What is functional training?

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In the fitness world, the term “functional training” is often bantered around, with most people not knowing what this actually means in relation to what they do or how this may affect their training or general day to day movement patterns. Wikipedia defines functional movements as “…movements based on real-world situational biomechanics. They usually involve multi-planar, multi-joint movements which place demand on the body’s core musculature and innervation.”
So what does this mean in today’s society?
To exercise functionally, we need to perform movements that imitate the actions we do on a daily basis. For example –
• Lifting children
• Doing the washing
• Carrying the groceries,
• Mowing the lawn
• General household duties
There is a role in using weights as long as they incorporate funtional movements or at least, by the end of the routine, have invioved all three planes of movement as will be explained.
Functional training attempts to imitate the day –to- day movements of the individual. If you analyse 99% of people’s movement they will move along three planes:
1.Sagittal Plane (divides your body into left and right) : Movements to the side of the body, moving to or away from your mid-line. E.g Lateral Raises
2. Frontal Plane (divides the body into front and back) : These movements involve the push-pull motions and/or rotational movements. Common actions you may know of e.g. the bench press and the woodchop are included in this plane.
3. Transverse plane (divides the body into top and bottom): These movements include knee and hip flexion and front raises. Functional training originated as a form of injury rehabilitation with exercises that are relevant to the movements of everyday life. Many traditional workout programs limit performance in specific hobbies, sports or daily movements, but functional fitness develops basic motor patterns to work at a higher capacity. Each functional exercise uses complete muscle activation and a purposeful movement pattern which allows for maximum strength gains.
Traditional weight training often only works one muscle at a time which is contradictory to the normal coordinated effort used to complete most activities. This type of training is more likely to lead to overuse injuries, muscular imbalances, and limit movement and strength gains.
The table below gives you a summary of the differences between tradtional weight training and functional training. I am sure after reading this you will realise that the benefits of  functional training  far outweigh those of traditional weight training for most if not all people.

Traditional Training Functional Training
 Focuses on one muscle at a time
 Seated or supported position
 Overuses forward/backward plane of motion
 Slow movement speeds for machine reps
 Not related to movements of everyday life
 Results in tightening of muscles
 Un-challenging postural situations
 Range of motion restricted
 Develop more bulging, bulky, swollen muscles
 Can lead to muscular imbalances/overuse issues
 Controlled and less effective movement pattern
 Shortening of muscle tissue
 Use of many muscles simultaneously
 Need to stabilize self
 Uses all three planes of motion equally
 Mirrors movement of every day life
 Core muscles actively engaged
 Allows for maximum strength capacity
 Improves posture and body position
 Complete activation of muscles
 Longer more natural looking muscles
 Helps prevent injuries
 Purposeful movement pattern
 Lengthening of muscle tissue

At Alive Personal Training, functional training is what we do. There are no machines. The programs are mutli-planar and work over more than one group of joints. This creates a much more effective and  beneficial program. We like  to challenge clients to “switch on their core” by changing their base of stability and their center of gravity. The equipment we use can be as simple as a hill, a step or ones own body and we can also involve equipment such as Fitballs, BOSU balls or the TRX.

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