Most of you have probably heard of the term “functional training.” Maybe it was in a magazine, at the gym, or even from your trainer. But what does this term really mean, and first and foremost, why should we be adding functional training to our workouts?
The best way I can define functional training, or functional exercises, is that they are movements that are done by us as humans in everyday life. By doing these exercises and training the body to do these movements, we will get stronger in any and all activities we would normally do on a day-to-day basis. Functional training involves full-body movements and incorporates multiple muscle groups, just like the things we do in our everyday life. Because more muscle groups are involved in each exercise, we need to have more neuromuscular control in order to perform that exercise. In other words, that specific exercise will be harder for you to perform and will require more concentration, balance, and energy.
This type of training is also considered multiplanar (which means moving through different planes of motion), and not isolated, which is working through a single plane of motion to isolate a certain muscle group. A good example of this would be to picture yourself performing a lunge with a dumbbell shoulder press, as opposed to just sitting on a machine and performing a leg raise, or leg extension. Obviously, you can figure out from the example which exercise will be more challenging.
Lastly, I would like to touch on the fact that functional training is a great way for you to maintain or even increase balance. As we get older, we want to be able to have good balance, as well as strength, not only to lead a more productive life, but also to prevent falls and injuries that may occur. Functional training should be something we all should be incorporating into our workouts, whether we are an athlete, avid exerciser, or just somebody that wants to live a healthier life.
Written by Tony Bieri, General Manager and Fitness Director at Elite Sports Club-Brookfield