With Feline Agility – Part 1 of 2

Cats, Functional Training, and Bandwagon Jumping

Coach Izzy

Moving from the East Coast to our new home on Bainbridge meant a stream of changes for us all. There was the mellower pace, the new atmosphere, the altered mood of daylight in this higher latitude, and getting to know our new community. It’s been—without a doubt—a welcome change and one that has improved the quality of our lives in many aspects.

Our pets enjoyed it the most. Our two cats Michi (Mee-Chee) and Maní (Mah-nee) are indoor cats and found their real state doubled when we moved to the West Coast. They enjoy napping in front of the large windows under the embrace of the sun whenever it chooses to bring euphoria to the Northwest, and they find ample entertainment in the parade of critters going about their business. I’m sure that at this point your mind is pondering on what those two darned cats have to do with strength and conditioning. Please bear with me as I elaborate and share the mundane observation that brought a revelation.

Our former home in the East Coast and our new one in the West Coast share similarities. Roomy, close to public transportation but still quiet and surrounded by great neighbors. The one—and most significant—difference is that our home on Bainbridge has two levels and our home in the East Coast only had one. Trivial? Maybe, but it’s a detail to keep in mind to grasp the content of this article.

Our cat Maní was rescued from the streets before we adopted her, so we do not know much of her past other than she was about eight months when she came to our home. Michi, on the other hand, was part of a litter of five kittens and about four months when we adopted him. In the nearly two and a half years the cats were part of our lives before we moved, we know for sure that Michi ALWAYS lived in a one-level home.

What the heck is the point? I know, I know. We are almost there.

The first morning in our new home, Michi casually leapt onto the banister upstairs, ran its length, and contentedly relaxed, as if he had been doing it all his life. Here we have a cat NEVER exposed to stairs, let alone any environment demanding a high level of equilibrium, easily walking along the banister as if he were casually ambulating from one room to another.

This could’ve easily passed as another mundane “Aww” cat moment but it captured my attention and got me thinking deeply. What came to my mind were the pointless debates in the fitness industry when it comes to the application of certain equipment or modalities. Pointless battles brought up and fueled by heavily biased and poorly analyzed points of view.

It seems that many fitness Gurus and Experts have made it their mission to bash equipment or exercises that do not resemble real life and gladly blind their pupils with their venom. They concoct all sorts of evil traits and dire consequences for the fools who choose to implement them in their fitness program.

And this is where we start uncoiling what this article is about. Do any of these evil attributes showered upon the equipment or techniques have any base of reality or common sense? Or are they just products of emotions?

The experts have their rabid hordes repeating their credos. Machines are not real life, specific physical skill development is not real life, stable environments are not real life, and other hilariously colorful claims. Had they taken only a couple of minutes to think in-depth about the vitriol coming out of their mouths, they could’ve perhaps realized how the term Real Life in fitness is rife with self-contradictions.

Real life? Seriously? What’s the point of an exercise facility then? The second the real life pundits pick up a barbell, dumbbell, or a kettlebell, they are using artificial exercise devices, contradicting their credos in the process. Why bother to warm up if we are trying to replicate real life? Some will go to obscene extremes of claiming they only train with real life objects, like sand bags, kegs, or tires or only stones and hanging from branches. Wow! Pride knows no reasoning. One thing Tom Purvis of the Resistance Training Institute emphasizes is that exercise for fitness serves no purpose other than to reintroduce activity to our lives, and thus, any form of fitness application is artificial.

That’s not a bad thing at all. Exercise is good for our health and we cannot claim to be healthy if we don’t exercise regularly. Yet the trend is to take the take the benefits of exercise out of context to serve an agenda.

Take for instance, the evidence lacking belief that selectorized equipment creates faulty motor patterns or does not teach the body to balance and stabilize. Interestingly, those statements are preceded or followed by the also overused phrase “The Nervous System…” as if the interactions of our complex nervous system were this linear and collapsible by a couple of training sessions in one of those evil pieces of equipment or training modality.

Seriously, creates faulty motor patterns? The hypocrisy! These very experts will denounce training on a machine yet will not hesitate in replicate a sports specific motor pattern through cables, bands, medicine balls and other devices, and call it Functional Training. Perhaps they missed the teachings of the late Mel C. Siff when he stated that:

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“We ought not to forget that so-called ‘functional training’ happens to be rather mythical in nature and that sport specific training does not rely primarily on the use of exercises which appear to be very similar to one’s sporting movements. Instead, ‘functional training’ needs to enhance the motor qualities (such as maximum strength, speed-strength and speed-endurance) and rely far more on special sports skill training to integrate those qualities into each relevant sport.”

Mel C. Siff
SuperTraining Forum


Perhaps these rather emotional fitness mavens fail to realize the only faulty motor pattern is the one they’re creating as they attempt to mimic a skill under circumstances completely different than those that made it productive. But hey, it’s real life!

Coach Izzy

Continue to Part 2

About The Author


Coach Izzy has been part of the Strength and Conditioning field for over 25 years. He speaks of the advantages of self-sufficiency and the drawbacks of relying on the liner approaches the health world seems fond of.