Traditional “weightlifting” exercises generally target only one muscle for each exercise. Functional training exercise generally targets more than one body part with each movement or exercise. Functional training emerged primarily from the sports conditioning and rehabilitation world. Functional training refers to the type of exercises that contribute to better, more efficient and safer performance of real world activities or sports movements.
The short list of functional training benefits are:
- Building “inner strength”
- Improve balance
- Improve range of motion
Functional training allows you to work your muscles on different planes (hitting different angles) and building strength in those “stabilizer” muscles as well as the main target muscle. Machines are pre-set using only the muscle and angle that the machine allows. Multi-plane exercises are more complex movements and more closely mimic movements that are used in everyday life.
The easy way to begin to add functional movements to your training is to simply write down what you do every day. What are your physical challenges? If you’re a secretary you may find that your legs and back ache at the end of the day from picking files from the floor. These would be your first areas to target. Don’t think of fitness as something that is done only in a gym. By simply taking advantage of your every day movements you can turn your office or home into an effective functional training area!
For more formal exercise, stability balls, resistance bands with handles or simply beginning to do some of your training on an unstable surface will be a good introduction to more functional training. Remember, it’s always safety first, make sure you consult with your physician before starting any physical program and ask a certified personal trainer to help you get started if you’re unfamiliar with any new piece of equipment or training method.
I invite you to apply just some of the principles of functional strength training to see where it takes you. I’m convinced that by adding functional training to your current conditioning program you will begin to see tremendous results.