Functional Training Hype or Beneficial

Functional training has become the new buzzword in gyms, and clinical institutions across the globe. In order to understand this type of training it is important to define functional training. 

Function: Is an integrated, multi-planer movement that incorporates acceleration, deceleration, stabilization all occuring at different speeds and body positions.

In the next few blogs I will be discussing functional training. Though I prefer pure bodybuilding training, I do teach functional training to those who suffer from injuries or who want to modify body composition and are not concerned with having a bodybuilder’s physique. I find that functional training is quite beneficial for certain populations. However, to say that functional training is the end all be all to fitness is an understatement. 

Functional training is based on specific movement patterns that relate to every day activities or sports related movements. The common belief is that if a person trains within a multi-joint, multi-plane, proprioceptive rich environment they will be better adaptable to function in real world applications. 

Why is there a concern for functional training?

One of the greatest musculoskeletal issues affecting millions of Americans is low back pain. The reason for this is because most Americans sit at a desk 7 to 8 hours a day. Sitting is an unnatural biomechanical position and can influence back pain. Reciprocal inhibition and synergistic dominance within the kinetic chain are problematic while in a seated position for long periods of time. The gluteus, hamstrings, erector spinae, abdominals, quadriceps are altered causing imbalances within the lumbopelvic hip complex. This constant dysfunction eventually results in the degeneration of the lumbar vertebraes. Another interesting fact is that poor gluteal contractibility can lead to the increased risk of ankle sprains. 

Functional training is a beneficial for helping fix dysfunctional biomechanical patterns of the kinetic chain. Do I believe that functional training is the end all be all to fitness training, No! But I do feel that people who suffer from musculoskeletal imbalances due to their daily living can benefit from performing functional exercises. There are many functional training advocates that strongly oppose training in an isolated, controlled, environment (basic weight training) to improve muscular strength and overall fitness. Though I disagree with this type of all or nothing ideology, I do agree that functional training is useful for rehabilitation.

Where did functional training come from?

Originally functional training came from the clinical setting and then became a fitness tool for many gyms. Now functional training is a crossbreed of powerlifting and rehabilitation exercises. Academic institutions and traininers across the globe have adopted this type of training as their primary curriculum. Functional training is more appropriate for varying populations, as opposed to straight bodybuilding. This is the reason why so many people have gravitated toward functional training, because it is easy to learn and perform and you don’t have to have good genetics. Bodybuilding is specific to those that have great genetics, are extremely disciplined with their nutrition, sleep, training. Functional training enthusiasts aren’t usually concerned with nutrition or symmetry of their physique. 

In the next blog post I will be discussing key components of functional training to help those that are suffering from dysfunctional biomechanical patterns. 

Daryl Conant, M.Ed