What’s the deal with this new fitness buzz? Isn’t all training functional?
In short, functional training conditions you to perform everyday activities more effectively and efficiently. It helps you build strength, power and mobility that translates beyond the gym. Most people exercise because they want to lose weight, maintain their weight, gain muscle/strength and/or relieve stress. Those are all valid reasons to commit to a fitness routine, but you can also exercise to simply improve the way you move throughout the world.
Functional training focuses on movement, not muscles. Most typical gym routines train individual muscle groups (biceps, pecs, quads, ect.) instead of movement patterns (pushing, pulling, jumping, sqautting). Most people also train in a single plane of motion: the sagittal plane, which involves forward and backward movements (eg. squat, bicep curl, running). The thing is, human movement doesn’t only occur in one plane of motion, and it usually doesn’t recruit only one muscle group at a time. Everyday activities in your daily life includes movements in all three planes of motion: sagittal (forward and backward), frontal (side-to-side) and tranverse (rotational).
An effective functional training program works muscles through full ranges of motion, favours free weights over machines and incorporates plently of unilateral (single limb) exercises.
The same way as functional fitness works in improving chronic back pain, muscular pain and joint pain, it’s able to reduce the risk of injury too. Everyday movements can leave runners and sport enthusiasts withering in pain on a bad day, and this is why the exercises behind functional training are so important.
By mimicking everyday life movement patterns, your body is more likely able to cope with daily stresses. Functional training stands out from conventional training because of its way to reduce the risk of injury and stress to your body. When training in a functional manner, muscles aren’t just strengthened but the surrounding ligaments too, which is the area that can often become injured. The focus is on performance, not muscle size.