Functional training may be best described as exercise with a purpose. It is training that involves multi joint movements to help enhance one’s function in sports performance, fitness development, occupational performance, or activities of daily living. Functional training trains movements, not muscles. Human movement can be broken down into five primary movements which include:
- single leg (single leg stance)
- squatting (bending and lifting)
- pushing (in vertical and horizontal planes)
- pulling (in vertical and horizontal planes)
- rotational movements
It is common to find a combination of these in our daily activities, so it is important to train them.
Single Leg Movements involve weight transference over the stance leg, while preserving optimal alignment among the hip, knee and foot. We use single leg movements everyday when we walk or run. Exercise examples are lunge variations and step-ups.
Squatting movements are initiated by hinging at the hips and bending at the knees while maintaining a neutral back. Whenever we bend over and lift something up, we are engaged in this movement pattern. Exercise examples are squat and deadlift variations.
Pushing and pulling movements are self explanatory. They can be done in horizontal and vertical planes. Pushing exercise examples are push-up, overhead and horizontal pressing variations. Pulling examples are pull-up, pull-down, and horizontal rowing variations
Rotational movements are required in sports and everyday activities. It is best to rotate from the hips and not from the low back. This will help spare your spine. Exercise examples are wood choppers and hay balers.
If you haven’t given Functional Training a try, then I would encourage you to do so. Choose one exercise from each of the five primary movements to create a full body workout. You will get stronger, move better while improving your body composition. Another benefit of training this way, you can work multiple muscles in one movement. There are a lot of strength training programs available that are based upon bodybuilding principles and muscle isolation.
There is nothing wrong with bodybuilding, but as endurance athletes, we are always striving to be more efficient. It is not necessary to isolate specific muscle groups and that will save you time in the weight room, which means more time to be out on the trails!
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