Functional training: what is it and what are its benefits?
If you’ve ever flipped through your gym schedule, you may have seen functional training sessions, but what exactly are they? Workouts designed to be functional.
In this case, functional exercises help you perform your daily activities and tend to use movement patterns that mimic your natural movements. Think squats, overhead presses, and pulls. These may at first seem confined to the gym environment, but when you compare this to sitting or standing in a chair, placing something on a shelf, or pulling a cart, you quickly realize that I’m starting to see similarities.
Plus, functional fitness training can be incorporated into your schedule anytime, anywhere, on any equipment.Whether you prefer calisthenics (bodyweight exercises) (opens in new tab)) or increase the load with the best adjustable dumbbells (opens in new tab) or resistance band (opens in new tab)functional strength training can also help achieve increases in these muscles and improve aerobic exercise.
We spoke with Jeff Hoobler, Strength and Movement Specialist at Wahoo Sports Science, to learn more about the benefits of functional training.
Jeff Hoobler is a cycling and strength coach with over 25 years of experience working with athletes of all levels, from beginners to world champions. He holds degrees in Sports Psychology and Exercise Science from the University of Kansas and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Additionally, he is his MAT (Muscle Activation Techniques) Therapist, Basic Training Instructor, and USAC Level 3 Cycling Coach.
What is functional training?
According to Hoobler, the term ‘functional training’ became popular in the late ’90s as people became more creative and started moving away from bodybuilding and linear movement patterns.
“Functional training is all about supporting activities outside of the gym,” he said. It’s become the new standard of being able to move with movement patterns.”
Functional training focuses on compound movements, a type of exercise that engages multiple muscles and joints together. Take the humble squat, for example. When you squat, your hips, knees, and ankles work through flexion and extension, and the “work” muscles (glutes). (opens in new tab) and quadriceps) facilitate movement along the hamstrings, calves, and erector spinae (muscles that support the spine).
And that’s before you consider your core muscles (opens in new tab) are playing to help out too!
Benefits of functional training
Hoobler tells Live Science that one of the main goals of functional training is to distribute the load throughout the body and engage different muscles. “This is a big departure from traditional training and bodybuilding, which focuses on isolating and bulking up muscles. (opens in new tab).”
“[With bodybuilding]you will have overdeveloped muscles, many underdeveloped areas, and very poor coordination. I have.
Functional training can be incorporated into your HIIT workout (opens in new tab) (if you want to increase the cost of attending a cardio class) or perform as a working set and reps that mimic a more traditional hypertrophy or strength training session.
Here are the science-backed benefits functional training:
Builds strength, balance and endurance
A systematic review of nine studies published in Frontiers found that: (opens in new tab)functional training significantly improves speed, strength, power, balance and agility, and moderate evidence suggests that it can also improve muscle endurance and flexibility. No, but this may partly play a role in the calorie deficit. (opens in new tab)with body reconstruction.
Prevents muscle loss
Wondering how to build muscle (opens in new tab)According to the European Aging and Physical Activity Review, this training style is essential for preventing age-related muscle atrophy (preventing muscle loss) and may be a preventive measure for late-life disability in older adults.? I have. (opens in new tab)
Another meta-analysis on the effects of functional training on functional movement published in MDPI (opens in new tab), which supports this. A meta-analysis found that strength training reduces aging in neuromuscular and functional capacity and increases muscle mass, bone density, and strength.
As discussed in the Journal of Ethnicity and Disease, compound exercises, traditionally used in functional training, strengthen joints and muscles, improve the ability to perform everyday movements, reduce tension and It may also benefit people who are unwell as it reduces the chance of injury. (opens in new tab).
Functional training not only improves muscle growth, but it also helps with other important aspects of fitness. (opens in new tab): balance and coordination.
“Functional training uses the resistance provided by different tools and looks at the ability to move these instruments in multiple different directions,” Hoobler told Live Science. Distributes load throughout the system instead of reducing joint range of motion.
“The beauty of this is that it becomes a more resilient system that tends to move with better coordination and timing.”
How to do functional training
“As far as load and resistance are concerned, we’re usually talking about lighter weights than traditional lifting because they move in multiple directions,” Houbler advised. Do not start a functional training session.
“Asymmetric loading mimics sports and activities such as carrying a fire hose. is built into what is called The goal is to be ready for any situation.
“Functional training is usually more aerobic than traditional weightlifting. Circuit-type workouts extend your body moving sets and compound exercises to build strength, endurance, and cardio. You can also.”
Free Weights vs Machines and Weights
Functional training uses bodyweight, free weights, or machines. Bodyweight functional training (also known as calisthenics) is a popular method because it allows for a flexible “anywhere, anytime” approach. It can also improve strength, according to a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. (opens in new tab).
In a small study of 23 healthy, moderately trained men, subjects were assigned to bodyweight push-up or bench press groups. Both groups were tested in areas such as muscle thickness, maximum number of repetitions (1RM), bench press, and push-up progression, and trained three times a week for four weeks before and after the study. The group also significantly increased 1RM and push-up progression, but the improvement in the bodyweight push-up group was significantly greater.
The battle between free weights and machines continues, but the pros and cons are laid out in a roundtable posted by the National Strength and Conditioning Association. (opens in new tab)Free weights generally require large musculature for support and stabilization and can “easily simulate real-world lifting movements.” It also requires a greater range of motion and muscle activation patterns.
Machines have their advantages (e.g. they provide resistance at all stages of the lift and make them beginner-friendly), but they tend to be less recommended when performing functional exercises.
It’s often better to use free weights or your own body weight to reinforce your functional exercise routine and sprinkle on isolated exercises.
“A well-thought-out functional training plan supports healthy movement, helps your body distribute and accept loads from different angles, and helps you become stronger and more resilient while reducing the risk of injury. We will make it happen,” said Hoobler. “If you want to move in dynamic patterns and improve your balance and coordination, you need to make functional training part of your game.”
Ready to try a functional workout? The best at-home training equipment (opens in new tab) Start challenging yourself to functional fitness and weight training at home (opens in new tab)We promise to improve your performance.
This article is not intended to provide medical advice and readers should consult a doctor or health care professional before adopting any diet or treatment.