Functional Training

What is functional training?

Functional training helps provide you with the strength, stability, and mobility you need to thrive in your life and sports. You use basic functional movement patterns like pushing, pulling, hinging, squatting, rotating, carrying and gait patterns—walking and running—every day. Functional training utilizes exercises that improve your movement proficiency in these primary patterns to give you an edge so you can achieve your goals safely and with good health. 

At Elevate we typically recommend functional training to pregnant women or clients recovering from injuries or illness as a replacement for standard endurance or strength training. The reasoning is that it’s best not to push a person’s body to engage in exercise that it can’t currently handle.

For athletes, functional training is a way to improve a person’s repetitive motion, like a golfer or tennis player’s swing, a surfer’s pop-up, or lateral movements for skiing or snowboarding. TRX Suspension Training is, in itself, a form of functional training. Suspension Training destabilizes your body, forcing your core and joint stabilizers to step up to the plate to keep you from toppling or buckling during a move. As you train your muscles to get better at firing up under those shaky circumstances, you’re improving your balance and stability, which will help you avoid injuries over time.

How do I apply functional training to my life?

The key to effective functional fitness training is simulating the actual activity that you’re training to improve. There should be a focus on doing similar types of contraction (eccentric, concentric, or isometric), speed, range of motion, and level of coordination. The closer the exercise mimics the actual activity, the more effective the training. For instance, if you’re an active person who spends a lot of time on a bike, functional training would include exercises that simulate the movements and strengthen the muscles used in biking.

Although exercise machines are a popular method for strength and fitness training, most, such as a leg extension machine, tend to focus on one area of the body and don’t mirror actual activity, as well as a functional exercise. Functional training comprises the movement continuum, meaning that it involves all the systems that work together to perform an activity. If you want to become a stronger biker, you don’t just work on your quads—they’re only one component of the entire system recruited to pedal a bike.

Are there different types of functional training?

Anyone can gain physical benefits of functional training. A few specific groups reap serious rewards from both high-impact and low-impact styles of this training method. Regardless of your fitness goals, abilities, or limitations, functional training should be a part of your exercise routine. You plan to live a long, healthy life, so start preparing your body for the journey now.