What Is Functional Training and How Can It Benefit You?

By on November 6, 2017

 

What is Functional Training?

Functional training is a buzzword that is hot at the moment in the fitness industry, it gets thrown around a lot. But what does it mean? And can you be ‘functional’ whilst training for a purely aesthetic goal?

Let’s look at the definition of what functional training is first.

The American Council for Exercise (ACE) defines it as “performing work against resistance in such a manner that the improvements in strength directly enhance the performance of movements so that an individual’s activities of daily living are easier to perform.”

So to put it straightforward, functional training is training that attempts to mimic the specific physiological demands of real-life activities.

Based on that definition and how sedentary most people are, that would encompass very little. The average city worker sits down on a chair, walks to a station, walks up the stairs and may occasionally carry a heavy bag. They certainly wouldn’t be chucking weights above their head or jumping over boxes. This is where the subject is up for broad interpretation. You could argue that jumping, running, crawling, pushing and pulling are all movements that could be used in every-day life. So, therefore, would need to be included in the functional training, even if they weren’t explicitly used every day. My view would be that functional training should encompass movements that aren’t necessarily performed every day. But could be implemented in an everyday activity.

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But even with that said would a bodybuilding style of training encompass ‘functional’ training?

 

Bodybuilding is a type of training based purely on aesthetics. Most people that step inside the gym have the goal of looking better. So, therefore, would follow a bodybuilding style of training. Bodybuilding is perceived as a very non-functional style of training. As it is very isolated with the movements and muscle groups, which don’t carry over to real-life activities. But let’s step back a little and look at the bigger picture. Bodybuilding training still uses compound movements like squats, deadlifts, bench press, pull-ups and overhead pressing. These movements would cover all movement planes. Take for example squats; this move would run through the sagittal plane, dumbbell shoulder press would run through the frontal plane, and the bench press would run through the transverse plane of movement.

All of these movements would carry over to the real-life activities as well, helping the individual to move better. Squat variations would improve vertical jump height. Barbell presses would enhance standing pressing power. Pull-ups and rows would improve grip strength and pull power. Overhead pressing would strengthen the individual to lift anything above their head.

 

 

Bodybuilding style of training still uses isolated movements but usually, they come after performing the compound movements. Bodybuilding style of training often work on weak points or work on ironing out any imbalances in the body. Ultimately resulting in better movement patterns.

Summary

It boils down to how the training program is structured. A good bodybuilding program that works on all the muscle groups should be functional. So don’t assume that bodyweight or even a CrossFit style of workout is superior to a bodybuilding training regarding functionality. A well-structured bodybuilding program should provide ample functionality in the individual. That they can use in real-life activities that not only makes them stronger and fitter. But which reduces the chance of injury and will make them look good down the beach.

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Alex Mateus

About Alex Mateus

Alex is a personal trainer in the award-winning central London PT studio - Shaping Change. He is also a boot camp instructor, nutritionist and Pro Fitness model.