Biomechanical Functional Training for Tennis and Everyday Function at Sixty

I am 60 and 5 hours, awake and writing this post at 5 am, situation normal for my age group where sleeping late is replaced by afternoon power naps. In this post and attached video you can see some of my daily functional training regime which has enabled me to be fit for the demands of my sport and a range of functions in everyday life at 60.

It’s now early May and later this month it will be a year since I first heard of Applied Functional Science, working initially with Troy Bradley (GIFT Fellow) in rehab and then studying for a foundation course with the Gray Institute. Applied Functional Science seeks to understand how the body was designed to work and the Gray Institute uses these truths to devise programmes for injury prevention, rehabilitation and athletic development, all of which differ greatly from traditional approaches and in my direct experience, are much more effective. The Gray Institute trains professionals who work with clients of all ages and abilities in rehab, prevention strategies and athletic development and have recently joined with Nike to develop an Applied Functional Science Golf instructors programme.

As a tennis coach with some experience of fitness programmes, Applied functional science techniques appear to work with the body, as it was designed, to achieve functional performance gains. The routines look like the function your training for, working your muscles and joints in function, in a chain reaction, in all three planes of motion with the forces of gravity, ground reaction, mass and momentum. Training the abdominals using AFS techniques illustrates the difference in approach with conventional methods. In the past, I have struggled and strained with sit ups and ab crunches in a vain attempt to add some definition and performance strength to my abdominals, with no appreciable or lasting benefits.

The abdominals are four layers of big muscles that link the upper and lower parts of the body and respond best to training in the way they were designed to work, as part of a chain reaction in function. Laying on your back doing sit ups does not look like anything the abs were designed to do and ultimately will not be effective training for anything other than laying on your back doing sit ups. You may get some definition but you are not training for strength in function

My abs training is part of a whole body workout of the muscles and joints in the chain working in all three planes with the forces of gravity, ground reaction, mass and momentum. It’s beginning to sound like a broken record but it is the way that I have trained, for almost a year, which has meant that I play tennis on a par with forty year olds (some) and have the range of motion and strength in my muscles and joints to perform everyday tasks that a year ago were a problem for me.

The training method I use to develop and maintain my general level of fitness for function includes balance reach, lunge and squat matrices and an abdominal dumbbell matrix all of which are based on the principles of Applied Functional Science.

I use Tri-stretch to increase the training gains from my routines and include below an explanation of it’s benefits from the inventor Dr. Mary Repking, PT. “An understanding of the interaction of all joints in all three planes of movement with gravity and ground reaction forces is needed to perform optimum stretching of the musculature. All joints need to have their full range of motion in all three planes of movement to allow the body to move without deviation from normal biomechanics. When a joint is restricted in its motion (secondary to a shortened soft tissue), any force that drives the joint into motion it does not have will result in breakdown or acute injury to that joint or in structures somewhere above or below it within the kinetic chain. Maintaining tri-planar flexibility is therefore important for the athlete as well as the person attempting to stay fit. Application of functional biomechanics to the exercises that the athlete performs and to the equipment that is utilized provides for a much more systematic progression of strength and balance training.”

I have increased the levels of my training routines over time, building on success at each level. They work for me and are not intended as medical and or training advice for anyone else. You will need to seek professional advice, preferably from a GIFT fellow, before starting any training programme.

If you are not reading this post on tennisleg.net you can see the video there or on my YouTube channel tenniseye1. This video shows some of my routines, confirming that I have achieved a level of fitness for function, which I will continue to develop and record in future blogs.

Vaughan Ebrahim

LTA Licensed Senior Club Coach

GI Foundation Applied Functional Science see Gray Institute