Is Functional Training is F _ _ king Bulls _ _t?

Jun 22, 2022

The title refers to a Youtube clip of the same name posted by Keir Wenham Flat, the person I'm about to discuss.

I know I might be opening up a can of worms (again). I also know, as with my previous anti-leg extension post and anti-burpee posts,  I will expose myself to more scorn. As you probably already have realized, I could care less. Like I always say, my wife, "my kids and my dogs will still love me tomorrow."

A friend in the UK shared some posts from Keir Wenham Flat's Facebook page with me and, I just feel the need to respond. 

Let's start with a few disclaimers: 

1- I thought I might go with the “unnamed coach” route but, I hate when people do that. If I'm going to take exception with someone comments, at least I can do it honestly and by name and not hide behind what would at best be a very thin veil. 

2-  I don't know Keir. I see him only as a social media poster. We have never met. 

3-  Any vulgarity and sexual innuendo is taken directly from the posts. Although I tend to swear a bit myself, I try to keep my social media G rated.


So, here goes:

March 27th post - “I have a ton of respect for Uncle Mike Boyle... but saying a 250lb Bulgarian on each leg adds up to a 500lb squat is like saying banging two 5s adds up to a supermodel. #coachmath “


Pretty crude analogy? I could debate some of the fine points of the analogy but, that's not the point of this post.

The most interesting part of this discussion is that Keir can choose to disagree with my math but, not with my premise. The primary reason we switched to unilateral training was due to the incidence of back pain among our athletes. More on this later. 

The discovery of the concept of bilateral deficit ( an idea he simply rejects but, obviously has not researched or tried) was after we had made the switch.

Right before we went to all unilateral knee dominant exercise ( disclaimer, we still Olympic lift and Trap Bar Deadlift with most athletes) I tested my Boston University Hockey players in both the front squat and the rear foot elevated split squat ( the poorly named Bulgarian). I did this with a bar ( we don't any more) and, the results were nothing short of astounding. Every athlete split squatted within 5 lbs. of their front squat. I was amazed. One bilateral exercise ( yes, I know about 20-30% less than their back squat would have been if we did them) and one unilateral exercise, same loads?

Yes, and this was a group of more than twenty highly trained athletes. I was sold. For me, I simply realized that I could get potentially more lower body work with significantly less back stress. This was nothing short of amazing. Why less back stress? Here, the #coachmath is pretty simple. Squatting with 500 lbs on your back is far more stressful than squatting with 250 lbs. Please don't argue that one. 

So, as I said, even if you don't buy the bilateral deficit idea (your loss) you have to agree that 250 is one half of 500? 


This leads us to Keir's next post. (March 30th)

“Back pain on and off since 21. This is the worst bout of it that I can remember for 6-7 years. Dropped a towel on the floor this morning and I thought "Ah... fuck it. I'll get that next week"

So, I might be wrong on the bilateral deficit thing (even though I don't think so) but, seem to be right on the back pain thing.

 At 57 one thing I can tell you is that I've already seen one apologetic generation of the young,  go heavy-or-go-home, guys become functional training guys. It's usually some time between when they have the first spinal injection and the first surgery. Trust me kids, in my twenties I was like  the rest of you.

First I hurt myself, then I went on to a career where I probably hurt a few others, then I smartened up and became a functional training guy.

Keir and I have never met. I hope I live long enough to see him when he's 50. You'd be amazed how many guys look at me like they look at their parents and think “ boy, when I was a young coach, you were as dumb as my dad. I'm amazed how smart you've gotten in the last twenty years.”