The term “functional training” in the fitness world often brings up images of trainers having their clients stand on wobble boards or balance on fitness balls. Unless balance and stability is your “weak link” however, focusing primarily on these activities won’t significantly improve your functionality.
The idea of functional training stems from physical therapy, in post-injury or post-surgery rehab, for example. Often in these situations, the muscles of the affected joint are weakened or do not fire correctly. In many patients, therapists find that the core musculature – the muscles that support the hip/spine complex – are also weak and inactive. This has led to the very successful application of balance work to help correct poor movement patterns, strengthen injured joints, and prevent future injuries.
Physical Therapist Carolyn DiCarlo, MSPT, CMPT, of Performax Physical Therapy in Littleton, CO, notes “Our bodies don’t generally function in one-directional motions, and we don’t encounter the same challenges in ‘real life’ as a gym ball or a wobble board on a daily basis.” In a physical therapy setting, she adds, “functional training is really about strengthening a person into a particular task using multi-planar exercises, varied surfaces to produce different ground reaction forces, and concentrating on firing the deficient muscle groups in concert. And you need to do it thousands of times to over-ride your existing motor patterns.”
The functional training paradigm quickly took root in the athletic world, with strength coaches finding that by improving joint and core stability in their athletes, they improved overall performance.
But how much is enough? Does balance work ever stop being functional? In part 2, we’ll examine the role of functional training, and what it means, for healthy people trying to get fit.
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Ask the trainer: Behind the neck exercises?
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Ask the trainer: Will protein make me gain weight?
Q: I’ve been told to eat protein six times per day. Won’t that slow down my weight loss?
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For more info:
Performax Physical Therapy on the web
Visit Jonathan on his website at www.defylimitations.com