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Throughout my 20s I was obsessed with physique training and becoming a bodybuilder. I spent countless hours a week in the gym, eating the same boring meals, doing the same boring routines — I was basically a robot with muscles. Training sessions consisted of hammer strength machines, dumbbells, barbells, cable machines and spending way too much time on the treadmill for cardio. All in pursuit of what I thought was optimal fitness. Yeah, I had the body that I wanted at that time in my life, big and ripped, but after 12 years of training this way I starting getting bored. Really bored. Not because I wasn’t enjoying the pursuit, I wasn’t enjoying the techniques I employed to continue pursuing my definition of fitness.

Trent Bender1
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The transition from doing traditional bodybuilding workouts to functional strength and explosive conditioning workouts wasn’t an easy process for me. But I got a kick in the butt that motivated me to change my usual regimen and I haven’t looked back since.

I had a sobering realization when I tried to hike several high elevation trails and found myself out of breath. Not in a “whoa, I’m a little winded” feeling, but in a “what the hell am I putting myself through?” feeling. This led to me feeling defeated, a place I don’t like being. Here I was, with a physique I spent the last 10 years building but I could barely catch my breath while amazing vistas and nature surrounded me. Not a good sign from someone who thought they were in amazing shape.

I started toying around with spending more time outdoors doing activities like hiking, paddling, and surfing. I quickly realized my physique just didn’t work for this new lifestyle I wanted to live. I was big and bulky, but I had no range of movement or stamina. After a couple weeks, I noticed a huge difference when I started doing functional training and explosive conditioning workouts, most notably – I wasn’t bored!

Before I was trying to look fit instead of be fit. And part of being fit is having fun while doing it. If your head isn’t in the game and you view every workout as work, then it’s going to affect your mood going in and coming out. Now I look forward to my workouts – I don’t view them as mandatory, I view them as allowing myself to have fun and go on an adventure.

I use tools and techniques “bodybuilder-me” would have laughed at. This includes kettlebells, sandbags, battle ropes and other functional tools – but the real change came from learning to love sprints, pylos, along with throwing and slamming med balls. So why do I prefer this way so much more?

Trent Bender2
Courtesy Quest

Functional training is a good way to help improve conditioning by not only building strength, but stamina. I now tailor my workouts with the aim of getting lean, conditioned and functional. The key is training for longevity. It’s something I’m passionate about and want to share with others, because it feels too good to be kept a secret for just me. I plan on going into more detail on certain techniques in the future, but for now here are some tips that help me:

Try to train with weights 3-4 times a week from 15 minutes to no longer than 45 minutes. If you’re varying up your training, you’ll find that you can maximize your time and your workout to work your whole body. And a shorter workout time means you don’t get to use “I have no time” as an excuse. Start small and gradually build from there. You’ll be sore if you’re just starting out, but the more effectively you can train in those 15-45 minutes, the less sore you’ll be over time and be able to step up your techniques for maximum effectiveness.

A new workout regimen (or having one at all) can seem challenging, but if you stick with it, it can reward you in ways you can’t imagine. These techniques have worked for me for the past ten years and it’s my belief they can work for everyone. Be sure to check back in the future for some in-depth looks into the types of workouts I’m talking about.

Trent Bender is a sought-after transformation specialist based in Los Angeles, CA. He works with clients focusing on achieving long-term results through his own functional training method. Trent is of the mindset that you should train every day doing something active from strength and conditioning to board riding — nature is his gym. To learn more follow Trent on Twitter and Instagram.


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