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UM News
September 11, 2013

MISSOULA – Visitors to the University of Montana Fitness and Recreation Center on the north end of campus will notice a major change this semester. Where stationary bikes used for group cycling classes once stood, a new open-concept space boasting functional, free-movement equipment has taken over and is gaining popularity.

The Functional Training Corner, located on the gym’s upper level, offers students and other FRC members a full range of equipment such as kettlebells, free weights, Bosu balls, battle ropes and a large bar structure that includes areas for a medicine ball toss, pull-ups, dips and a multitude of rings and straps used for body-weight training exercises.

But despite all the new equipment, the area mostly is empty, and according to Campus Recreation’s Senior Assistant Director of Fitness Programs Sonja Tysk, that’s the idea.

“The open floor space really allows people to move around,” Tysk said. “They have room to do a variety of dynamic and full-body exercises.”

Tysk and the FRC’s staff of four personal trainers put together a proposal for the Functional Training Corner, which Campus Recreation Director Steve Thompson and Associate Director of Facilities Brian Fruit were happy to endorse.

Fruit said students at the FRC already were doing functional exercises by getting creative with existing equipment.

“It was not the ideal in regards to functionality, use of space and, at times, safety,” he said. “Sonja and her staff recognized this, listened to students and presented a well thought-out proposal.”

Functional movement and body-weight exercises are all the rage right now, but the Functional Training Corner offers members more than a fad workout.

“We want to stay current with fitness trends, but we also want to stay current with the latest exercise science,” Tysk said.

Free-range movement and balance are required for many of the exercises in the corner, which helps FRC members break out of routines that isolate specific muscles or muscle groups. For example, keeping a thick tube full of sloshing water steady on your chest while squatting engages the core in different ways compared to using a traditional squat rack.

“That’s kind of where fitness is going: more full-body movement, less equipment intensive,” Tysk said. However, she added that most people tend to combine using both the Functional Training Corner and the more traditional equipment at the FRC, such as weight machines or treadmills.

In an industry where change can be expensive, the overall renovation of the space and the purchase of new equipment cost only about $12,000. By comparison, an elliptical cardio trainer that accommodates one user at a time costs about $8,200.

FRC members interested in learning how to use the new equipment can attend a 45-minute High Intensity Circuit fitness class, schedule a private consultation with one of the gym’s personal trainers fortrx $10 or view instructional posters displayed in the corner.

The stationary bikes are still around, too. They’ve moved to one of the lower-level exercise studios in the FRC and cycling still is a major part of the gym’s fitness class schedule.

For more information call the FRC at 406-243-2802 or view a schedule of fitness classes at


Photos: UM Fitness and Recreation Center members participate in a High Intensity Circuit class in the Functional Training Corner on Friday, Sept. 6. Photos by Todd Goodrich.


Campus, Local


Contact: Sonja Tysk, senior assistant director of fitness programs, UM Campus Recreation, 406-243-2833,