What Is Functional Training?

The term functional training is used a lot in the gym, between training buddies or over a post-workout catch-up, but what does it actually mean?

It may sound like the new fitness buzzword, but functional training has been making its way into mainstream exercise techniques for the last ten years – and its here to stay.

Functional training involves the use of exercises that mimic the same or similar movement patterns as everyday life activities, helping to make those activities easier and injury free.

Where does functional training come from?

Functional training originates from rehabilitation, and it’s an approach used by physical and occupational therapists to retrain patients with movement disorders. By choosing exercises that mimic the same movement patterns of what patients did at home or work, treatment can be used to help them return to their everyday lives or jobs after an injury or surgery. But functional training isn’t only for rehabilitation patients; we could all do with some help to make life activities easier!

Chances are that you don’t live to exercise. For most of us, exercise is a way to maintain or improve our quality of life, and that’s the focus of functional fitness. Functional training challenges balance, strength, agility, range of motion and the use of core muscles. It can utilise both body weight and weighted exercises, which makes it a training style that can be adopted by all ages and fitness levels. It’s easily adapted for individual goals and needs.

What type of exercises are functional?

Functional exercises include multi-directional movements – because everyday life is not always only about moving forwards and backwards. We also move side to side, up and down and with twists and turns. Moving this way helps to increase our range of motion, promotes good spine health and helps to develop our core strength.  Using multiple muscle groups at once during exercise challenges the cardiovascular system to work harder, increasing cardio fitness levels as well as promoting increased strength, improved flexibility, increased energy burn and maximising workout efficiency.