For some time, training rooms have included devices to perform Functional Work, even dedicating areas specifically designed for the execution of these exercises. You can also see that different gyms offer group classes focused on this type of training.
There are several definitions of what Functional Training is. In this post, we will seek to summarize what most of these agree on.
CONCEPTS USED IN THE MOST COMMON DEFINITIONS
There are several concepts that are used to define the Functional Exercises:
1: Functionality - These exercises are said to seek to train a "natural" motor function of the body. That is, to perform the movements for which evolution has developed our anatomy and biomechanics. In other words, it seeks to avoid making forced movements or those that compromise the integrity of the body
2: Daily Movements - Many definitions suggest that Functional exercises should be based on the movements we perform on a daily basis, helping to have more agile motor skills that avoid injuries from performing the activities we face daily.
This definition is very narrow, since nowadays the movements that we would consider as everyday are very few:
- When traveling, we usually only walk and, in the best of cases, we go up and down stairs.
- In terms of multi-joint movements, we are limited to sitting, bending (to pick up something from the floor) and lifting. Although we also go to bed, we do it on a bed every day, which does not involve a significant effort.
- Regarding movements with external loads, in daily life we reduce it to carrying bags and packages from the supermarket, to lifting our children (when they are still small) ...and normally we do not do these movements above our own shoulders.
From the above we can see that these movements do not offer much training versatility. While it is true that for many sedentary people it is important to work from this basic perspective, for those who already have a better physical condition it turns out to be very limited. Thus, this approach is valid for some people, but we cannot consider it as universal.
3: Kinetic Chains - Taking into account its biomechanics, the human body can be considered as a perfectly designed and coordinated set of simple machines (levers, pulleys, springs and shock absorbers), united in a synergy that prevents one hundred percent isolating part of the rest. For example, when making an effort with the arms, we will inevitably occupy the shoulders to support the arms in some way;
At the same time, we will use the muscles of the middle part of the body (CORE) to stabilize the shoulders and the hips will move to keep the centre of gravity of our body on the legs, which offer support to all activity. This combination of joints to perform the same movement function is known as KINETIC CHAIN.
Under this concept, the functional perspective, seeks to perform movements that involve the body in a more universal way, preferring more general movements over specific ones, that is, giving greater importance to multi-joint exercises than those that involve a single joint. Thus, we see that the best way to transfer the effort from one joint to another is always pursued, that is, following the most efficient Kinetic Chain.
4: Multidisciplinary - This concept is used to seek to adopt different specific exercises of different sports disciplines under the idea of involving movements of these activities that provide improvements in physical condition (Strength, Endurance, Power and Flexibility capacities) as well as in physical coordination (Capacities Coordination, Balance, Reaction, Orientation, Rhythm, and Re-adaptation). This approach has been the complete opposite of the concept of everyday life mentioned above, since all sports activities are not part of the daily activities of most people. In this way, we can see that both concepts complement each other.
By considering all these concepts and seeing the elements used in the vast majority of functional classes, we can summarize that:
- Functional Exercise - It is the exercise that, based on the natural biomechanics of the body, follows the kinetic chains that allow training the Physical Condition and Coordination, using from everyday movements to those of sports disciplines, giving preference to the movements of several joints over those of a joint.
- Functional Training - It is the set of Functional Exercises that make up one or more sessions focused on developing some physical capacity.
We see that, although there are many varied concepts that are used in the definition of Functional Training, we can make a summary with those points that are common in most of the definitions as well as the sessions practiced in the training rooms.
In future Posts we will talk about the many advantages of these types of training. Eventually we will also talk about different approaches, in which body movements are appreciated in a segmented way, focusing more on the stimulation of particular neuromotor units than on the work of an entire kinetic chain, also talking about its own benefits.
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