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The Function of Functional Training

Posted by Patrick Curtis | Feb 12, 2015 1:42:07 PM
What is “Functional Training?” The term describes exercises that require the mind and body to act or function together, using multiple joints, muscle groups and coordination to perform activities like those that occur in everyday life such as getting into and out of a car or lifting groceries. When we exercise in general, we ask the body to perform tasks that are demanding or at least somewhat difficult. The marvelous human body responds to these demands of exercise by getting stronger and by enduring activities longer. Most traditional exercises, such as bench press, occur in linear or straight lines/planes of movement. The idea behind functional training is to place demands on the body while at the gym that recreate those encountered in daily life by adding additional planes of motion and more than one moving body part.

Many typical exercises may be modified slightly to become “functional,” for example, adding a semi-squat to a standing row requires the body to move, stabilize and then perform an isolated muscle action. Using a stability ball and dumbbells for a chest press in alternate with a plate-loaded bar and flat bench is another example of adding functional training to a traditional exercise, requiring additional balance and stability in addition to the original muscle action of the “lift.”

Due to a recent rise in popularity of functional training, many devices and equipment have been developed to challenge the mind and body while doing exercise. Wobble boards, foam pads, and stability balls are just a sample of the many “toys” designed for functional training you may see around the gym. These devices make it easy to challenge balance, stability and movement and they encourage CORE strength beyond the demands of traditional exercises. Despite the many great options for equipment, adding functional training to your routine does not require any sophisticated equipment at all. Simply standing on one foot equals a challenge of the body’s ability to sense and recruit the muscle actions necessary to correct and maintain the balanced position. A progression of this simple exercise would be balancing on one foot after stepping forward from a lunge position, then add a dumbbell biceps curl and you have a three-step functional modification of two traditional exercises: lunge & arm curl.

Getting help with functional training at the gym is easy. Join a group fitness class that includes resistance training & core stability or work with a personal trainer to incorporate functional movements/exercises into your current routine. Improving your balance, core strength and body awareness will increase your enjoyment of exercise and activity and will improve the way you move.

 


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Written by Patrick Curtis

Patrick is The Alaska Club's Director of Fitness & Member Relations, with 20+ years experience in personal training, group instruction & administration.

 

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