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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Martin

What is 'Functional Training'?

Well other than a fitness industry buzz word used to hype up various fitness products.

Functional Training is effectively any exercise that serves a function or purpose, therefore most exercise can be seen as functional in some context. That however is exactly the point it is only functional if it helps you to achieve YOUR goal. Prior to the term Functional Training becoming popularised we used to talk in the fitness industry about specificity and what is meant by this is that the exercises given to a client should be specific to helping that client achieve their goals.

We are not all the same we do not all have the same goals.

Is there any point in me making a cyclist who wants to improve leg strength run for 20 minutes? No!

Do I make a client with a knee problem do chest exercises? Probably not unless it is part of other goals they might have.

Do I teach them how to go up and down stairs in a way that will reduce knee pain? Yes!

Do I get them to do core and postural work? Yes because it helps them to improve balance and posture which will reduce stress on the knee.


And that obviously depends on your goals; do you want to lose weight, bulk up, get faster, get stronger, be more flexible or something else. There are exercises and techniques to help you achieve all these goals and many more.

You yourself probably do not sufficiently understand how the human body works and how to exercise it best to get the results you want. So employ a personal trainer to help you.

Generally speaking free weight and cable exercises are more functional than machine weights because rarely in life do you push or pull something whilst sitting down and rarely are things perfectly balanced. Machine weights can be functional if their purpose is to help teach a movement pattern or to build enough strength in an area to move on to doing free weights.

Kettlebells, Vipers, Core Bags can all have their place in exercise routines but are they functional for most people? Probably not.

And some exercises are never functional or even recommended and yet still I see them taught and performed. The classic example of this is the Lat Pull Down, it can be a very functional exercise when performed correctly especially if the aim is to improve shoulder posture and alignment, the bar should always come down to the collar bone in front of the body. NEVER behind the neck. Just think about it, you would never pull yourself up as in a chin up like that as the function of the movement is effectively to pull yourself up to climb onto something. If the something was behind your neck you could not climb onto it. Our shoulder joint is not designed like that and repeatedly doing behind the neck lat pull down could lead to neck and shoulder/rotator cuff problems.

So have a think about what your goals are, what do YOU want to achieve? Then think about the exercises you are doing, do they help you to achieve YOUR aims? Does the movement in some way replicate a movement you would do in your normal or sporting life? If you need help which you probably will unless you are a trained fitness instructor or personal trainer ask for help.

You can call or email me on the contact details at the top of the page.

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