Chatswood Trainer explains the benefits of functional training

In the fitness world the term functional training is often bantered around, with most people not knowing to what this actually means. In relation to what they  do or how this may affect their training or general day to day movement patterns. One of our main focuses for our Outdoor Group Training and Personal Training clients on the North Shore is to make sure all our clients’ have multi-planar movements in their programs.
Wikepedia defines functional movements as “…movements based on real-world situational biomechanics. They usually involve multi-planar, multi-joint movements which place demand on the body’s core musculature and innervation.”
So what does this mean in today’s society? To exercise functionally we need to perform movements that imitate the actions we do on a daily basis.

For example

  • lifting children,
  •  doing the washing,
  •  carrying the groceries,
  •  mowing the lawn,
  •  general household dutiies
  • gardening
There is a role in using weights as long as they incorporate funtional movements or at least, by the end of the routine have invioved all three planes of movement as will be explained.
Functional training attempts to imitate the day-to-day movements of the individual. If you analyse 99% of people’s movement they will move along three planes:

1.Sagittal Plane(divides your body into left and right) : Movements to the side of the body, moving to or away from your mid-line. E.g Lateral Raises
2. Frontal Plane(divides the body into front and back) : These movements involve the push-pull motions and/or rotational movements. Common actions you may know of e.g the Bench press and the woodchop are included in this plane.
3. Sagittal plane (Divides the body into top and bottom): These movements include  knee and hip flexion., front raises.

Functional training originated as a form of injury rehabilitation with exercises that are relevant to the movements of everyday life. Many traditional workout programs limit performance in specific hobbies, sports or daily movements, but functional fitness develops basic motor patterns to work at a higher capacity. Each functional exercise uses complete muscle activation and a purposeful movement pattern which allows for maximum strength gains.
Traditional weight training often only works one muscle at a time which is contradictory to the normal coordinated effort used to complete most activities. This type of training is more likely to lead to overuse injuries, muscular imbalances, and limit movement and strength gains.

The table below gives you a summary of the differences between tradtional weight training and functional training. I am sure after reading this you will realise that the benefits of  functional training  far outweigh those of traditional weight training for most if not all people. I am not dismissing the reason(s) people may participate in more  the more traditional weight, however if you do enjoy this avenue of training make sure you are training all planes of motion so as to not create muscular and movement imbalances.
          Traditional Weight Training Functional Training
Focuses on one muscle at a time Use of many muscles simultaneously
Seated or supported position Need to stabilize self
Overuses forward/backward plane of motion Uses all three planes of motion equally
Slow movement speeds for machine reps Mirrors movement of every day life
Not related to movements of everyday life Core muscles actively engaged
Results in tightening of muscles Allows for maximum strength capacity
Un-challenging postural situations Improves posture and body position
Range of motion restricted Complete activation of muscles
Develop more bulging, bulky, swollen muscles Longer more natural looking muscles
Can lead to muscular imbalances/overuse issues Helps prevent injuries
Controlled and less effective movement pattern Purposeful movement pattern
Shortening of muscle tissue Lengthening of muscle tissue

Functional training creates a complete program and gives the correct balance to all muscles in all movement directions.