Functional Performance Training

Functional Training

What is functional training?

The principle upon which functional training is based is to adapt or develop exercises that allow individuals to perform the activities of daily life more easily and without injuries.

In the context of sports and bodybuilding, functional training involves mainly weight bearing activities targeted at core muscle of the abdomen and lower back. Most fitness facilities have a variety of weight training machines that target and isolate specific muscles.  As a result, the movements do not necessarily bear any relationship to the movements people make in their regular everyday activities or sports.

Why is functional training better?

The idea of functional training is to establish better muscular balance and joint stability, and thus, decreases the number of injuries sustained in an individual’s performance in a sport.  The benefits arise from the use of training that emphasizes the body’s natural ability to move in six degrees of freedom. In comparison, though machines appear to be safer to use, they restrict movements to a single plane of motion, which is an unnatural form of movement for the body and may potentially lead to faulty movement patterns or to an injury.

Strength and conditioning research shows very substantial gains and benefits for individuals involved in functional training over those who only used fixed training equipment.  Functional training participants had a 58% greater increase in strength, 196% higher improvement in balance, and a 30% decrease in joint pain over those in the fixed-form group.

Many athletes equate performance with bodybuilding; accordingly, individuals involved in endurance or flexibility-based sports do not strength train for fear of gaining too much bulk and losing flexibility, or they often will mimic the training of bodybuilders without adapting workouts to their specific sports. As a result, training can lack the performance benefits that proper functional training could provide.

Where did the idea of functional training come from?

Functional training has its origins in rehabilitation. Physical therapists often use this approach to retrain patients with movement disorders. Therapists design interventions to incorporate task and context-specific practice in areas meaningful for each patient, with an overall goal of functional independence. For example, exercises that mimic what patients do at home and work may be included in treatment in order to help them return to their lives and jobs after an injury, or surgery. Thus, if a patient’s job requires repeated heavy lifting, rehabilitation targets heavy lifting. If the patient were a parent of young children, it targets more moderate lifting, and re-building endurance is the focus if the patient were a marathon runner.

Careful consideration of the clients condition is a factor in all programs, including what he or she would like to achieve, and ensuring that the goals of a program are realistic and achievable. These are the principles Next Level applies to functional performance training.