“When we lose the ability to move in full and uninhibited ranges of motion, the quality of life, sport, and work are decreased.” Annette Lang, Reebok Alliance
Functional strength training has recently become a major buzzword in the fitness and sport industry. Even though this type of training has never dissappeared from the very beginings of organised workout routines, fitness industry and innovative strategies (e.g. weight machines) have made this training approach less popular, especially in the last 20- 30 years. Luckily, many things have now changed in the field of sports. People are becoming more aware of functional training and its importance for overall well- being. A holistic and functional training approach has been recognized among both recreational and sport-related strength and conditioning coaches. As the title already explains, the goal of functional training is to induce positive effects in daily physical activities. When referring to sports, this functional transfer will help athletes to enhance many motor abilities and skills needed for their sports. During functional training, the main focus is on correcting and improving basic movements such as squating, lunging, pulling or pushing coupled with good core exercises for stability and balance. One of our previous blog posts was called „Train movements, not muscles“ which reflects the motto of functional training. Having that in mind, we follow the principle of human existance: If made to move, keep on moving well!
The aim of this article is to point out why the functional approach is needed when talking about effective and efficient strength and power enhancement.
1. Motor skills development
In order to successfully develop motor skills, constant coordination challenges should be implemented when exercising. Coordination is a very complex ability and is also called motor inteligence. Therefore it deterimines all motor skills development. Functional training follows the multi – planar and multi- joint approach which is a brilliant way to develop and enhance motor ability such as coordination.
2. Motor abilities enhancement
We have already mentioned one motor ability enhancement in a previous chapter. The tremendous benefit of functional strength training lies in its development of many other motor abilities- such as strength, power, flexibility, stability & mobility, proprioception and balance. Load and speed are the categories that will dictate strength/ power improvement. Moving in different ranges of motion will challenge and improve dynamic flexibility, mobility and stability. Coordination demands will have a positive effect on proprioception and balance development.
3. Musculoskeletal system stress reduction
Every muscle action creates certain stresses on muscle tendons, bones, nervous system or other structures of the musculoskeletal system. Proper movement functionality (i.e. moving technique) is presented through efficient energy costs (minimal energy leaks) within the stress limits each body can sustain. Overstress comes in situations where poor technique leads to great energy leaks in the body. Leaks usually have an impact on different body structures such as the neck, lumbar spine and knees. All three structures should be stable when moving but during dysfunctional moving they become less stable which can lead to pain. Have you asked yourself sometimes why you feel pain in your neck or lumbar spine after a hard day at work? Have you thought about optimal balance between the body segments and muscle function?
4. Injury prevention
In a previous chapter we have mentioned microtraumas caused by energy leaks that can lead to overuse syndrome. However, lack of functional movements may also lead to acute injuries (i.e. macrotraumas). Poor squating, lunging, landing from a jump or any other impaired basic human movement can lead to severe damage of the musculoskeletal system, starting from muscle ruptures to ligament tears and broken bones. A woman who lifts up a heavy load from the ground at home with poor squating patterns can seriously damage her lumbar spine. A man who recreationaly plays basketball with poor lunging patterns can easily damage ligaments and meniscus structures in his knee. A professional athlete with poor landing from a jump can injure their ankle or tear groin muscles. In order to prevent serious acute injuries, one needs to strive for quality movement patterns.
5. Mental well- being
Last but not least, it is important to note that movement functionality has a positive effect on mental health. Moving freely without putting excessive stress on some body parts can improve your mental calmness as well as your productivity at work and home. Being annoyed at work when sitting with pain in your neck and spine or feeling tense when walking back home from work with lower back ache does not need to happen. It is up to you if you want to get rid of that pain. Not by taking painkillers but by making your body a functional whole.