Currently Functional Fitness and Functional training seems to be the buzzword these days and Functional Training Centers are opening up everywhere in India. Gyms are focusing more on functional training than traditional equipment. We ourselves have been witnessing an increasing number of calls and queries from men and women who want a functional trainer. In the fitness industry like all other industries, the phenomenon of ‘crazes’ and trends affects almost everyone from time to time. Currently it is in the area of ‘functional training’.
Most people in today’s world are currently engaged in one-sided activities in their jobs which requires them to perform the same limited motions day after day. The general lack of movement along with poor posture and decreased fitness results in a poor quality of life. The idea of Functional training is to go “back to your roots” and away from extreme sports and extreme weight loss and go back to balanced exercises that focus on increasing your well being and prevent disease.
Good functional training exercises draws on tried and tested training principles and combines them in an effective and efficient manner. It adopts the body’s natural tasks, movements and functions and creates movement patterns from regular everyday life in order to balance body, mind and spirit and to create long term balance in your life. Functional training’s goal is to wake up your body and mobilize it for the rest of your life! This is done through:
- targeted movement of your entire body’s muscles and joints
- targeted movement and activation of the spine
- activation of the neurological system
- activation of the nervous system, and
- activation of the muscular system
Functional training exercises make people stronger, more powerful and draws from many training principles and philosophies. Let us now Define Functional Training.
Definition of Functional Training
Functional training is a revolutionary training method first codified in the US but with roots that goes back in time. Function means carrying out an action for which someone is specifically equipped. Training denotes a complex process that induces altered development by processing stimuli. To summarize one could very well say that – Functional Training is a training regime that develops or practices movements that the body was made to achieve an altered and improved state of being. Training is always relative to the individual’s age, weight and goals. You can train a sportsman so that he is able to develop speed, strength and endurance and to execute in a better way all the movements associated with his sport while an older woman would need to develop leg strength and coordination to be able to walk up the stairs to her third floor apartment.
The Human body is complex work of art. There is a constant interplay between the various body systems and their individual parts that enables the functions that defines our day to day lives. The human body is still evolving and who knows what shape it will be in 50,000 years from now. But with it’s present day construction, we are currently adapted to the current environment. Functional training follows 5 global principles:
- Integration not isolation. Functional Training is about complex movement sequences which do not just isolate individual muscles but entire muscle groups the way they are utilised in daily life.
- Multi-dimensional approach. Training movements mimics patterns from daily life that require the use of multiple joints on different planes.
- Quality over quantity.
- Make use of the body’s own stabilisers especially those involving core stability instead of external stabilisers such as benches or chairs.
- Correct compensations and dysfunctions in one’s body.
Being aware of your body and increasing your coordination skills are crucial parts of functional training. Functional training also emphasizes on muscle and joint mobility – areas that unfortunately still do not get enough attention. Mobility is important for good quality of life and injury prevention.
Fundamentals of Functional Fitness
The central nervous system, the nervous system and the muscle system apart from the skeletal system are the 3 main systems that provide the functions of the human body. These systems form a symbiotic relationship. To understand thee interdependence of these systems take for instance the example of a car. The engine will not work without the fuel supply and ignition which in turn is useless without power and the cooling system. Then there is the transmission, the chassis, the wheels and the tires. The body of the car is useless without the above mentioned systems. All these systems combine harmoniously to form a car with the functions that we all expect when we sit down in it to drive. If we removed the technology and it’s inter-connectedness we would be left with the car’s bare shell. We must therefore understand the importance of the individual systems because each system becomes a problem to the whole when it ceases to function effectively.
Similarly in the human body, the individual organs are interconnected directly or indirectly much like the wires and parts of a car. Almost all the organs inside our bodies are in contact with each other and are protected through a framework of cartilage and bone.
What can Functional Training Accomplish
Incorporating functional training into your current fitness routine can be one of the most important steps you can take towards achieving basic health and fitness. Endurance, properly-dosed strength, and flexibility are the cornerstones of physical performance. When you hit a gym and perform traditional weight lifting, you are only focusing on one muscle per exercise, whereas functional exercises tend to work on multiple body regions and muscle chains.
The most positive effects of functional training are:
- increased (inner) strength,
- improved, optimized basic stability along with flexibility (mobility),
- increased quality of life and balance, and
- improved body awareness.
A good functional training program can help you increase your performance capacity and decrease your susceptibility to stress and pain. Functional training makes muscles, fascia and your joints more healthy and more stable. Functional training will work on your muscles through different plans and angles targeting stabilizer and fixator muscles. Gym workouts on the other hand are preset and only allows your body to move within predictable angles and planes. Additionally in a gym, the upper and lower body are often trained on separate days. Multiplane exercises are more complex and more accurately mimic the movements of our daily life.
Just like you brush your teeth everyday, you should do the same for your bodies and thereby “remove the rust” through functional training!