“Functional training” has become one of the buzz words in the health and fitness industry in the last several years. So, what is functional training? Functional training involves exercising the body in ways that prepare it for activities of daily living. Physical therapists were the original teachers of functional training, as the method is used to help patients recover from injuries or surgeries and return to their normal activities that they need to perform at home and work. In the context of the fitness world, functional training helps you to be able to perform activities of daily living safely and more efficiently. If your typical activities involve sports, functional training can also be applied to help you improve certain skills that you use in the sport.
Functional exercises tend to involve multiple joints and muscles. Most functional training is performed while weight-bearing and likely involves muscles of the hip flexors, abdomen, and back. A great example of a functional exercise is the squat. The squat involves both the hip and the knee joints and activates the primary muscles of the quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteus maximus. As secondary stabilizer muscles, the erector spinae, transverse abdominus, abductors, adductors, and calf muscles are also activated with the squat. The squat can easily be applied to daily activity as it mimics being able to sit down and get back up. There are numerous types of functional exercises, including the deadlift, pull-up, push-up, lunge, kettlebell swing, and any number of compound movements, such as a squat to overhead press.
Exercises that are performed on machines tend to be at the lower end of the functional training continuum because machines isolate muscles and joints. That is not to say that machines should never be incorporated into workouts, as there are good uses for isolating muscles at times. However, if you are hoping to strengthen your body in a way that allows you to apply the strength to your everyday life, you definitely need to incorporate some functional training into your workouts. Come check us out at the Tough Spot Gym to learn more about functional training!