Saturday, September 19, 2015

Demystifying Functional Training

To understand what Functional Training is, let's break the word.. It's really simple and self explanatory. Training done to get better at a specific Life function is precisely what Functional Training is. 

The origins of Functional training lie in Sports Rehab /general Rehab /recovery Training.
In a rehab program, Training was done to improve day to day Functional movements like Walking, Turning your body , Pushing , Pulling etc. Typically movements that one performs in their day to day actions.

These movements i.e. Running, Jumping, Turning, Twisting , Bending , Lunging etc. are performed in the 3 planes of the Body movement i.e. Sagittal ( Plane Dividing the body into left and right) , Coronal/Frontal ( Plane Dividing the body into front & back)  and Transverse ( Plane perpendicularly cutting the body).

Example of movements performed in each of the planes: 
  1. Saggital Plane : Running, Squats,Bicep Curls
  2. Frontal Plane: Lateral Raises, Side bends
  3. Transverse Plane: Push ups, Bench Press, Twisting of the body , Discuss throw action

Discuss Throwing action

Example of one body ( Biceps)  part in all 3 planes:    
  1. Saggital Plane : Standing Bicep Curls
  2. Frontal Plane: Cable Side Biceps 
  3. Transverse Plane: Concentration Curls
    Standing Bicep Curls
Cable Side Bicep Curls

Concentration Curls

So, outside the Gym, our body performs , all kinds of movements in all the three Planes of Motion.
Hence, it only makes sense to train your body in all planes of motion through movements that go across all the three planes, movements that are natural to the body and mimic daily natural movements. 

Let me give you a simple example of Traditional vs Functional Training: 

Take into consideration , an exercise for working your triceps , that you see a lot of people perform in the gym... The Tricep Kickback.

Here's how it's done:

Now, there's nothing wrong with doing this exercise except that it's not required !
I'll tell you why it isn't required. Because it isn't Functional. How many times in the real world , outside the gym are you going to be using this movement..? Never! That's because the movement is going beyond the Body's natural average Range of Motion.
Now you may say, "What if I want to hand over something to somebody standing behind me?"
To that I'd say , you should turn around and hand over .

Now, if you turn around and hand over something to somebody, it will result in the following action:

This action is nothing but a front raise...So, if you want to get stronger in handing over things to people, do Front raises instead of Tricep Kickbacks.

On a serious note, let's do an apples to apples ..

To work your tricep functionally consider these exercise: 

The Tricep pushdown: 

The above movement is very functional and you will see yourself performing this movement every time you sit.. get up.. at times with one hand.. or at times with both .

Another functional exercise for the triceps is: the close grip Push up (close grip push ups)

Again, you'll see yourself performing this action frequently, while lying down.. getting out of bed pushing a door ( you're standing, but the movement and action is the same) etc. This too is a very functional exercise. 

Any movement that mimics your regular day to day movements is a Functional Movement,
The goal of any fitness program should be to get you Functionally Fitter. Functional Fitness will improve your quality of life and make you stronger & efficient at performing routine tasks.

Disadvantages of Traditional Training : 
  1. Fixed Range of motion. Specifically on using Machines 
  2. Not mimicking daily functional movements
  3. Can lead to muscular imbalances
  4. Shortening of Muscles
  5. Partial activation of muscle fibres
  6. Works only a specific muscle
Advantages of Functional Training: 
  1. Mimicking the body's natural daily movements
  2. Complete muscle activation
  3. Engaging more number of Muscles including the ones supporting the main exercise
  4. Improves posture 
  5. Results in development of Longer and more Natural looking muscles 
  6. Helps prevent injuries

Consider another example: Squats vs Leg Extentsions

Leg Extension

Both , Squats as well as Leg Extensions, majorly target the same Muscle i.e. the Quadriceps
  1. The Squat is what will make you stronger and easier at getting up from the Sofa 
  2. Squat will simultaneously work the Hamstrings, the Glutes, Calves and loads of other small Muscles that work to support the Squat movement & execute it correctly
Any functional exercise/movement, will activate maximum number of Muscles to successfully execute a purposeful movement. 

So find out or invent functional movements to perform and get stronger to work towards your goal of getting stronger for a specific purposeful movement instead of sticking to traditional training. 

All the Best!


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