In this article, we will be discussing what Functional Training is, the benefits, and if it is right for you. We will also be including a sample functional training workout that you can complete at the gym or at home with minimal equipment.
What is functional training?
You may have heard the word functional training or functional fitness. It has been a buzz word that has emerged over the last few years but in actuality the concept has been around for a long time. Years ago before gyms were common, people didn’t have a need for stationary gym equipment because they were busy using their bodies to complete daily tasks. Most, if not all, individuals were using their bodies to tend land and farms, care for livestock, hunt…If their bodies were not capable of performing the tasks necessary, they and potentially the people around them, would suffer. Naturally, their bodies would maintain a certain level of fitness to complete their daily tasks. If we fast-forward to our current time, we know that the majority of Americans live a sedentary lifestyle. This is where functional training comes into play. Functional training is a classification of training that equips your body for real life movements and activities. According to Laskowski (2016), “Functional fitness exercises train your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by simulating common movements you might do at home, at work or in sports… functional fitness exercises also emphasize core stability.” Functional fitness is a key component in keeping up with daily tasks and aging gracefully.
According to Bryant (2011) from the American Council on Exercise, “Functional strength training involves performing work against resistance in such a manner that the improvements in strength directly enhance the performance of movements so that an individual's activities of daily living are easier to perform.” Not only does functional training make daily activities easier, it can also help prevent injury as well. Functional training enhances the working relationship between the nervous and muscular systems.
What are the benefits of Functional Training?
Although there are many benefits to functional training, my top 5 will be highlighted below:
1) Increase the ease of everyday life
By improving overall function, muscular strength, endurance, and stability, your body is able to perform everyday functions with greater ease.
2) Greater muscle memory
The Merriam- Webster dictionary defines muscle memory as, “the ability to repeat a specific muscular movement with improved efficiency and accuracy that is acquired through practice and repetition” With functional training, you are performing everyday movements to improve their efficiency and accuracy. The idea is that as you perform these movements repeatedly, your body will naturally perform the movement with ease.
3) Increase flexibility and coordination
Due to the wide range of motions and often compound movements of functional training, you will most likely notice an increase in both flexibility and coordination. As your range of motion is enhanced, you’ll find day-to-day activities become easier.
4) Improves balance and posture
Great posture is foundational! An important aspect of functional training is implementing proper form throughout your movements. Unlike using stationary machines at the gym, functional fitness require the recruitment of the smaller muscles in the body along with the primary muscle movers. When done properly, functional training can lead to an improvement in posture. Also, functional training encompasses balance. We find ourselves in need of keeping our balance thought daily activities and as we age, this becomes a crucial element of daily living.
5) Reduces the risk of injury
According to the Mayo Clinic (2016), functional fitness reduces your risk of injury and improves your quality of life. Due to mimicking everyday life movement patterns, your body is better able to cope with the stress it undergoes daily. Also, the increase in strength, flexibility, coordination, and balance helps decrease the potential for falls and accidental injuries.
Is Functional Training right for you?
If you are new to exercise or have specific health problems, it's a good idea to check with your doctor before starting any new training routine. That aside, functional training is for everyone! If you have never done functional training before, I would encourage you to link up with a pro-trainer to help you build a custom plan that fits your specific needs. If you are planning on trying this on your own, I would highly encourage you to start with just your bodyweight. Once you feel confident in that, you can move forward.
Sample Functional Training workout:
Set a timer for 5-10 minutes. Perform 10 repetitions of each exercise (if it is performed only on one side, complete 10 reps per side) and perform as many rounds as you can in the allotted time. When the timer goes off, rest for 1 minute and then reset timer and repeat.
AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible)
1) Step up to balance
2) Single leg deadlift to overhead reach
3) Weighted low squat
4) Side bends
5) Push-up to superman
6) Sit to stand
Do you do functional training? How have you seen the benefits in your own life?
Cedric X. Bryant Health and Fitness Expert As chief science officer for ACE, C. B. (2011, May 11). What is functional strength training? Retrieved March 14, 2019, from https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/1452/what-is-functional-strength-training
Laskowski, E. R., M.D. (2016, October 29). Functional Fitness Training: Is it right for you? Retrieved March 14, 2019, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/functional-fitness/art-20047680
Muscle memory. 2011. In Merriam-Webster.com.
Retrieved March 15, 2019, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/musclememory