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What is Functional Training?
It's a word that has been thrown around in the fitness industry for some time now and is often considered to be the 'in' way to train. But exactly what is functional training and why has it become so trendy?
Arguably, any type of training or movement that directly improves your condition to perform the task you're training for is functional. You might be thinking this is a fairly loose definition and you'd be right!
Functional training should really be thought of as the natural movements that we're designed to do. Our body is designed to squat, bend, lunge, push, pull, rotate and perform locomotion. If you utilise this rule in your training programmes you will undoubtedly be training functionally to get fit for life.
How do we train functionally?There are some main pointers to think about when you're looking to train in a functional way.
- Movements you perform should integrate the whole body and not just isolate specific muscles.
- Your training session should include movements that work across all planes of motion.
- You should always work with free weight equipment and not fixed machines, i.e. dumbbells, Kettlebells, bars, medicine balls and cables.
If you bear these points in mind when training you will achieve the following benefits:
- Good postural balance across the whole body.
- Reduced acute injuries, general pain and degenerative injuries.
- Better muscular balance and therefore better body shape.
- Increased performance for the activity or task you're training for.
Where to Start?Ask a Fitness Instructor to show you some functional movements, such as a squat, deadlift or cable wood chop and start to integrate these exercises into your gym sessions.
With training and good movement your body will develop and adapt to the new training stimulus. Overall, you'll improve your health and fitness out of sight!
The benefits of functional training and good movement are far superior to the benefits (if any) of using fixed weight machines. Whatever age or weight we should all be looking to implement functional movements and even if it is just using your own body weight, we can all do it!
THE REAL BENEFITS OF FUNCTIONAL TRAINING We hear a lot about functional and core training but is it just another passing "fitness fad" or should all of us be incorporating this concept into our exercise routines?
Having been in the fitness industry for more than 14 years I am convinced that the addition of functional movements into your current exercise routine will be one of the most important changes you could make for better overall fitness and good health.
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.
FUNCTIONAL TRAININGFunctional Training is nothing new, we have been moving this way for many years. Athletes and strongmen were lifting, bending and twisting hundreds of years ago. Functional training as a concept is to build on solid foundations what we have been around for many years. We are designed to move in this manner and so, training like this prepares us for our daily tasks and jobs. Functional training can be defined as movement or exercise that allows us to perform our tasks with better performance or efficiency.
THE BASE PRINCIPLES OF FUNCTIONAL TRAINING
- To train functionally we must firstly use functional tools, these are tools that allow our body to move un-restricted with no boundaries. They allow us to move in all planes of motion and integrate our whole body. The key concepts that we should try to achieve in our training are as follows:
- Movements should be multi-planar, working across all 3 planes of motion
- Movements should be integrated, so we are using our whole body
- Movements should be fully enriched, so we are challenging our brain as well as our body when moving
- We should aim to be standing on our own feet and getting contact with the floor throughout the movement. Our only point of contact with the ground is our feet so we need to make sure we train in this manner as well.
- Functional training should also have an element of fun in it. The body should be challenged physically and mentally when we exercise and functional training does this for us. Especially when we use exciting functional training tools.
THE BENEFITS OF FUNCTIONAL TRAININGThe benefits of functional training are vast. On short, you can pretty much achieve anything you want when training functionally. By choosing a variety of functional tools and selecting the right exercises, training variables and load for your goals, the vast majority of the major health and fitness goals can be achieved. You can train for:
- Flexibility and range of motion
- Muscular endurance
- Cardio vascular fitness
- Achieve a metabolic training effect which helps us strip body fat and get leant;
- Get an intense cardiovascular workout which will help improve our aerobic and anaerobic energy systems
- Train for sports specific fitness
- Help in injury prevention and injury rehabilitation
- Help improve posture
- Help improve our function and ability to perform everyday tasks
- Work with anyone, from the complete beginner, youth, older client or athlete.
FUNCTIONAL TRAINING IN THE FUTUREFunctional training will never really go away. It's just now people have put a name to this type of training. As the general public starts to learn the benefits of this type of training and realize that fixed machines are not all that good for us we are only going to see more growth in this area. We will have more and more gyms with big open functional training spaces where members can come in a move, play and have fun with their training. This is a very important part of the training, the experience we get when we train functionally is a fun one, full of challenges, mental and physical stimulations along with all of the other benefits.
Start expecting gyms to have functional training zones, group functional training on the gym floor and more members moving! It's a very exciting future and one in which our members are going to have plenty of benefits, getting a far greater experience from their club and this is what it's all about.
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