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Function Beats Form in the Latest Workouts


Buzzword alert for fitness enthusiasts: Functional is fashionable. Cosmetic is passe.

The latest workout angle has less to do with how one's abs look as with how one gets fit to function in everyday life. That means exercises for strengthening backs and improving posture so that people can pick up the kids or lift the groceries from the car trunk without hurting themselves.

These days, L.A. gyms such as Crunch in West Hollywood and ProCamp in Venice are abuzz with "function" terms, tossing them out like so many medicine balls.

"Core strength" is one example. Transversus abdominis, an inner abdominal muscle, another.

"It's a tough muscle to get at," said certified personal trainer Gina Lombardi, who works with actors as well as entertainment executives. "Pelvic tilts are one of the best ways."

Even UCLA Extension is offering a new core-strength workshop this fall.

Rebecca Nunley, a certified physical trainer at Crunch, said, "If someone just wants to be stronger or strengthen their back, we'll concentrate on building the abdominal core."

While a washboard appearance requires fast crunches, a core-strength workout, Nunley said, involves slow leg lifts to strengthen the lower back. Nunley explained a core-strength move:

"Say you're on your back with your arms straight out to the side and legs straight up in the air. Slowly lower your legs to the side so that your left leg lowers almost to--but doesn't quite touch--the ground, and then raise them back up to the center. That requires core or deep strength in order to hold that position."

Nunley, who moved to L.A. a couple of years ago from New York City, observed that the trend for "core strength" is definitely an L.A. thing. Clients are asking for core strength training even if they aren't saying the two words yet--transversus abdominis. Repeat--transversus abdominis.

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