What is Functional Training?

Functional Training turned into a trendy term to be used in gyms all over, and it is yet to be precisely defined. It started out in rehab centers helping injured people to get back to their lives with the ability to hold up their daily routines.

When we move about our daily lives, it takes resistance, balance, strength, flexibility, and great coordination between our cardiovascular system, respiratory system, muscles, and joints. With each movement we take, our bodies distribute energy across several systems and axes; and that is what Functional Training is about, boosting our bodies overall performance.

Characteristics of Functional Training

  • Normal workouts and gym machines focus on each muscle in isolation. However, as mentioned before, that is not how the body functions. In order to enhance our movement, Functional Training focuses on these movement patterns rather than on bodybuilding.
  • Instead of building core muscles, Functional Training enhances the core’s resistance and function in protecting the lower back and stabilizing the spine.
  • Functional Training works on all three body movement planes; Sagittal (forward and backward), Frontal (side to side), and Transverse (rotation).

Types of Functional Training

There are no solid types of Functional Training; in fact, we can say that it is somehow personalized in terms of intensity and kinds of workout. After all, it is aimed to upgrade our performance in the tasks we do on a daily basis; so a teenager undergoes a different kind of training than an elderly, a parent, a sports professional, or a soldier for instance. However, they all share the purpose of making our bodies stronger and more resilient, flexible, balanced, and coordinated.

It is important to ask for a professional’s advice to determine the right workout regimen, and whether it should be of high or low intensity according to each individual case. As it is also crucial to tell the trainer of any injury in order to fit the exercise program according to it.

Benefits of Functional Training

  • Since it targets the everyday life body functions, then it eases daily tasks.
  • Repetition of movement creates and boosts muscle memory, which enhances body responses.
  • As mentioned, it is movement not muscle oriented, so it does not leave worn out and is suitable for any fitness level.
  • It involves a wide range in motion, which increases body flexibility and coordination.
  • It strengthens all muscles at once giving the body a correct posture.
  • Works as physical therapy for those with chronic back, muscle, and joint pain.
  • While the body is living up to its functional potential, the risk of injury gets lower and lower over time.

Functional Training Exercises

Any Functional Training program should be based on the five fundamental movements across the three planes, and three core training. It would result in even better performance when adding Cardio to the mix.

Upper Body Movement Patterns

  • Upper Body Pushing: Push Ups, Dumbbell Press, Overhead Press.
  • Upper Body Pulling: Pull Ups, Dumbbell Rows, Face Pulls.

Lower Body Movement Patterns

  • Lower Body Squats: Goblet Squats, Barbell Squats, and Landmine Squats.
  • Lower Body Hinge: Hip Thrusts, Romanian Deadlifts, Back Extensions.
  • Lower Body Lunge/Split Stance: Split Squats, Step Ups, Reverse Lunges.

Functional Core Training

  • Anti-Extension: Planks, Dead Bugs, Body Saws.
  • Anti-Lateral Flexion: Side Planks, Windmill Planks, and Suitcase Holds.
  • Anti-Rotation/Rotation: Cable Chops and Lifts, Palloff Presses.

Before starting a training regimen, make sure you identify your fitness goals at first, and use the help of a professional trainer to set the right program depending on your fitness level and wellbeing. The exercises are not limited to the above mentioned, but it is important to work on the three movement planes equally.

Some of these exercises are “Pure” Functional Training; such as Cable Chops (Transverse Plane), Lateral Squats (Frontal Plane), and Goblet Squats (Sagittal Plane).

Functional Training along with Cardio go beyond fitness and bodybuilding, they enhance blood circulation, improve your heart health, control your breathing, correct your posture, increase brain function, and help your body reach its full potential.

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