FUNCTIONAL TRAINING – WHAT IS IT EXACTLY?

FUNCTIONAL TRAINING. Everyone talks about it but not everyone knows what the term actually means. Various times I’ve had someone ask me: “How do you explain functional training? What does it entail?”

Being someone, who’s completed a Personal Training course with a strong emphasis on functional training, I decided to open it up for you a little, as I will be using the expression in my posts. See below a brief explanation I scratched together:

The human body works as a whole and that’s how it should be trained. The objective of functional training is to return to our roots and engage the body by using its natural movements in daily life. Think about training your biceps at the gym: you’re only moving one joint of your arm, right? Now, instead, lift something off the ground. First you have to squat to reach it, then you pick it up, and finally straighten your body. See? That’s already way more movement and employment of various joints!

What else do we use our body for? We walk, we run, we jump, we climb, we lift. Those are all natural movements. By challenging the body with diverse exercises, functional training aims to simultaneously improve everything from muscle strength to endurance, balance, agility, coordination and mobility. In addition, functional training will lead to increased balance, better joint stability, and more efficient motor patterns. Building a better core strength also plays a vital role in stabilizing the body and creating a better posture.

In traditional gym training, some of the fitness equipment only target the motion-performing main muscle. The surrounding accessory muscles do not activate enough, which in turn does not correspond to the body’s normal functions. Versatile training is a basic prerequisite in every form of exercise. To have your body functioning to its best extent, it’s essential to have all of its systems challenged and hence enhance its capability to perform better in every day life.

“All training can be functional. To be functional, training must be versatile to serve the diverse characteristics of the body. Special attention should be put on weaknesses; the chain is as strong as its weakest link.”

Our bodies are an extremely complex web of interconnected muscles, fascia, joints, bones, ligaments, tendons and other tissues that work seamlessly together. So basically, our bodies are more like a one unit than separate parts. Focusing your exercise on movements patterns rather than muscle groups, will help you develop a functionally strong body. Additionally, the movements should be deliberately performed by using full-range motions, maintaining the muscles’ and joints’ natural paths.

How do I know that my exercise is functional?

The more you employ the entire body in your workouts, the more it will resemble functional training. The standard functional training equipment includes exercises performed with:

  • Body Weight
  • Dumbbells & Weights
  • Medicine Balls
  • Kettlebells
  • Fitballs
  • Resistance Bands
  • TRX Straps
  • Tires
  • Sandbags

In addition, the basic compound exercises with barbells – such as squats, deadlifts and bench presses – play a vital role in functional training. The range of options is VAST. If you’ve been stuck with only using the machines at the gym, I encourage you to add functional exercises to your workout – you’ll notice the difference!

Hopefully you got an insight into what functional training is and can be. Do you have any thoughts? Are you ready to include functional training in your workouts?

If you’re having trouble getting started on your own, follow my blog, as I will be posting workout guides for you to try out! 🙂

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