Book Review: Functional Training – Juan Carlos Santana

Functional Training: Exercises and programming for training and performance, by Juan Carlos Santana

Reviewed by Tony Boutagy, PhD, AEP, AES of the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia and Boutagy Fitness Institute

This is a book that has been long awaited and keenly anticipated, written by the Godfather of the intelligent functional training movement, JC Santana.

The text is divided into three sections: –

Section 1 establishes Santana’s view on defining Functional Training, including chapters on functional strength, equipment selection, sporting skills, human movement and current myths about what is and what is not functional training.

This is a very important aspect to the book, as many ‘circus-style’ or entertainment movements are often passed off as functional exercises and parodied by those critical of functional training.

Here Santana does a superb job of describing how exercises and methods should be performed to be truly classified as functional, with many examples of what he does with the athletes under his care at an elite level.

Section 2 includes two chapters on exercise selection. Here there are detailed descriptions of traditional strength exercises with bars, dumbbells and body weight. Also provided in the second chapter are a diverse selection of exercises using bands, kettlebells, medicine balls and stability balls. I was delighted to see such an array of exercises, both bilateral and unilateral, ranging from conventional movements, such as squats and deadlifts to exercises performed under unstable conditions. This is an excellent treasure trove of movements for even the seasoned personal trainer.

Section 3 covers the practical aspects of program design. Santana begins by offering the basics of program variables and periodization. He then discusses several functional training program variations for different goals (such as, general fitness, metabolic conditioning and more) and hybrid programming. I was most interested to read about Santana’s approach to hybrid complexes and the section on sample programs was very useful in explaining the system.

Santana concludes the book with a chapter on Sports-Specific Programs. Many ideas and useful, practical exercises/programs are presented here.

This was one of the highlights for me, as JC is widely regarded as an authority of functional training for elite athletes.

For the first time in print, we are able to see how Santana would prescribe exercises and programs for athletes competing in a wide array of sports.

Functional Training is a detailed, up-to-date book, written by the leading authority on the subject. It gives the reader how a strength and conditioning expert views functional training, the best exercise selections for this purpose and provides numerous programming ideas for a variety of end goals. Highly recommended reading.

Functional Training is available from Human Kinetics.

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