We exercise for a myriad of reasons. Some of us look to exercise solely as a means to lose weight, while others hit the gym to achieve a muscular physique, or to improve physical performance and strength. However, an emerging trend has shown increased interest in functional training, with more studios offering these types of classes as well as more demand from fitness enthusiasts. The training focuses on improving the way your body functionally works, working on and improving movements involved in everyday tasks, such as carrying groceries or cleaning the house.
How does this work?
Well, functional training is a way to build overall strength, mobility, and stability, which are important both in day-to-day life, as well as in sports and exercise.
The exercises are made of basic functional movement patterns, which include pushing, pulling, squatting, rotating, and carrying.
Functional training incorporates these movements into exercises in order to improve the efficiency, and strength of these patterns.
The Benefits of Functional Training
Functional training can be tailored to suit anyone. In the past, this type of training was predominantly used by physical therapists in the rehabilitation programs for patients post-injury or surgery. It’s also beneficial for the elderly, as it helps improve their agility and strength, reducing the risk of injuries like falling, or fracturing bones. Being beginner-friendly, it’s a no-fail approach for people looking to get fit but aren’t sure where to start. As it focuses on full-body training and doesn’t put stress on your joints, anybody regardless of fitness level can enjoy the benefits of functional training.
It’s also proved to be a more practical method of exercise, as it focuses on multi-joint and multi-muscle exercises which enable the body to work best as a whole, rather than in separate parts. By doing this, both the muscle groups as well as the cardiovascular system are working: strength and conditioning specialist Tony Gentilcore has said that “for 90 percent of people, 90% of the time, total-body training is the way to go, resulting in a greater neuromuscular and cardiovascular challenge and potentially greater gains, as well.”
Functional training is also a must for athletes—if done correctly and with good form, it can help athletes get stronger, run faster, and improve their balance. Another huge benefit functional training brings athletes is greater muscle memory. Explains Fitness coach Gavin Smith: “The more your body performs a particular movement or exercise, the faster and more responsive your body can repeat the movements in the future”.
Overall posture improves due to the use of multiple muscles being strengthened, as well as an improvement in balance. In addition, joint pain is decreased with functional training as it restores the body back to its natural movement patterns. The risk of injury is also reduced as functional training not only strengthens the muscles but the surrounding ligaments as well.
The Disadvantages of Functional Training
While functional training is chock full of benefits and is a sound choice for beginners to advanced exercise enthusiasts, it’s important to note that functional training may not be for everyone. One major disadvantage would be the fact that functional training is individualised. Because every person’s bodies function differently, an exercise that may work for one person may not work for another. While it may seem easy to find a routine off the internet and go off that, incorrect form/equipment use may result in injury. To avoid this, find studios that offer a controlled environment for you to perform your training, with highly skilled instructors that can guide and tweak your exercises accordingly.
Functional training is also not suited for bodybuilders, as functional training tends to lengthen your muscles and give them a leaner look, as compared to the shortening of muscles that traditional weight training brings about. Thus, functional training would not be the way to train when aiming to achieve a muscular aesthetic.