The Benefits of Functional Training

What Is Functional Training?

There’s been an explosion in functional training in recent years. There are many proponents of functional training in the health and fitness industry today advocating the benefits of this style of training.

If this concept seems foreign to you, stick with me as give you a simplified version which you can assimilate. What does functional training mean? Functional training must incorporate the following attributes:

1. It must support the person by not detracting from their vitality. The exerciser must move toward training not detraining. Many people are guilty of this.

2. Functional exercise supports a means to an end approach. Stacking hay bales, lifting and stacking stones are a few examples. The movements must be specific to your sport or work duties.

3. Every exercise must have a physiological reason for its choice. It must take you toward the fulfilment of your desired goal, not detract from it.

4. The exercise choice must enhance one’s mental, emotional and spiritual aspect. They must not be harmful to the individual for aesthetics to prevail.

With this in mind, functional training is becoming more readily integrated in health clubs around the world. Despite the fact that bodybuilding is still common in gyms, it is universally accepted that functional training has wider benefits.

If you’re training for purely for aesthetics and have a background in exercise physiology or a related discipline, you’re in a valuable position. It is vital for the human form to move in various planes or permutations. The benefit of functional training is that it allows you to move in three dimensions. Your joints articulate movement in all three planes. It’s essential that you exercise so.

The humble ‘chair’ has become the cause of injuries and ailments. People spend hours sitting at a desk without taking regular breaks. In my speaking engagements, I regularly advocate that people drink water consistently throughout the day. Not only does water nourish the muscles, organs, spine and connective tissue, it allows the person to take regular breaks to the rest room; thus promoting movement.

I’m sure you’ve seen the following image below on t-shirts and in magazines. The image highlights man’s evolutionary path toward de-evolution via the chair. I’m saddened to see young people spend countless hours sitting in front of televisions and the computer, without regular breaks. Your glute muscles (bottom) are neglected when you sit for prolonged periods. Gluteal amnesia is the term coined to describe the inhibitory loss of function of the glute muscle. In other words, your bottom forgets how to work properly as a result of excessive sitting. Why are your glutes an important muscle?

Your glutes serve a number of functions. They are the de-accelerator of the knee in forward motion. They are the stabiliser of the hip and the hinging mechanism between the upper and lower extremity. In my practice, I mostly attend to people suffering low back pain as a result of a faulty hinging mechanism. They’re unable to extend themselves properly from a flexed position. Instead of the glutes being the powerhouse of the muscle system, the low back bears the load. Your low back is not equipped to handle the stress or load of repetitive forces and movements you subject it to.

Functional training allows you to move as nature had intended you to. Have you ever noticed the Eastern practice of Tai Chi or Qi Gong? The movements apart from being graceful and elegant, allow the participant to move in three dimensions. There is a good deal of hand and leg movement which facilitates circular rhythms in tune with one’s breathing. This allows the muscle’s natural movement, as well as tonifying the organs and meridians within the body.


My suggestion is to include more functional movements in your training. Don’t just stand in front of a mirror and perform two-dimensional workouts next time you’re at the gym. Apart from being incredibly boring, these exercises do nothing to raise your metabolism and place repetitive strain on your muscles. Such movements may often lead to overuse injuries.

Functional movements on the other hand, allow for bigger movements in all three planes. Your limbs move, accelerate and de-accelerate allowing maximum caloric expenditure during training. My clients irrespective of age, perform functional movement patterns regularly during their training. My oldest client at sixty-four, performs many of these movements akin to that of a twenty year old. He feels energised and invigorated following each workout and remains injury free.

If you’ve struggled to lose weight by performing the same routine on the cardio machines – STOP now! Find a well-trained health professional in your area. If you’re part of a gym, ask for a complimentary session from a qualified trainer versed in functional training. Most are willing to give you a FREE complimentary session. Have them take you through a workout after discussing your goals and undertake a comprehensive assessment.

You’ll walk away feeling energised than your previous workouts. You’ll notice muscle soreness in parts you never felt before. The internet is an amazing resource. Conduct a search using functional training as the key words. Look up video clips on the topic if you wish to learn more. There’s a plethora of information out there readily available at the click of a mouse.

Start with basic movement patterns. If finances are tight and you cannot afford a trainer, conduct your due diligence and research the topic independently. Speak to people who are knowledgable in the area. In no time, you’ll achieve the body you’ve always wanted. You’ll be injury free and move with the suppleness of an athlete – instead of a robot. Nature intended you to move with such grace and suppleness; not like a ticking clock. So get started now and add some spice to your training regimen.


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