NEW HOPE, Minn. -- "Let that bar take you down," trainer David Freeman warns as he surveys his class at the new Alpha training studio at Life Time Fitness in New Hope. At 8,000 square feet, the studio offers space for strength and cardio. Branded as "Alpha" this space is used for functional fitness.
"Functional fitness is exactly what you did when you got up this morning," said Freeman, himself a top performer in Alpha competition. "You got up, you walked, brushed your teeth, you probably pulled open a door."
Easy tasks for most- and moves we take for granted from the time we first learn to roll over, crawl and walk. "You're just doing what we call primal movement," said Freeman. "We're trying to make sure to ensure the longevity of those movements."
Make no mistake, though- this is functional fitness with a goal of pushing you beyond what you think your boundaries are, into new territory.
Like mother of four Abbie Johnson. "I could run for a couple of hours, I've done three marathons," said Johnson. "I considered myself super fit, but I jumped into alpha and within the first class I was dying."
Freeman insists Alpha is for anyone. Workouts accommodate different levels. The goal is to push yourself beyond where you are now. Trainees can log their workouts to track progress. They also have an electronic community, if they want, to encourage each other.
And while Life Time's studio in New Hope is specifically equipped for a large scale Alpha experience, other Life Time facilities also offer some Alpha training. Freeman says the idea of functional fitness is something you can do anywhere, with no equipment at all.
"Start with just body weight movement, so going back to the foundation," Freeman explained. "You've got to be able to move soundly with the body before you increase any kind of load to the body."
From there, keep moving. "So always think of functional calisthenics- body weight push-ups, pull-ups, air squats, things of that nature... that's where the foundation builds."
Freeman believes our sedentary lifestyle in the U-S is driven by a work ethic that neglects a good balance in life. "We're driven by the almighty dollar, and we forget about health."
For Johnson, the key was mixing things up. She used to view weights as something for men. Now she has well-defined muscles, and a workout that challenges her both on cardio and strength.
Johnson couldn't be more pleased with the results. "I'm in the best shape I've ever been in in my life."