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If you are the type who really wants to see your exercise routine have some practical value, functional training might be your strong suit.
Functional training has its roots in rehabilitation; physical therapists developed a series of exercises that mimic what patients do at home or work in order to help them return to their lives or jobs after an injury or surgery. For example, if the patient was a frequent runner, training would be build around exercises designed to rebuild endurance and if they undertook lifting as part of their employment, lifting would be incorporated into the rehab routine.
Functional training involves mainly weight bearing activities that target the core muscles of the abdomen and lower back. Instead of using machines that restrict motion to one direction, functional training uses equipment that calls for freer movement, increasing strength in the stabilizing muscles and improving balance.
Various types of equipment are used as part of functional training. These include:
All equipment is designed to put tension on the muscles (forcing them to develop microscopic tears which then heal and build denser, more robust muscle fibre) and to stretch connective tissues, improving their performance and your agility. However, practitioners emphasise that the goal of functional training is to think of exercises in terms of flowing motions rather than individual muscles and to work towards improving overall movement during progressive activity. Think quality not quantity.
Functional training is especially good for athletes who put themselves at risk of overuse injuries, but anyone can benefit from building better core muscles and improving their agility. Functional exercises can result in better muscular balance and posture, increase joint stability and help keep stresses on your spine to a minimum (promoting better spinal condition and health). All in all, moving better and pacing exercises will mean there’s less chance of you needing joint replacements due to wear in later life and could also help prevent self inflicted injuries (as your body will be better equipped when you over-stretch to reach that shoebox on the wardrobe’s top shelf).
Kettlebells (that are often used as part of functional training) have been used in Russia since ancient times to build strength, flexibility, and endurance.