The buzz about functional training
An intense workout that’s not for everyone
Function as defined by the Oxford Dictionary is ‘an activity that is natural to, or the purpose of a person or thing’. If, we extrapolate this definition to the fitness scenario, then logically, functional training should be designed to replicate a natural activity.
However, in the real world, functional training has many interpretations. It’s often touted and promoted as a mix of explosive, ballistic, visually very attractive and complex activity. That works great for competitive and elite athletes and may help jingle the cash registers at many a gym.
What we don’t consider is that many of these activities, promoted in the name of ‘Functional Fitness’, maybe well be beyond the capacity of the average Geeta or Vijay and could cause injury. This is not to say, that such an intense form of exercise isn’t beneficial, or that it’s bad or wrong. On the contrary! It’s very beneficial for some individuals—mainly athletes—who need explosive or ballistic strength to improve their function in their individual sport or activity. That could be classified as sport specific functional training and may involve a complex combination of movements aimed at improving their sporting function.
Let us pause for a moment and ask: ‘What are OUR natural activities?
The activities of daily living, such as walking, jogging, running, climbing stairs, lifting, pushing, pulling and twisting, to name a few are all the actions and activities we have to perform to go about our daily lives. It is a combination of coordinated movements of our body in a specific synchronicity, which we take for granted. I believe, that in the name of Functional Training, we need to train these patterns of movement for strength and neuro-muscular co-ordination. These exercises should be multi joint, movement-based activities that replicate normal human movement, whether for the elite athlete or for the rehabilitating elder. Normal day-to-day activities are performed in all planes of movement and incorporate all types of muscle contractions, and as such, Functional Training should be based on these principals.
Functional Training is movement based and challenging, but it should not replace regular strength training exercises performed on traditional equipment where muscles are stabilized and isolated. Often, it’s essential to strengthen the weak link in the chain, which can be effectively be done by isolation movements.
In conclusion, I would like to say that be smart and train smart. Combine Functional Training with traditional strength training, but understand and decide what ‘Function’ means to you and work towards that objective. Hire the services of a qualified professional to guide and assist you.