What is functional training?

Vrouw aan het sporten op strand

This cross-training method started as a form of physical therapy and is now used by military personnel and athletes. It offers many health benefits; functional training.

How did it start?

To excel physically, you need to train functionally. By incorporating functional training into your fitness routine, you can build strength that supports your performance. This information can help you with that.

Functional training is a style of exercise that mimics everyday movement patterns. Carrying heavy groceries home from the car or crouching down to pick up your toddler takes strength. With functional training, you practice movement patterns that help you perform better in the gym and beyond. The idea is that when you make these movements often in your daily life, you can perform them better thanks to your workout.

Functional training began as a form of physical therapy to help injured athletes recover, and then gained popularity as an effective cross-training method. Today, functional training is the benchmark for both military and athletes.

The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command recognized the usefulness of functional training in preparing soldiers for the duties they must perform in war. Their training sessions include pushing, pulling, lunging, changing direction, jumping, and more. That is the basis of a functional training workout.

What are the benefits of functional training?

1. Functional training improves sports performance

When you include functional training in your workouts as an athlete, you can ultimately perform better than ever. Increased body strength, stability, and improved range of motion leads to better athletic performance, which is why functional exercises are so common in specific sports training.

For example, box jumps can increase your sprint speed for soccer, and medicine ball chest throws can help you get better punching power in boxing. These functional movements target specific motor patterns relevant to your chosen sport. This way you build strength, power and mobility that you can also use outside the gym.

2. Functional training helps prevent injuries and leads to faster recovery

Functional training helps prevent injuries and leads to faster recovery. Imbalance and asymmetry in common movements cause physical weakness and make you more prone to injury. Strengthening functional movement patterns that use multiple muscle groups at the same time teaches your body to work harmoniously, helping to smooth out weaknesses or natural imbalances and aid in injury prevention.

3. Functional training has a low impact

Functional training is low-impact and often involves only bodyweight exercises. That makes it an ideal option for those recovering from an injury and for beginners, pregnant, or older adults. Low-impact functional exercises include:

These exercises, among many others, do not put any strain on your joints and can be easily adapted to your current capabilities and fitness level. Functional training often uses body weight, dumbbells or kettlebells, so you can do such workouts at home.

4. Functional training leads to better mobility and coordination

Good mobility means that you are able to perform movement patterns without limitations. You have a lot of freedom of movement and control over your neuromuscular functions and enough strength to move. Functional training teaches your body to work as a unit, improving body awareness and coordination, leading to greater flexibility.

5. With functional training you break the routine

If you are done with the bicep curls followed by sit-ups, bench presses, squats and deadlifts with a barbell, then functional training may be something for you. Performing a certain number of sets and reps with weights in the gym can get quite repetitive. Why don’t you try something different?

Here are some examples of unique functional exercises:

  • Bear Crawl
  • Push-up against the wall
  • Rope climbing
  • Crab reach
  • Pulling/pushing sled

6. Functional training improves muscle strength

Any activity you perform in or out of the gym will be easier with stronger muscles. Strong muscles are powerful — a combination of strength and speed. Doing these explosive exercises will build functional strength and improve muscle building:

  • Box jumps
  • Lateral step-ups
  • Squat jumps with a break
  • Heavy throws with medicine ball
  • Bodyweight vertical jumps

7. You burn fat with functional training

Functional workouts can be very high intensity. Exercises like the one above stimulate strong muscle fibers in several large muscles and that has the biggest impact on your metabolic rate. You may be wondering how many calories you burn with functional training — and the answer is: a lot! The more muscles are activated during a workout, the more energy you expend. The contraction of larger muscles consumes more oxygen and energy, leading to the burning of extra calories.

Why is functional training important?

Our bodies are designed to move rather than sit still. But we often drive to work, hang out in front of the TV, and often sit at the computer for a long time. Often we only move during our workouts, as a result our body becomes stiff and prone to injury. Functional training helps to loosen the muscles and tendons, so that you become more mobile and active. This allows you to reverse the effects of your sedentary lifestyle.

By doing functional exercises, you remind your body what you have it for: to move! And not by unnaturally bending one particular joint, but by practicing movement patterns that are ingrained in our human DNA. So don’t become sedentary, tense and unbalanced: with functional training you can feel strong and fit again.

Functional fitness is an important indicator of your overall health and well-being, making functional training fun, suitable for beginners and effective.

Source: https://www.nike.com/nl/a/wat-is-functioneel-trainen