TRAIN WITH PURPOSE TO PERFORM BETTER.
Functional training should be a staple in everyone's exercising routine. It enhances overall health, movement and self-understanding of the body and for ten years, I have watched my clients improve their condition and performance through this type of training.
I train 40+ professional athletes worldwide; as well as teenagers, pregnant women, non-athletes, older people and more - and no matter the individual's objectives or fitness level, each client has gained from the benefits of functional training.
What is functional training?
Functional training focuses on 'purpose' through movement patterns. The purpose of your training depends on your age, fitness level, current health and goals - so a workout could be sport specific to enhance the performance of an athlete or it could be focusing on bettering the movements that people make in daily life such as lifting a child, standing up out of bed or reaching for a highly placed object. Essentially, functional training improves the performance of everyday movements and the quality of your life.
Functional training focuses on:
Some examples of functional exercises:
8 Health benefits of functional training
1. Uses your body efficiently
Strengthens multiple muscles groups at the same time
Think about how you use your body during sport or in daily life. You generally do not execute many movements that only involve one muscle. So why spend hours at a gym training an isolated muscle group?
Functional training focuses on compound movements by engaging all parts of your body with better efficiency. The functional techniques are not isolated exercises such as a bicep curl where you would only be working your arm muscles.
For example, when you correctly execute a plank exercise, you are strengthening your core and abs, arms, glutes and legs; improving your posture and alignment; and enhancing your endurance and stability. This exercise improves your overall strength in a limited amount of time and enhances your body's capacity to work efficiently and effectively.
2. Increases coordination, agility & balance
Stabilized and stronger movements
Functional training promotes the use of your own body weight to perform various ranges of movements. Just like in the real world, there are no machines to support your body so you need to rely on your balance while coordinating your body through the movements. This allows your body to become more stable as it works against external forces.
For example, a soccer player needs exceptional coordination, agility and balance to control the ball, pass and run while fighting off opponents and dealing with uneven surfaces. A person of an older age can benefit from adequate balance and coordination to avoid falls and injuries. Good control of coordination, agility and balance gives you a better quality life.
3. Prevents injuries
Stronger prevention, quicker recovery
Functional training first began as a way to prevent and rehabilitate people after injuries. Functional exercises help keep your joints active and stable which promotes a better quality life.
One of the most common injuries in athletes and non-athletes are in the knees and ankles due to the inability to change direction quickly and deal with stress on the joint. By training with good technique, using your own body as stabilisation and incorporating joint strengthening exercises throughout your workouts; your injury prone areas can deal with high impact movements that are needed in a game and in everyday tasks.
As I mentioned before, functional training also works your entire body as opposed to in isolation. So if you are training your entire body, your body will be better prepared for stress or impact as an entire unit, as oppose to overcompensating/overworking one muscle group.
4. Strengthens your core
The foundation of training and life
Functional training is all about core! Your abdominals, hips and scapulars are the muscle groups that need to be strengthened to maintain stability. So many functional exercises incorporate your core muscles - even if the focus is on another part of your body. Engaging your core is super important as it increases your stability, protects your organs and central nervous system, strengthens and reduces pain in your back, prevents injuries and improves your posture. Who doesn’t want that?
Watch Now: Full Body Core Workout with me!
5. Increases flexibility & mobility
Reach (literally) for optimal movement
Functional training involves a lot of movements that consequently requires someone to incorporate their flexibility and mobility. Full body movements include loosening body parts such as the hips, chest and back; or stretching out the extremities to create space within your body. Your muscles will be creating and releasing tension through loosening and contracting.
For example, in the workout video below, simple exercises like Frontal Kicks allow you to increase power and explosiveness; but also develop mobility in the hips and flexibility in your hamstrings. The flexibility and mobility element reduces risk of injury and allows your body to move more freely during the movements of training and everyday life.
6. Improves posture and decreases back pain
Better your body alignment
Back pain or discomfort is very common these days. People are more sedentary than ever, many are working at a desk for most of the day and we are all on our phones constantly.
Functional training focuses on strengthening the core and increasing mobility to enable better support and stability throughout your spinal cord and back muscles. Think about it... if your training incorporates the use of your entire body, then every part of your body has the capacity to offer greater support to other parts of your body. Developing strength and stability in your hips, core and back promotes better posture. Better posture decreases back pain. It’s a circle of wellness!
Read More: Best Back Pain Relief Exercises!
7. Increases speed and power
Get faster and more explosive!
Everyone wants to be faster and stronger and functional training will help you get there! You can become more powerful if all parts of your body are training and moving.
Great exercises to develop speed and power include jumping squats, push up variations and explosive lunges. To reap the speed and power benefits of these exercises, a combination of explosiveness, muscle control, balance, agility and coordination is needed.
As you focus on these elements of training, you develop greater control and explosion in your movement while changing directions and changing speed more fluidly.
Read More: Speed, Explosiveness & Power Training
8. Develops mindfulness
Better understanding of your body
The emphasis of functional training is to use your body as a weight and as a force. If you are doing exercises that rely completely on your body, you tend to become more in tune and responsive to how you feel during a workout, instead of relying on external forces to tell you how you feel.
For example, if you are doing the Side Plank, you need to think, see and feel how your body is set. Are you hips forward and your gluteal muscles tightened to prevent back pain? Is your chest open and hand in line with your torso so you maintain good posture? Are your feet flexed to give a good stretch in your calf muscle?
Adjusting these techniques involve concentrating on how you feel during the exercise - and having this awareness of your body is priceless as it increases self-respect and self-understanding.
So there you have it! 8 of the many benefits that you can see and feel with consistent and correct executions of functional training exercises. Think about the purpose of your training and how the movements you do in the gym can help your movements on game day or in real life.
Before you train, remember: