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What is functional training?
Functional training is more than an industry buzzword. In the real world, people accomplish movements in many planes of motion. Simply lifting, carrying, or moving an object requires that people utilize major-minor muscle groups to both absorb shock and leverage bones. Muscle, connective tissues, joints, and bones must be strong enough to allow people to accomplish activities of daily living or multi-planar, multi-joint movement. Functional training is simply integrative exercise developed by design to help people do what they do in everyday life — better.
Functional training has become popular in health clubs and gyms with personal trainers because of it’s diverse practical applications in training programs with personal training clients and group fitness participants. The term functional training is often used to describe exercise programs that utilize progressive exercise movements varied by movement patterns and frequency, duration, and intensity executing exercise in all planes of motion — this challenges an exercise participant to train their body in frontal, sagittal, and transverse planes of motion. These three planes of motion embody all directions of human movement. As a person becomes stronger and more stable moving throughout all planes of motion, they simply become functionally fit meaning that a person can accomplish more work without unusual fatigue, with less risk for injury, and handle progressive workloads and movements with greater ease.
What are the benefits of functional training?
The benefits of functional training are numerous. An exerciser that transitions from isolated exercise environments of exercise (single-joint movements) to integrative environments of exercise (multi-joint movements) will benefit from greater muscular recruitment for movements in transition or in multi-planes of motion. E.g., a person performing typical bodybuilding exercises like a seated biceps curl with a barbell can most benefit from increased strength and hypertrophy of biceps muscles, however, the exercise on its own lacks intentional movement or participation of multiple-joints. A perfect example of a more functional exercise pattern would be an exercise modality or movement that requires a standing person to pick up a weight from the floor, load, carry, move, and elevate the weight mimicking natural behavior and movements accomplished in everyday life — such as picking up a box loading and unloading from one truck to another location. As a result, muscle coordination, proprioception, multiple-joint mobility, multiple-muscle strength and hypertrophy, flexibility, and whole-body fitness can be achieved. In conclusion, functional training is another tool in the arsenal of exercise professionals and exercisers alike. It isn’t an exclusive form of exercise — functional training is a style and modality of intentional exercise based on movement patterns.