The Functional Training Myth

Functional Training has its benefits and should always be integrated to a certain extent in training programs, but it should not be the bread and butter of your workout routine. The word functional in front of training simply makes the point of giving the idea that the movement that will be done somehow has a function in the person’s life.

What is a functional movement though? Is a squat or a lunge functional or traditional? Well the answer to that depends on the application and how it is explained to the person. Here are a few examples of functional movements as related to our lives.

  1. Squat – The squat is the most important functional movement. Throughout life we squat for various reasons and we generate power from the gluts, quadriceps and hamstrings. We squat to take a seat; we rise from a squat when standing. We should be utilizing squats when picking up items from the floor both small and large.
  2. Box Step Ups – These are also functional as box step ups if taught correctly serves the function of increasing strength throughout the legs. When you think of stepping up, we use this movement often when walking up stairs. Think about it the next time you take the stairs two at a time. Your box step ups will make that movement easier during your daily stair climb.
  3. Rows – Strengthening the upper back is important to everyday functional movements. Upper back exercises help maintain better posture and alignment through the body. Carrying items require the back to engage to pull the shoulder blades back and keep the shoulder from impinging. We spend most of our lives forward over a computer or doing things that strengthen the front of our body much more than our back. This can lead to various shoulder injuries and postural issues.

These movements are all thought of as traditional movements, yet they serve a function in our lives. I point these things out because the next time your personal trainer mentions functional training and starts to have you doing all types of acrobatic movements like a side T plank with your leg extended, ask yourself is this applicable to my life? Not to say these things aren’t useful, but if your entire workout is built upon these types of body weight movements, then don’t expect to lose body fat, lose weight or shape and sculpt your body any time soon.

By Rich Thurman, B.Sc., MA, CSCS, CPT

Health & Performance Coach

Active Lifestyle Co. Ltd

With a degree in Physiology from UCLA and a Masters Degree in Sports & Fitness Management, Rich combines his knowledge of rehabilitation and sports performance as well as nutritional studies to provide a complete and holistic approach to training clients. The focus is on lifestyle change which creates long term health.


About Rich Thurman III B.Sc, MA, CSCS, NSCA-CPT
Rich has a Bachelors of Science in Physiological Science from UCLA and a Masters of Sports Management from USF. He is certified by the National Strength & Conditioning Association, (NSCA) as a Personal Trainer (CPT) and Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). He is primary author of The Fitness Library and writes for various other publications, including the San Francisco Police Officer's Association. Rich is the founder of Xodus Fitness, which offers Fitness Consulting & Personal Training, Urban Body Transformation Bootcamps, Corporate Wellness. Rich also conducts Workshops and an annual lecture at the San Francisco State University Kinesiology Department. Please feel free to contact through any of the links below to inquire about professional services or opportunities.

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