What about Functional Training?

28 January 2021

What about Functional Training?

What about Functional Training?

In the world of Fitness, the so-called “Functional Training” is in fashion! It’s taken as a miracle training type with faster and more effective results than other forms of training called “Non-Functional”.

But after all, what makes a Training be functional?

It is quite common in the literature on this subject that the use of certain groups of exercises with well defined characteristics (such as stabilization, coordination, balance) and specific materials (such as cables, elastics, balls medicine, fitness, Bosball) with the aim of improving a specific function (transference to everyday skills is referred to).

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From the technical point of view, the traditional assumptions for a Functional Training include:

1. Integrate chains | Not isolate muscles
2. Integrate joints | Not isolate joints
3. Use equipment with freedom of movement | Don't t use guided machines
4. Use instability for greater proprioceptiveness

Let us consider, in a simple way, the aforementioned assumptions:

Integrate | Not isolate: When it is said that functional is integrating and not isolating, it should be retained that the Whole depends on the function of each Party. To integrate we must first evaluate each part of the body and only after ensuring that a given structure is fit for a specific function can we think of integrating chains and joints. Thus, the Functional training will be the entire process and all the exercises that compose it until the function improves.

“Free” exercises | Guided machines: There is a growing sense that guided training machines (conventional machines in a weight room) are inadequate and that equipment with freedom of movement is the method of choice when it comes to functional training. The essential of this argument is based on the belief that the force obtained through movements that are defined by the machine is not transferred to the daily abilities, whereas the movements with free equipments are the decision of the performer and for this reason they are “more functional “Because they will result in more” transferable “force gains. However, we must remember that “We are the ones who train and not the machine”! Starting from a simple view that anything I do that improves my physiological condition is Functional we can already conclude that all exercises (with guided machines and / or with free equipment) can be Functional.

Consider the following practical example: The “Leg Curl” machine that exists in all gyms. Is it a functional exercise? Yes! Doing the “Leg Curl” improves the ability of the posterior thigh muscles to do leg flexion, extension, and external rotation of the thigh. So this is a Functional exercise performed on a guided machine!

Proprioception: Proprioception can be understood, in a simple way, as the awareness of the movements produced by our members. In a more technical approach, it refers to the uninterrupted flow of sensations that originates in body receptors, located in muscles, tendons, and skin. The important thing to keep in mind is that this flow is continuous and unconscious. Thus, it is wrong to call an exercise in an unstable structure of “exercise of proprioception”, even if it causes the intensification and alteration of proprioceptive afference. The mistake is to consider that only unstable-based work has an effect on proprioception when any exercise (indeed, any movement) will have this effect, insofar as it modifies the baseline. Instability, on the other hand, impairs exercise intensification by reducing the application of force and range of motion, which can compromise gains in strength, muscle mass and power. Thus, instability may not have benefits, so it may not be functional.


The mere selection of exercises does not make a Functional training. For a workout to be functional, all of the stimuli applied to the body during a workout must be appropriate to the person and to their purpose. In this sense, it is affirmed that there is no functional and non-functional training, since, provided the assumptions are assured, all exercises can be framed at some stage of the training and generate the desired adaptation to a specific task / function.

By Abigail Fonseca, Personal Trainer

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