you merely need to move, however, over decades of barely moving, we have learned to move only within limited ranges. 

For example: if you can raise (abduct) either leg 90 degrees to the side, why can’t you do both at the same time and achieve the full splits? Consider that no connective tissue ties the two legs together. The only reason you can’t get into the full middle splits position is that your body contracts out of fear to protect you from potential injury.

In Ido Portal’s foundational drills for newcomers, he introduces “dead hangs” (hanging from a pull-up bar) and deep squats into their daily routines. He suggests starting with a goal of seven minutes of hanging and thirty minutes of squatting each day.

The resting squat enables deeper breathing by avoiding compression of the abdominal cavity, allowing the diaphragm to descend further.

Training the Fascia

While individual muscles are distinct, they are encased within a unified connective layer known as “muscle fascia” or “myofascia.” This form of fascia exists throughout the body, forming an elastic connective tissue composed of collagen. Fascia supports and envelops muscles, organs, bones, cells, and more, weaving in and out of structures like tendons and aponeuroses.

This extensive network of viscous membranes imparts tension throughout the body, creating a “tensegrity structure.” Fascial flexibility significantly impacts overall flexibility, as tightness in one area affects distant parts of the body. Fascia contains blood vessels, smooth muscle cells, sensory receptors, and even more nerve endings than muscles.

Fascia’s role in strength expression, balance, and agility involves fascial force transmission. It fosters communication between distant muscle groups, facilitating synchronised contractions. Training can alter this force transmission through fibroblast cells that contribute to collagen production and remodelling in response to stress.

Furthermore, muscle fascia might serve as a communication system, aiding electrical signal propagation between muscles and nerve endings, potentially explaining the “irradiation effect.” Movement enhances fascial pliability and flexibility, reducing tension and enhancing overall control. Hydration is essential for optimal fascial function, maintaining its elasticity and resilience.

The Mind-Body Connection

“Why don’t we train our cognitive abilities in the same way that we train our physical ones.”

Embodied Cognition

Perhaps the best demonstration of how the mind and body connect comes from the relatively new yet popular theory of embodied cognition. This theory suggests that many aspects of our cognition are in fact grounded in our physical experience.

The fact the cerebellum is involved in cognition, suggests that even when we are grappling with higher-level concepts such as philosophy, morality, or theoretical physics, we are still relating everything back to our own physical, embodied experiences.

Training Neuroplasticity

Complex movements yield profound growth. Activities involving balance, asynchronous limb movement, and manipulation expand the basal ganglia, potentially enhancing focus and spatial processing. Tracy and Ross Alloway’s research reveals that tree climbing, beam crawling, and barefoot running boost working memory. Tasks blending proprioception, planning, orientation, and calculation offer excellent mental workouts.

Example: This unnamed child suffered from poor language comprehension, awkward handwriting, and muddled speech. He attended a special school called the Arrowsmith School, set up by Barbara Arrowsmith-Young, where he was tasked with tracing detailed images. This training quickly enhanced his ability to speak in longer sentences, communicate effectively with others, and generally demonstrate greater verbal fluency.

Cultivating ambidextrousness can enhance plasticity and thicken crucial brain regions like the corpus callosum. One of the best ways to train ambidexterity is to practice cursive with the non-dominant hand. 

Visualisation & Mental Rotation 

You can enhance your visualisation skills through various methods. Engaging in computer games can boost spatial awareness, while “image streaming,” a technique pioneered by Win Wenger PhD, can also be effective. Simply close your eyes, allow your imagination to flow, and describe the evolving imagery aloud. This has been shown to heighten the vividness of the “mind’s eye.” Improving working memory and practising mental object rotation are other valuable strategies for refining spatial abilities.

Dual N-Back Training is one of the only forms of brain-training game that is backed by a considerable body of research. It tasks you with spotting sequences of numbers or letters in a grid and identifying repetitions that happened “N” moves earlier, not immediately. 

Enhancing Plasticity for Skills and Intelligence

“Neurons that fire together, wire together. Neurons that fire apart, grow apart.”

When you consistently perform one action followed by another, a new connection between those actions forms. This is the essence of skill learning—repetitive execution of linked movement patterns, creating new neural pathways encoded in your DNA as procedural memory. Yet, this process can hinder us too, as deeply ingrained patterns are challenging to untangle. This is referred to as “negative plasticity.”

During actions, we contrast our envisioned ideal movement with the actual execution (e.g., a golf swing). Meeting or surpassing expectations triggers positive hormones, fortifying the neural pathways. Conversely, a missed shot releases a distinct neurochemical mix, constituting a prediction error. This cascade enhances attention and alertness, aiding future performance. The pathway for the incorrect movement isn’t as solidified.

Skill Acquisition

“Pavel Tsatsouline’s practice of “greasing the groove” emphasises the rehearsing of a movement over and over again, in order to refine the neural pathways.”

You could integrate this approach by doing sets of three to five pull-ups multiple times daily. In a week, you could accumulate numerous repetitions without straining your muscles. Similarly, you could apply this strategy within a workout, spanning its start, middle, and end, for comprehensive movement mapping.

Various elements can amplify plasticity-enhancing substances. Notably, nootropics such as lion’s mane and Omega 3, sufficient sleep-aiding brain reorganisation and memory consolidation, and tDCS headsets (transcranial direct current stimulation) can heighten plasticity by adjusting neuron resting potentials. However, the core method to augment brain plasticity remains consistent learning and perpetual cognitive challenges.

Computer games are one such way to boost global brain connectivity by simulating novel environments and rules, necessitating the acquisition of new motor skills.

Self-mastery and Physical Intelligence

Physical intelligence encompasses the skill to recognise and influence physical factors, including chemicals, that impact mental state, mood, and efficiency. It’s closely tied to “interoception,” the ability to sense one’s bodily condition. An integral aspect of assessing bodily state is the para and sympathetic nervous system, which regulates various bodily systems, including mood-affecting hormones and chemical reactions.

While the stress response is often seen negatively, acute stress can be valuable. In danger, the body boosts neurotransmitters like dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine, along with cortisol. These states aren’t occasional reactions to extreme situations, but rather ongoing shifts influenced by countless factors.

One factor for example is the consumption of carbs which elevates blood sugar and introduces tryptophan. This amino acid travels to the brain and turns into serotonin, known as the “feel-good hormone.” Serotonin induces cheerfulness and inhibits brain activity, making us more relaxed. This state, called “postprandial,” is parasympathetic and often follows a meal.

Part of “physical intelligence” is realising emotions might stem from factors beyond initial perceptions. Instead of reacting impulsively, consider if fatigue, hunger, or unrelated stress could be influencing it. This insight helps restore balance by addressing underlying chemistry.

“This also demonstrates the close link between physical intelligence and emotional intelligence.

How Our Thoughts Determine Our Physicological State

“Danger doesn’t have to be present for the idea of it to impact on your mental and physical state.”

As a result, “cognitive restructuring” is important to try and reduce the level of stress we experience. This is an example of “metacognition” (thinking about thinking) that aims to remove negative thought patterns and install more positive coping mechanisms. Two strategies that are commonly employed to this end are:

  • Thought challenging
  • Hypothesis testing

A persistent source of stress can stem from social pressure and the constant concern about others’ opinions. This is often exacerbated by societal emphasis on outward appearances. To confront this social anxiety, engaging in comfort challenges could offer a promising solution.

Tai Chi seamlessly blends meditation and martial elements, revolving around movement and embracing a kinesthetic meditation approach.

Ultimate States of Human Performance

Getting into Flow

In a flow state, the prefrontal brain regions quiet down, leaving only areas for immediate decisions active—called “transient hypofrontality.”

While it may seem that the prefrontal cortex is silent due to minimal usage, it’s operating with exceptional efficiency. With our brain’s energy reserve allowing activation of only about 3 per cent of its matter at a time, dispersing it across numerous tasks leads to performance decline.

This underscores the importance of quieting inner monologue, which can disrupt the flow state. Flow hinges on a fine line between stress and calm, as demanding situations require undivided attention. Striking the right balance prevents triggering an overpowering fight-or-flight response that impairs the prefrontal cortex.

Owl Eyes

Dubbed “wide-angle vision” or “Owl Eyes,” this technique, embraced by Native Americans and survivalists, involves consciously engaging peripheral vision. By expanding awareness beyond a single focal point, it enhances present-moment processing, as peripheral inputs reach the brain 25 per cent faster than focal inputs.

“Every mental state has value, and a truly optimised brain is one that can easily switch between these states to enjoy optimum performance for the given situation.”


Modafinil is often likened to a real-life NZT (from the film Limitless) due to its stimulant properties. It functions as an advanced version of caffeine, enhancing attention, reflexes, memory, and wakefulness. Some individuals opt for substances that trigger the release of inhibitory neurotransmitters to reduce anxiety and enhance creativity. L-theanine (found in green tea with caffeine) and the more potent 5-HTP (a serotonin precursor) are examples. 

All of these substances have a myriad of secondary and tertiary effects. You cannot increase serotonin, for example, without also increasing melatonin, resulting in lethargy and sleepiness. Likewise, increasing dopamine will usually also increase cortisol and norepinephrine, potentially leading to anxiety while also causing digestive issues.

Energy: The Ultimate Force Multiplier

Broadly speaking, there are three different energy systems employed by the body. These are: 

  • The ATP Creatine System (a.k.a. the Phosphocreatine System) 
  • Glycogen Lactic Acid System (a.k.a. Lactic Acid System, a.k.a. Glycolytic System) 
  • Aerobic System

For example, when sprinting your body initially uses the ATP Creatine system, breaking down stored ATP in the muscles to produce usable energy, releasing energy in the form of ADP and Pi (adenosine diphosphate and a phosphate molecule). The ATP stored in muscles depletes after about three seconds of exertion. Thankfully, the body can recycle used Pi and ADP back into ATP using phosphocreatine, produced mainly in the kidneys. By utilising creatine, the body can exert maximum power output for a further eight to ten seconds.

If you continue running beyond 11-13 seconds, the body shifts to the lactic acid system for energy. This involves glycolysis, breaking glycogen into glucose, then pyruvate, and finally ATP. It can also use blood glucose, resulting in byproducts like lactate and hydrogen ions.

Lactate is not just a hindrance; it’s valuable as it converts back to pyruvate and glucose in the liver. Training enhances this conversion efficiency. While effective, this process is gradual, leading to lactate accumulation in the blood during sustained exertion.

After 30 seconds to 3 minutes, the aerobic system takes over. This system taps into stored fat energy, requiring oxygen transport to muscles. Thus, breathing becomes heavier, the heart gets to work, and we slow into a steady pace for the rest of the run. 

Training Each System

Various training types target specific energy systems. Notably, the three energy systems align with the three twitch muscle fibre types: aerobic activities predominantly engage slow-twitch fibres, and the inverse holds true.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT): involves alternating between anaerobic, intense exercise and active recovery periods. This approach is effective for fat loss, as the high-intensity phases deplete immediate energy, necessitating fat utilisation for subsequent energy expenditure. Additionally, it enhances mitochondrial density, boosting energy production efficiency.

Lung Training: Enhancing endurance and VO2 max can involve training the lungs directly by targeting the intercostal muscles and diaphragm. Techniques like breathing through a straw or using inspiratory muscle training (IMT) can effectively strengthen these respiratory components.

Low-intensity steady-state (LISS): is particularly effective for strengthening the heart and developing “Qmax” (quantified maximal cardiac output). That’s because training the heart rate at a lower pace ensures that it will have time to fully relax between beats, which in turn means you can grow it like any other muscle.

Enhancing your ability to efficiently transport oxygen and energy to targeted body parts not only boosts your overall energy but also sharpens mental alertness and focus.

Polarised Training: involves designing aerobic training regimes to allocate around 80% for low-intensity exercises, 20% to high-intensity workouts, and incorporating a bit of threshold training.

Anaerobic Threshold Training 

The “anaerobic threshold” marks the shift from aerobic to anaerobic processes, linked to the quantity and efficacy of your cellular mitochondria. You can activate it by finding your threshold and doing activities like a “threshold run.” Identifying this threshold is often marked by challenges in maintaining conversation due to heightened exertion.

The term “lactate threshold” or “lactate inflexion point” is often used interchangeably with the anaerobic threshold, but it signifies the point where lactate accumulation exceeds the removal rate. It’s a spectrum where energy processes turn increasingly anaerobic, and different exercises have varying lactate inflexion points.

The prevailing opinion opposes heavy reliance on threshold training, often termed “blackhole training.” This approach involves monotonous single-paced training, accumulating “junk miles.” Critics like Ben Greenfield argue that it emphasises only one energy system, potentially leading to overtraining and chronic health issues.

Work Capacity and Resistance Cardio

Work capacity signifies your capacity to sustain desired output across sessions, while still recuperating effectively for the next. It’s shaped by factors like aerobic fitness, mitochondria, VO2 max, lactate threshold, capillary development, glycogen reserves, mental resilience, the economy of movement, and muscle fibre engagement.

The “skeletal muscle pump” involves muscles acting as micro hearts, compressing embedded veins to intensify circulation and drive blood to the heart. Conversely, muscle relaxation can draw blood into the muscle due to pressure differentials.

Effective resistance training can become cardio when using the right weight. Extremely heavy weights can lead to quick fatigue, while mid-range weights enable higher rep ranges to challenge energy systems, improving lactic threshold and more.

Kettlebells and battle ropes offer optimal resistance. Battle ropes involve repetitive slamming, allowing forceful ballistic or rhythmic exertion. Compound bodyweight exercises like push-ups force the heart to enhance circulation. High-volume push-ups or sit-ups serve as cardio, boosting endurance and muscle growth effectively.

Metabolic Conditioning

Metabolic conditioning employs movements like press-ups and kettlebell swings in a circuit fashion with brief intervals for enhanced endurance and weight loss. The objective is to limit recovery, keeping heart rate elevated and challenging energy systems. By alternating exercises (e.g., push-ups, pull-ups, kettlebell swings, tuck jumps) for short bursts of maximum effort, we achieve metabolic conditioning. Intentional shunting, such as switching between upper and lower-body moves, further challenges the heart, optimising circulation. 

This approach combines endurance training with various benefits, like core stability, mobility, and grip strength enhancement through exercises such as kettlebell swings, lizard crawls, and offset loaded carries.

Integration: Becoming SuperFunctional

The ATSP Hierarchy

Our focus should be on selecting exercises that offer maximum value in developing multiple traits and attributes. These are the super traits that serve as foundations for many others.

Slowcomotion or Slow And Mechanically DisAdvanged Movement (SAMDAM) is my innovative training approach designed to enhance strength and control across unpredictable angles, maximising the utilisation of various traits and attributes. SAMDAM involves extremely slow locomotive/freestyle movements aimed at developing mind-muscle connection, core stability, endurance, and mobility all in one style of training.

It encompasses four practice modes: Ground SAMDAM, Bipedal SAMDAM, Climbing SAMDAM, and Manipulation SAMDAM. Slowcomotion fosters these benefits by deliberately slowing down complex movements and challenging yourself from various angles, improving weak points and enhancing powerful movement from any position.

SAMDAM acts as a valuable “binding agent” to address angles and postures often unaddressed by even functional exercises. Approach SAMDAM gradually and mindfully, as these positions challenge your accustomed weight distribution.

Overcoming Gravity Isometrics: To enrich this training approach, consider integrating additional movement varieties like controlled explosive plyometrics (from strong and stable stances) that briefly contrast with the deliberate pace, or exploring overcoming isometrics.

The ‘Missing Attributes’ within the ATSP system refers to the physical traits that are often overlooked in conventional training approaches. These include lateral shoulder rotation, thoracic spine extension mobility, and straight arm strength.


For optimal muscle fatigue, the strategy is straightforward: position intricate and challenging exercises at the workout’s outset, and reserve simpler ones for later. This approach prioritises complexity and nervous system fatigue over mere weight or load. Complex, multi-joint, multi-planar, or heavy exercises lead the routine, while closed-chain, light, or isolated movements wrap it up, suitable for higher volume.

Mechanical Dropsets: To achieve this, lower the weight upon reaching failure and continue. The same principle applies to various movement patterns. In a mechanical drop set, you modify the mechanics of a movement during the set when you hit failure. For instance, transitioning from regular push-ups to knee push-ups after reaching the limit.

Interference Effect

The interference effect simply states that training in different modalities will often cause one type of training to “interfere” with the other. It’s a common argument used against functional training and that would apply doubly to SuperFunctional Training!

However, this doesn’t mean we should limit ourselves to just one type of training. Striving to excel in a single area may not be practical for most non-athletes. It’s important to shift away from that mindset.

Furthermore, many adaptations from various disciplines can complement rather than interfere with each other. The extent of interference depends on the nature and intensity of the training program. With intelligent design, these challenges can be navigated.

Thanks to epigenetics, we understand that achieving a certain level of strength or endurance can facilitate returning to that point more easily.

“When you recognise the gaps in each type of training and borrow concepts from other areas to plug them in, you can start to become a true all-rounder. Moreover, you’ll be developing a training style that is unique to you.”

What Will You Become


These consist of ten-to-twenty-minute workouts that allow you to stay active throughout the day. They also tap into the concept of movement mapping or “greasing the groove.”

You can incorporate them for extended training periods or substitute them for a single workout. In the latter case, the same workload is accomplished, but in shorter intervals.

Modular Approach

Instead of writing workouts, consider writing a list of specific traits that appeal to you. What do you want to work toward? What traits matter to you and your goals? Now select exercises and techniques that will train the specific physical attributes related to those traits. Then take each of those “blocks” of moves and train them either on their own or combined into longer workouts.”

Incidental Training

Strive to transform daily tasks into training opportunities. As we identify our desired attributes and their various training methods, we can recognise chances emerging in our everyday routines.

The idea of returning to a “natural” way of life by going back to our “roots” is flawed. It assumes a consistent history, when in reality, we’ve adapted to numerous environments throughout our existence, including our present one.

“Instead of designing our environments to make life easier for us, what if we designed them to offer more challenge, play, and opportunity for creative expression?”