What is Functional Training

Ready to take your workout to a new level?  You’ve been building workouts you can do anywhere, now add an unstable surface and you’ve got functional training!  What is functional training? Well, functional training mimics activities you do in your daily life.  If the reason you avoid working out is because you think its rather boring to sit on a machine, lift weight ten times, rest as you stare off into space, lift again, and repeat on the next machine, I have news for you.  Functional training is fun, practical, applicable to your daily activities, develops your core strength so you have a stronger base to deliver power from, and a strong core helps keep you more injury free.

Think about what movement you would like to become better at. Is it playing with your children or grandchildren? What about a specific sport or skill in sport? Golf season is right around the corner. How about the ability to lift items out of your refrigerator without fear or moving from your couch to the bathroom? All of these items can be made better using functional training techniques.

We know that to get better at something we need to practice. Your mother was right when she made you sit at the piano for hours. You have to practice in order to create better neuromuscular efficiency. Basically put, the more you practice the better your brain gets at sending the signal to the muscle, “this is how I want you to move”. The more that pathway is repeated the more efficient you will be at the movement.

If you are trying get better at or to avoid injury during a movement or sport you must practice that particular movement. So I don’t know about you, but I know I don’t walk around doing crunch type movements all day, so why do a million during a workout? If I wanted to effectively train my abs I would look to more core aligned movements, which produce more power through strength development of the entire core. This would allow me to do the things I need to everyday. I have small children, I need to rotate, lift, move quickly in odd directions, and lift 30lbs of squirmy people at any given time. I do not need all my ab strength to allow me to crunch forward.

Try adding some functional training to your workout this week see what happens. First, pick a movement you would like to become better at. Start practicing that movement with no weight, then maybe with light weight, and finally on one foot. Next, begin creating an unstable surface with your basic strength training routine. Try lifting the heel of one foot while performing your lifts to create the unstable surface. If this is comfortable try to lift the whole foot off the ground for a one-legged more unstable surface. In yoga we concentrate heavily on foundation, or what is in contact with the floor during our movements. The same rule applies here, the smaller the foundation, the harder the core will work to stabilize you, therefore the more strong the core will become at adapting to slight movements of the body when put under stress (strength training), and the more you need to concentrate on alignment and proper form, keeping your mind more engaged. It is important, as always, to discuss your workouts with your health care provider and to make sure you are working within your own boundaries. Do not attempt to perform an exercise with bad form. You are better to do something small with good form rather than big with bad form.

Begin functional training and watch your abilities soar. You’ll become better adapted at moving in the patterns you do all day long. Maybe even make the greatest ESPN shot of the game ever recorded … No guarantees, though. Happy Training!

References:

Muscle That Matters – Paul Scott

The Functional Training Craze – Jesse Cannone

BodyBuilding.com