"Functional Training" book (Boyle)

Anyone read "Functional Training for Sports" by Mike Boyle? Comments?

I found it interesting albeit a bit too far gone in the "two-legs squat good, one-leg squat on airex pad better!" direction.

But the stuff on ab training seemed very different and fascinating, even if poorly organized (too much material with no real over-arching advice on principles of how to put it together).

I'd like to hear impressions, particularly, of his emphasis on the transversus and the multifidis (spelling?) as opposed to the good old rectus abdominis. The overall impression I got was that those old-time bodybuilders with their 'ab vacuums' were actually on to something (although Boyle never admits that this movement seems to be exactly the same as his various 'draw-ins').

Boyle claims that the latest in sports science (go AIS!) shows that the transversus is of huge importance in most athletic motions and that we've been training our abs wrong for years. Thoughts?

Hi Geoff,

I have not read the book but have met Mike Boyle and heard him speak on training topics etc. He seems to get good results out of his athletes (but so do many others).

As Far as the transversus: My feeling is that it engages during forced exhalation and can be triggerd in several ways, but ultimately is not a muscle that one can easily control (like the rectus).

I personally do use vacuums exercises with some clients but rarely emphasize the "drawing in" manuver that is in vogue with many fitness folk these days.

Most competent athletes will learn to use the breath when exerting force and this goes a long way to working all the aeras that are needed.

When specific problems arrise in abdominal training (control etc) then I may spend more time on this area, but I do not usually feel it is warranted.

I found Mike Boyle to be knoledgeable but a bit harsh in his feelings about anyone who did not agree with his methods.



What does he feel that particular benefit of developing this muscle is over the rectus? Don't they do different things? Might it not be benefitial to develop both?

I'd have to say that at least in sport grappling, the rectus and hip flexors are worked extensively...


Wouldn't all of your ab muscles get worked pretty good in sparring?

Not really. A short blow is of no use in increasing tension in the abs.

I think the idea is that the transversus gets activated first in a lot of torso movements in sports, and acts as a brace for the spine and I think helps provide a good connection between the upper and lower body. Someone else could explain this better, I'm sure. As far as ab muscles goes, it's supposedly (according to Boyle, no pun intended) the one that really does function as a "natural weight belt" (as opposed to the rectus abdominus, which is only ever going to pull your upper body down towards your pelvis - hard to see how this would help stability, I suppose).

Sorry if that's not too clear.

I think that there are obviously cases in grappling where rectus and hip flexors are going to be used a lot - I'm thinking of a lot of movements in guard. I think it's worth remembering how 'weird' grappling is in terms of most other sports. Seriously, leaving out trick answers like "decathalon", how many sports in the Olympics have substantial and decisive action in more than one basic body position (e.g. sitting, standing, prone, supine, etc.). I can think of:

gymnastics, judo, wrestling and that's about it.

So it's worth remembering that someone who sees a bunch of people from track and field, football, basketball, soccer and a couple other sports might not really have all the answers for a sport as complex as grappling or NHB.

just another example of a guy jumping on the tva bandwagon along with chek and the other 'functional wobble board swiss ball stability gurus'

taking a principal that MAY apply in some limited situations in people with a pathology, DOES NOT mean that it will transfer to a healthy athlete.

would you train someone with a lower back injury like a healthy strong athlete? then why train a healthy athlete as if they have an injury?

I  read somewhere that in normal healthy people the TVA is activated just moving your legs like walking.

In addition there is a section in the book Low Back Disorders(McGill) that goes over the TVA for stability issue. Basically "bracing" the abdomen is superior to "hollowing" it.as bracing activates 3 muscle groups - obliques inter/exter and TVA creating a true natural weight belt and stability.

The original study that most of the TVA ideas are based off only showed the in injured people there is impaired TVA function.

Where can I check out or get this book?


Do you ever rotate your torso in training? My abs are always sore after grappling - I think it's because they are getting worked.

The notion of 'bracing' rather than hollowing was mentioned in Boyle as an alternate philosophy. I think he rejected it in favor of 'hollowing' in order to isolate the transversus more and make sure that people really used it. I don't know if that's well founded.

As for the argument: "if unhealthy people benefit from it, healthy people shouldn't use it" - I don't know. I get a fair bit of quad activation walking up the stairs. Does that mean I shouldn't squat? Obviously there has to be more to the whole argument than that.

At any rate, it would be nice to see some evidence. I don't know, a statistically significant increase in med ball side throw for distance after a 12 weeks of doing crazy ab vacuums, or something. If anyone has the cites used to support this idea in the first place, or any other hard evidence on this stuff, I'd like to hear about it.

Now, I return you to your regularly scheduled "proof by assertion" session.

Jesus flipping Christ, it's Geoff too!