Functional Training for Sports
A Joel Seedman Training Review
Joel Seedman is a guy who is polarizing. He is an individual on Instagram with a couple of different videos and a couple of different books. His books and training programs cost an absurd amount of money. On top of that, a lot of his functional movements are very fringe-related, out there, and absolutely crazy looking. The movements can be very challenging and very skill-oriented when talking about controlling the body and manipulate different loads performing the various movements.
Seedman makes some absurd blanket statements. Statements along the lines of, “This is how it is and if you disagree with me, you’re dumb,” or, “Olympic weightlifting will ruin your body.” This adds to that polarization within the world of sports performance and fitness, especially the manner in which he speaks through absolutes.
He also uses his own personal experiences with weightlifting and bodybuilding to speak to how personal experiences can ruin a person. Granted, this triggered his experimental methodology, but it also disallows for a larger sample size. For instance, we as coaches at Garage Strength have had methods that in no way worked for us, while those same methods worked wonders for clients. We all know that one thing that works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another person. Dismissing methodologies completely because of personal lack of success lacks the openness the learning mind needs to be truly critical.
It is important to understand how training methodologies impact large groups of people as a whole. One of the filters coaches at Garage Strength like to look through is considering how it will help little Johnny or Sally who is ten or eleven years old to making international teams, getting NCAA scholarships, or playing professionally.
Seedman has his clients perform some incredibly awesome movements. We love the creative application. One movement we noticed his athletes performing is a barbell row on a glute-ham developer with the weight offset. This movement is really challenging. It is a really good movement. An athlete who does a lot of bilateral movements in a specific position, this movement is really good at alleviating any inefficiencies the athlete has; it can also improve structural integrity.
Seedman does the same thing with a dead-bug floor press, again with the barbell weight offset. We love this movement. It incorporates the trunk, lumbar flexion with a press, and it does a lot for the athlete. On top of all that, the movement is just DIFFERENT. Differences are really important for athletes who are doing traditional movements all the time. Having differences through crazy movements challenges the athlete. It lets the coach see if the athlete can handle it because they might have to handle it in the athletic realm.
Another movement is the kettlebell row on a glute-ham developer in a unilateral position. This specific movement is extremely hard to execute and it targets the hamstring in an isometric position while using the lats and dynamic trunk control. The isometric hamstring hold is important in the realm of sports performance.
We have to admit we have stolen a lot of movements from Seedman.
Traditional Movement Transfer
At Garage Strength, we use traditional weightlifting and bodybuilding. We like seeing how traditional bodybuilding and weightlifting transfer over to the Seedman movements. It has been the gym’s experience that our athletes who perform the traditional movement’s athleticism and strength transfer pretty well to the Seedman movements.
The Seedman style movements do help with trunk control and stability and give the entire body aspect, the oblique sling if we will (which can get old when overdone). Seedman will also bring up the importance of isometrics. Seedman does manage to craft movements with isometrics on one side with an eccentric on the other side. Now where the movements may not succeed in developing the pec, quads, or hamstring to a strength threshold, the movements do demand coordination and function quite well as accessory movements.
As challenging as some of these positions are, we have noticed with our athletes some crazy performances. Our athletes do movements that are very traditional, explosive, and utilize the full body. Are these movements a challenge? Yes. Are they necessary for a twelve-year-old? Not at all. Traditional movements transfer much better for a young kid. Seedman-style movements aren’t necessary for young kids. The transfer of training isn’t there.
There is a point to the Seedman-style of movement. The key is knowing when to use it. Seedman uses it with world-class athletes. We have not seen evidence yet where these movements are performed with youngsters.
The Absurd Stuff
These are the movements where Seedman gets a bad knock. They come across as parlor tricks. The goal of the movement is where the focus should go. Typically the goal of the movement is accompanied by an explanation.
The key to Seedman’s absurd movements is to read the captions (the explanations). The statements come across as knowledgeable. Seedman uses the pedagogical language that sounds fancy and intelligent. More to the point, Seedman is branding a training methodology, whether effective or not.
Rapid functional pulses make us laugh.
Using The Word Is Functional
Functional needs a defined perspective. We believe weightlifting is functional because different movements transfer very well to other movements.
The functionality discussion as applied to Seedman’s movements can be debated. The effectiveness can be debated. It is important to take an approach where seeing what is done and how it challenges the body to transfer to sport.
At the very least, minimize the negativity and take away what is applicable to be put into one’s program and one’s own system to sharpen the training regiment.
Seedman’s running is horrible. It is super-robotic. He doesn’t run well. He looks unathletic. Watching him execute movements reminds us of people chewing with their mouths open.
But we like when Seedman posts videos of his athletes doing phenomenal movements like the single leg good morning in bare feet into a hip-lock. We like it when the NFL players he trains to target their hamstrings and trunk control. We like seeing athletes succeed.
Seedman does a good job of being creative. He does a good job of testing out the movements. He does a good job of being clear with his goals and branding of the training sessions. He charges a lot, does an excellent job branding, and he is very unique (which has led to his polarization).
Is it functional? We say, Nah. However, we think it is important to pick and choose movements he presents that can be co-opted to make someone a better athlete or strength coach.
Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.