Functional fitness, functional training, and functional exercises are all terms that are becoming quite popular in the fitness industry. But what do they really mean? The functionality of an exercise is highly individualized. What is functional for one person, may not be for another. This makes the term “functional” highly controversial.
In my opinion, there are some universal truths associated with functional fitness training that trainers and coaches can use as a baseline for deciding which exercises will help their athletes and clients function at their best when they are outside of the gym. Here is my list of functional fitness standards that I adhere to when planning a personal training session for my clients:
- 7 Primal Movement Patterns – Your clients should be squatting, lunging, pushing, pulling, bending, twisting, and walking/running/sprinting (gait) on a weekly basis.
- 3 Planes of Motion – Clients should be strengthening through the frontal, sagittal, & transverse planes of motion.
- Increase Cardiovascular Endurance
- Increase Muscular Endurance
- Strengthen Core Musculature
- Correct Postural Imbalances
- Improve Balance, Stability, & Flexibility
I think that most people can benefit from training sessions that meet these standards. They are a great starting point for personal trainers to use when developing exercise programs for their clients. But I do not believe this list is the end-all-be-all of functional training. Trainers and coaches need to look at each individual client on a daily basis and decide which exercises will help them function optimally outside of the gym.