Functional training has its origins in rehabilitation. Physical and Occupational therapists often use this approach to retrain patients with movement disorders. For sessions at The Studio by Absolute Pilates programs are designed to incorporate tasks and content specific to practice in areas that are meaningful to each client, with an overall goal of functionality.
In this form of training exercises will mimic what clients do at home or work may be included in training sessions in order to help them return to their lives or jobs after an injury or surgery. Thus if a client’s job requires repeatedly heavy lifting, sessions would be targeted towards safe lifting, if the client was a parent of young children, it would be targeted towards proper lifting and endurance, and if the client was a marathon runner, training would be targeted towards re-building endurance. However, sessions are designed after careful consideration of the client’s condition, what he or she would like to achieve, and ensuring goals of treatment are realistic and achievable.
Functional training attempts to adapt or develop exercises which allow individuals to perform the activities of daily life more easily and without injuries.
In the context of personal training, functional training involves mainly weight bearing activities targeted at core muscles of the abdomen and lower back. Most fitness facilities have a variety of weight training machines which target and isolate specific muscles. As a result, the movements do not necessarily bear any relationship to the movements people make in their regular activities or sports. We plan our sessions to not use any machines but small props and body weight.
Functional training does not necessarily have to involve weight bearing activities, but can target any task or a combination of tasks that a patient is having difficulty with. Balance training, for example, is often incorporated into a client’s training plan if it has been impaired after injury or disease.
Functional training, if performed correctly, will lead to better joint mobility and stability, as well as more efficient motor patterns. Improving these factors decreases the potential for an injury sustained during an athletic endeavor. performance in a sport. The benefits may arise from the use of training that emphasizes the body’s natural ability to move in space. In comparison to training done on machines which appears to be safer to use, they restrict movements to a single plane of motion, which is an unnatural form of movement for the body and may potentially lead to faulty movement patterns or injury. In 2009 Spennewyn conducted research, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research which compared functional training to fixed variable training techniques, this was considered the first research of its type comparing the two methods of strength training.
Results of the study showed very substantial gains and benefits in the functional training group over fixed training equipment. Functional users had a 58% greater increase in strength over the fixed-form group. Their improvements in balance were 196% higher over fixed and reported an overall decrease in joint pain by 30%.
Components of a functional exercise program
To be effective, a functional exercise program should include a number of different elements which can be adapted to an individual’s needs or goals:
- Based on functional tasks directed toward everyday life activities.
- Individualized – a training program should be tailored to each individual. Any program must be specific to the goals of an individual, focusing on meaningful tasks. It must also be specific to the individual state of health, including presence or history of injury. An assessment should be performed to help guide exercise selection and training load.
- Integrated – It should include a variety of exercises that work on flexibility, core, balance, strength and power, focusing on multiple movement planes.
- Progressive – Progressive training steadily increases the difficulty of the task.
- Periodized – mainly by training with distributed practice and varying the tasks.
- Repeated frequently.
- Use of real life object manipulation.
- Performed in context-specific environments.
- Feedback should be incorporated following performance (self-feedback of success is used as well as trainer/therapist feedback).