Walking from point a to point b. Pushing a shopping cart. Picking up a baby. Every day you perform utilitarian tasks that require body movement. Functional training is exercises designed to mimic specific functions of your body to enhance performance and decrease your risk of injury.
Functional training was initially used in rehab, physical and occupational therapies for patients with movement disorders. Training is adapted to a patient’s needs based on their overall goal. For example, if they’re returning to a job that requires heavy lifting the exercises would be targeted towards heavy lifting, if they’re a marathon runner their workouts would target rebuilding their endurance.
But functional training is now beneficial outside of therapy because of its practicality. The training includes exercises for the most important movement patterns including squat, lunge, push, pull, and deadlift. And they incorporate the 3 fundamental movement planes: frontal (side to side), sagittal (forwards and backwards) and rotational (twisting around the centerline of your body)
Functional training is different from other training because it isn’t focused specifically on weight loss or building muscle, it’s focus is to develop your body to perform the various daily activities specific to you improving your quality of life. This makes functional training a great place to start if you’re just getting back into the gym or recovering from a previous injury.
Functional training is a progression of low impact, repetitive movements. The low impact exercises are easy on your joints and body helping to identify what your body is capable of and build on it. The repetitiveness benefits not just your body but your brain as well. The more you do an exercise the better your body responds to these movements. It helps build muscle memory which is especially useful for sports specific exercises.
Executing functional training increases your range of motion, elevating your flexibility and coordination because the exercises specialize in resistance. For instance, multi-directional lunges are a specific exercise used to prepare your body for something as common as vacuuming or yard work.
Another important benefit of functional training is improving your posture. If you’ve ever worked out with a personal trainer, you’ll notice how they will constantly update your posture when performing an exercise. This is to avoid injury and to make sure you’re getting the full benefit of the movement. Functional training utilizes multiple muscle groups to improve posture and prevent overtraining one muscle group.
Functional training exercises include a variety of familiar exercises and equipment. Tai chi, yoga, squats, lunges, bicep curls, are all examples of functional training, and kettlebells, free weights, and stability balls are all examples of equipment commonly used in functional training.
Overall, functional training is a great way to start easing into a routine. It helps prevent injuries and makes you more comfortable performing daily tasks as well as preparing your muscles for more advanced movements. Functional training can be integrated by anyone no matter how old or young, how out of shape or in shape you are. The benefits of consistent functional training are unlimited.