Advances In Functional Training

There is a line in Mike Boyle’s new book, Advances in Functional Training, that just made me laugh out loud: “On the other hand, some of our hardest working athletes look like they hardly train. As long as their performances reflects the time and effort they’ve put in, I’m happy.” The whole book is filled with these kinds of simple lines that anyone who has been in sport for the past few decades wants to applaud. The best athletes in the world don’t look like guys on the covers of magazines. The best athletes train to win, not to look the part.

Boyle’s book is a page by page illumination. Do I agree with everything written? That’s the million dollar question. I have found that I don’t “read” AFT, rather, I reread it. He doesn’t do Kettlebell snatches because of the learning curve to teach the right catch. That leads to bruising, so Boyle doesn’t do them. Madness! Then, I reread his reasoning, sadly shrugged my shoulders and admitted that he is right for his needs and clients. And on we go through the book as his REAL world experience drips off the pages. Agree or disagree with his conclusions, but at least take the time to think and reason along side of him!

Here is the problem that this new book is addressing: most of the people writing books about aiding performance are full of crap. For whatever reason, we have a generation of internet experts (like me, by the way) who use secret formulas, mysterious programs, Voodoo hexes and a variety of untried ideas to push training. Boyle’s book comes from the other side: Michael has a gym, he trains people, he fixes issues and then he lets us know what works. For whatever reason, this kind of honesty bothers people!

Boyle’s advice is honed from the gym and from discussions with the top names in the field. He demands “Olympic style” Front Squats for the same reasons I do and he also has no issues with insisting that leg presses are garbage. He has interesting insights on the importance of the O lifts, but he also recommends some variations (like the Clean Grip Snatch) that work better for athletes than the standard work. I applaud the thinking throughout the book. He discusses HIT with an open mind as well as the ups and downs of hypertrophy work.

After your first reading, you will find, like I did, that you will have picked up a lot of ideas, but the structure of the book isn’t like one of Pavel’s where you come away with “Do THIS!” Instead, you will have something more like an encyclopedia of fitness and training. It’s odd for me to read this book and make myself realize that I may have been wrong on many of my long held beliefs. I hate Trap Bars because of, well, I just don’t like anything that isn’t Old School. Boyle’s book convinced me to buy some for our facility. Since we are not a powerlifting gym, why not be smarter? Sadly, my brother, Gary, has been telling me this for years: get Trap Bars!

The insights on single leg training alone might be worth the cost, which is not very much. It is a 35 buck book that has 315 pages of information. I just spent $50 for a 19 page e-book for reference and got little out of it. Should you do all the hip movements described in the book and the dozens of bridges, planks and single leg moves? Well, yes. Will you? I also marveled at the simple templates at the back of the book where you can xerox theses and design your own programs. It might take weeks to lock down all the movements for a typical workout, but why not start today?

I can’t recommend the book highly enough. It made me think. I would pick it up at random times during the day and double check something that just kept bugging me. Any book that makes you think this much deserves further discussion. Seriously, along side Kono’s book, Pavel’s PTTP and ETK (and Return of thee Kettlebell now that I think about it), and a few others, this book had me shuffling pages back and forth, standing up and trying things, and plopping the book on the table and going into my gym to try things.

Note: I got an odd negative email after I noted that I was reading and enjoying the book. The writer also noted that I must believe that Boyle’s farts smell like roses, too. I have no idea what caused that response, but, for the record, I have never met Michael Boyle, nor smelled his farts. Thank you.

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