What is Functional Training, and How Could it Benefit Me?

Functional Training

The term functional training is being thrown around about as much as the words “gluten free” these days.  Just what is “functional training”, and the benefits it carries?

Here is the best definition I have seen:  Functional training is exercise programming that applies directly to your every-day life.  We call on our bodies to perform thousands of tasks daily, without even thinking about it, and our body must act by simultaneously calling on several muscle groups to work together to accomplish various tasks.  Things like squatting down while holding a baby, lifting laundry soap or tools onto a top shelf around the house, bending over to pick up a bag of groceries, running up or down stairs, mowing the lawn, or maybe even pushing a car, building an extension on your house, or chopping and tossing fire wood in a pile.   With the Rocky Mountains in our back yard, hiking or biking 14ers, wake boarding, downhill skiing, mountain biking, golfing, or other weekend sporting events is common place for thousands of adults in Colorado.  Activities you will not see in one’s daily life are things like seated leg extensions, leg curls, supine chest press, seated lat pulls, seated dumbbell overhead presses, and my personal favorite, treadmill walks while holding onto the rails.  While all of these exercises serve a purpose in isolating muscle groups and may be good for body building, or rehab purposes, they don’t force you to use multiple muscle groups in a synergistic fashion to get the work done.

For example:  In a bench press, muscle groups that are being recruited to do the work are your:

  • pecs
  • deltoids
  • triceps

Now let’s turn it over, and have you do a more “functional” exercise, the pushup.  In a pushup, in order to complete the movement you will call on your:

  • pecs
  • delts
  • tri’s
  • Latissimus dorsi
  • erector spinae
  • internal obliques
  • external obliques
  • rectus abdominus
  • transverse abdominus
  • glute medius
  • glute minimus
  • quadriceps
  • anterior tibialis

If you haven’t brushed up on your anatomy and physiology recently, I will tell you that 8 of the 13 muscles (groups) listed above are considered core muscles.  Unless you’ve been on the moon for the last ten years, you know that keeping these core muscle groups functionally strong will greatly reduce the risk of a multitude of nagging chronic, or acute injuries.

Life requires us to walk/run, push, pull, bend over, walk up stairs, move side to side, and rotate.  If your goal is to live life with higher level of vitality, and resistance to injury, why wouldn’t you incorporate functional training into your programming?




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