Functional Training for Ultimate Performance

Read any respectable strength and conditioning journal and the topic of functional training comes up. It is becoming so popular that even many of the bodybuilding and general fitness journals make reference to it.

If you are one of those people that believes that you need to do endless sets of biceps curls or leg extensions on a machine to get strong then this approach may give you a headache. If you are afraid to lift weights because you think you will get big (“hah!”) and only want to “tone” then it’s time to educate you a bit more.

You may be asking yourself what I'm talking about by now. Conceptually it's all pretty simple. Basically functional training is any training that serves a specific purpose. That purpose depends on your life, your daily routine, and in most cases, your particular passion.

For the athlete this type of training will lead to better performance. For anyone just trying to get back into shape this type of training will give you that and so much more. If you are a fitness professional (i.e. personal trainer) and are not training your clients this way, at least some of the time, then you may eventually lose those clients to someone that does.

For many new to the concept of functional training it seems that anytime you stand on something that wobbles you are training functionally. That is not usually the case, unless of course you are a water skier. In order to have a positive effect the training we do should mimic the general movement patterns that we will encounter in life.

Functional training, in my opinion, is athletic in nature. This is usually accomplished with very simple “tools”. This training requires us to engage a variety of muscles in a single exercise or movement pattern. This type of training looks at the body in an integrated way, the way it was designed to work.

Sitting on a machine does not require you to engage the core muscles to stabilize yourself. Training one joint at a time, like a knee extension or a biceps curl, while helpful at times, will not help you run faster or be more agile.

The body’s joints and muscles were not designed to function in isolation. If you think I’m full of it try brushing your teeth using ONLY your elbow joint and biceps muscle. If you succeed you probably have an extra long neck and are using an electric toothbrush…oh, sorry, you need to hold the toothbrush with your hand and will use the muscles of the fingers and forearm.

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