What is functional training? Functional training uses movements that closely mimic the natural movements we do in every day life.
- We squat every time we stand up from a chair or get up from the ground
- We deadlift every time we pick something up from the ground such as groceries or boxes
- We clean to get those objects to our arms or shoulders
- We overhead press to get objects overhead, such as getting boxes to a top shelf
These functional movements use essential and universal motor recruitment patterns, which are the movements that have been passed down from the earliest generations. Basically, the stuff we were designed to do. Would you see a caveman do it? Then it's probably functional! Ideally, functional movements should move your body or an external object from one point to another (the definition of doing work!).
Functional movements focus on actual movements (not muscles), which use multiple muscle groups together, such as the deadlift, push-ups, and squats. Non-functional movements, like curls, lateral raises, leg extensions and cable cross-overs have no place in our training. These exercises focus on working specific muscles, which rarely, if ever, occur in real life. Can you picture a caveman doing a cable cross-over?!
Functional training will benefit everyone. For the elderly, functional movements transfer into independent living. You squat to stand up. You pick up your grandchildren. These simple tasks become harder as we age. Functional fitness can completely reverse your current state of strength and fitness, allowing you to be independent longer. For the athlete, functional training means better coordination, agility, balance, speed and power. All of which will help your game.
Benefits of Functional Training
Preparedness: Functional movements prepare you for everyday tasks as well as unknown circumstances; CrossFit athletes have done very well in competitions based on skills and activities for which they have had little or no training.
Core Strength: Core strength and midline stability involves the transfer of significant forces through the trunk. This may be through rotation, as in punching, kicking or throwing, or through maintaining a rigid torso, as in the deadlift and Olympic lifts. The movements we use in our functional training make Swiss ball crunches jealous. There is no need for added "ab work". Through functional training, your core will be stronger than ever.
Safety: Functional movements support and protect joint and tissue integrity. This makes functional training safe for everyone. Non-functional movements create muscle imbalance, promote faulty motor recruitment patterns and compromise joint integrity.
Rehabilitation: Functional movements are also the basis for effective rehabilitation from injury and illness. Functional movement, coupled with common sense and patience, offer the quickest path to full habilitation and is the future of physical therapy.
Functional training will help you excel at any sport, any activity, and all around having fun!