You've probably have heard the term "functional training", but you may not be exactly sure what it means, or what it can do for you. The key idea behind functional training is engaging in exercise with a purpose - to prepare your body for whatever movements you do in ordinary life, so that participants can not only conduct these activities easily, but without injury.
Functional training began with physiotherapists, who work to rehabilitate patients whose physical condition has become impaired. By engaging in exercises intended to echo the activities patients carried out before an accident or illness, physiotherapists help these clients to return to daily activity at work and home as quickly as possible. Physiotherapists' use of functional training is highly specific - wrist curls to return the strength to a wrist injured through Repetitive Strain Injury, for example.
But functional training is a powerful tool for use in healthy bodies too, and it is rapidly becoming popular with personal trainers.
Here's how it works. At a basic level, fitness leaders use multi-joint exercises to challenge clients and build their functional fitness. You've probably see group fitness classes packed with exercise bands, Swiss balls, free weights, or even suspension equipment. While using varied equipment breaks the monotony of repetitive exercise, helping participants stay engaged, the purpose of these props is much larger.
Creating an unstable environment in which to perform athletic activities challenges the body's core, increasing resilience and agility at every level. This approach to functional training significantly builds both participants' strength and their overall ability to excel in a range of daily activities - because the integrity and resilience of the body is all about the core.
In contrast to the traditionally specific functional exercises used by physiotherapists, the functional approach to exercise use in fitness training is so successful because it builds participants' coordination, endurance and strength regardless of their final goals. As a result, group-based functional fitness is a fantastic all round approach to fitness for anyone keen to improve their performance in any area of their life.
The true power of functional training, however, lies in its use by personal trainers. When the key concepts behind functional training are individualised and applied in one-on-one personal training sessions, participants reap all of the benefits of generalised functional improvement found in group functional training classes with the added specificity traditionally delivered by physiotherapists.
All good personal trainers assesses a client's' history and physical condition before setting goals that are realistic and achievable. A personal trainer specialising in the field of functional training then tailors the prescription to the client - a marathon runner focuses on increasing endurance, a body builder builds strength in key muscle groups - but always with an eye to the overall strength and resilience of the body's core.
In this way functional training improves performance, guards against injury and helps participants reach their goals faster. For those seeking to excel, functional personal training is the answer.