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Talking Function with Marvin Burton

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Marvin Burton is a highly experienced personal trainer and specialist in functional training.  We spoke to him about how and why you should make your training more functional.

Tom Godwin: May I first of all thank you for giving up time in your busy day to take part in this interview, it is great to have you on!  

TG:  For anyone who has not heard of you, why don’t you tell us a little about your background in the world of fitness?

MB:  Like many others I stared at the bottom. I Worked as a volunteer in a health club in return for free membership and experience.
I was quickly given the opportunity to work on reception leading to sales and memberships, gym floor and instructor, teaching group exercise, fitness manager, personal trainer and finally personal training manager.
I tested my knowledge by working on cruise ships as the director of fitness all over the world. On return I spent 6 years working with young adults ranging from 11-19 years old. In my spare time I studied sports massage, the GIFT internship in USA and Functional medicines. Since then I have become master trainer for TRX, ViPR, Watt Bike, Kranking, indoor cycling, Fitness Pilates and kettlebells
I write programmes for PT on the Net and currently I am the model for their exercise library.
Making use of my position I wrote my own qualifications, workshops for trainers and lecture at conferences. I am also used for consultation and modelling fitness equipment.
In 2011 I formed my own business called The Fitness Retreat Limited.

TG:  You spent some time as director of fitness on the ships, how were fitness levels on board?

MB:   Remembering that people were only on the vessel for a holiday, if they made it to me in the gym it was a minor miracle. I quickly realised my skills were best used teaching classes for the crew. They were my regular attendees although I gave seminars on arthritis, fat loss and healthy lifestyle each week.
Passengers would often try using the treadmills when the sea was rough or wearing “flip flops” (that was the only footwear they had) so I was more of a supervisor of the fitness suite.
To work on a ship, you need to be able to do and teach everything.
Answer to your question – very bad!

TG:  Your speciality is functional training, what is functional to you?

MB:  Function is being able to perform a task in the most effective way.
However, to improve your function I may need to train you for what you need, rather than what you want.
For example, a runner with poor motion in a hip would not be able to achieve their target if the function on the hip doesnt allow them to!
In answer to your question. Function to me is just a word that summarises the ability to perform a given task.
Nutrition, lifestyle and training. These 3 components dictate overall human function.

TG:  What are the most important aspects of training in a functional manner?

MB: The most important aspect of functional training is being able to do the simple things well. You need to be able to stable before becoming unstable. This is a good example of something that is overlooked quiet often in my opinion. Stick to the simple things first. The fundamentals of exercise and nutrition need to be followed firstly and consistently.

TG:  How does the average person build function into their training?

MB: Take what they already do and Manipulate the variables of exercises ( tempo, height, sets, reps, direction ) that would be my starting point. From this they will already feel and see a difference. For example, performing a chin up is an exercise that most people would struggle with. If we changed the hand position, speed or using the eccentric phase, these would all improve the overall ability of the client. From here we can build on success and develop the strength required for the activity.

TG:  What is your current favourite bit of exercise kit?

MB: I select the equipment based on the client. The things I most commonly use are, ViPRs, TRX, Kettlebells and the good old Olympic bar. I have a group class of 30 each week and we all have a 6kg ViPR an expensive investment but the versatility of the product allows me to train all ages and abilities at the same time.

TG:  What does the average PT session look like with you?

MB:  Always start with nutrition and lifestyle. This indicates what mind set they are in and if I need to spend more time on high intensity or low intensity training. Then we usually prepare the connective tissue, work on any strength training while they are fresh. Towards the end I focus on mobility and more specific tasks for them. This might be balance work, core or flexibility.

TG:  What is next for you Marvin?

MB:  I’m taking myself back to stage 1. Working with the general public on my  Fitness Retreat is rewarding. When you live with your clients for a few days you get the chance to ensure they eat well, sleep and train well. In return the benefits are far better and quicker. You can never guarantee a client will go home and follow your advice. The Fitness Retrat gives me this opportunity.

TG:  Thanks for giving up some of you time to share with us, it has been awesome!

To find out more about Marvin and Fitness-Retreat click here.