Purpose, Practicality, Patterns – That’s Functional Training
To define what functional training is, sometimes it’s easier to begin describing what it is not and then go into detail about what it is.
Often, people think of bodybuilding, powerlifting, and weight machines when they think of strength training. Or maybe you have a picture in your mind of Jane Fonda-style high energy dance-oriented group cardio classes.
Bodybuilders work hard to build huge muscles and some people like the looks they achieve (and some don’t). Powerlifting and Olympic Lifting are strength competitions to see who can lift the most in a specific set of barbell exercises. These weightlifting styles are good for developing bulk and power. And if that’s what you’re after, that’s totally cool.
Purpose and Practicality
Functional training differs however, in that its purpose is the practical outcome of the training. It might include some elements of bodybuilding and powerlifting but it’s far more comprehensive. Functional training is a program that improves performance in activities of daily living and athletic performance. In this case, it doesn’t matter if you’re a middle-aged parent, an office dweller, a retired business person, an outdoor recreational enthusiast, a triathlete, or an NFL wide receiver. Functional training is the practical solution to your purposeful goals.
Functional training is further defined by its customization for you. Perhaps the most important aspect is that everyone starts out with their own unique experiences, skills, and genetic influences. No matter what your starting point or your goals, your functional training program will get you from where you are to where you want to go taking into consideration everything that’s relevant: who you are, what you’re capable of and what you want to accomplish.
Patterns vs. Parts
In addition to being practical, functional training focuses on multi-joint movement patterns. We develop these patterns to improve real-life activities by making them better, safer, more athletic, or more powerful. For example: a kettlebell racked lunge is a compound movement that requires harmonious cooperation from the feet, ankles, knees, hips, shoulders and arms while maintaining a strong and stable torso. The applicability to real life is how it improves running and changing direction (like on a playing field), or how it improves carrying children and heavy bags of groceries with one arm while using the free arm to unlock doors.
Furthermore, most functional movements can be placed in one of three categories: locomotive, manipulative, or striking. Locomotive movements include walking, running, jumping, climbing and swimming. Manipulative movements include lifting, carrying, and throwing. Striking movements include swinging golf clubs, bats, and rackets, hammering nails, and/or wrestling for sport or with your kids. In a functional training program, we select exercises specifically to improve these types of movements. And to pile on the greatness, we include considerations to develop speed, endurance, and movement skills.
Simply stated, purpose and practicality are what define functional training. We feel there should be a natural relationship between the work you’re doing with what you’re trying to accomplish.
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