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What is functional fitness training?

21st May 2012

In simple terms, functional training means performing exercises that mimic movements you would do in real life, outside of the gym.  Your muscles and joints have to work together to perform daily activities such as walking, running, lifting, pushing and pulling. You would not call on just one muscle group, like your biceps, to lift a heavy box from the floor. You would need to engage your spinal stabilizers and shoulder girdle, hip, knee, and ankle joints, and all the muscles in between (including your biceps) to pick the box up. For this reason, a squat with a biceps curl is a functional exercise because it mimics the multi-joint, multi-muscle movement your body needs to make while executing daily tasks.

Although the machines used for strength training at the gym have their place in your exercise routine, they are considered non-functional exercises because they require you to strengthen an isolated muscle in a stable environment. Functional training strengthens movements, not isolated muscles. Functional exercises also require you to use your core muscles to stabilize yourself, as you would have to do when you lift something heavy from the ground or put your child in the car seat. Weight training machines do not have any relationship to movements people make in their lives outside of the gym because they do not require you to stabilize yourself, and they do not teach your muscle groups to work together.

There are endless functional exercises that you can do at home with little to no equipment! Try doing a lunge with and overhead press or a plank with a dumbbell row. You will be strengthening many more muscles doing these compound, functional exercises than you would doing a seated leg press or row at the gym.

For more information on functional fitness you can check out these websites:

http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/working-out-for-real-life-functions

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/functional-fitness/MY01378

http://www.funfitnj.com/functional%20.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Functional_training

http://www.acefitness.org/fitnessqanda/fitnessqanda_display.aspx?itemid=285

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