Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What Is Functional Training?

More and more people have goals of improved everyday life rather than big gains in size and strength.  A new style of training includes exercises that mimic everyday movements called "functional training."

Most traditional exercises involve single muscle groups in a single plane.  Functional training utilizes more muscles groups in several different planes.  While traditional training will enhance absolute strength and hypertrophy, functional training will improve functional strength, stability, and coordination.

For example, someone who picks up a load of laundry and places it on the washing machine may perform a medicine ball squat with a twist (pictured) to utilize similar muscle groups and planes.  Another example is performing asymmetrical step-ups with a medicine or dumbbell on one side to closely resemble carrying a child up a flight of stairs. 

Not ready to give up your traditional exercises?  No problem!  You can combine traditional exercises with functional exercises to design a well-rounded routine.  For example, a back squats followed by asymmetrical step-ups OR bench press followed by one-arm cable press.  Just remember, when performing functional exercises, always progress from a more stable environment to a less stable one. Also, increase the difficulty by involving more muscles groups and more planes.

For beginners, some of these "functional movements" may initially seem awkward.  However, after repeated bouts of the same exercises, your muscles will coordinate and adapt to the challenge of functional training.  Good luck and happy lifting!

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