Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What is functional strength?

I have heard the term before:  "functional strength."  I've always kind of "gotten" the idea...look, what's the point of doing traditional bicep curls when you will never in your life lift anything that way?  We talk about it all the time in Twirly Tuff, especially since pole dancing requires the use of different muscles than most traditional workouts.  So I thought it would be a good topic for today.

What is FUNCTIONAL strength (or functional strength training)?

Since there are a million websites out there on this very topic, I thought it would be easier for me to just post a few good definitions.

Common Motions - Utilize motions that are more common in your every day life. For example, how often do you find yourself lying on your back and lifting something heavy over your chest? Probably the only time is in the gym doing bench presses. Instead, work on more common movements or change the exercise to perform it from a more common position. With bench press some examples include push-ups, standing cable press, or even punching motions with a stretch band or cable machine resistance.

In many respects, functional strength training should be thought of in terms of a movement continuum. As humans, we perform a wide range of movement activities, such as walking, jogging, running, sprinting, jumping, lifting, pushing, pulling, bending, twisting, turning, standing, starting, stopping, climbing and lunging. All of these activities involve smooth, rhythmic motions in the three cardinal planes of movement-sagital, frontal and transverse.

Exercises that isolate joints and muscles are training muscles, not movements, which results in less functional improvement. For example, squats will have a greater "transfer effect" on improving an individual's ability to rise from a sofa than knee extensions.

Exercises performed on most traditional machines tend to be on the low-end of the functional-training continuum because they isolate muscles in a stabilized, controlled environment. While it may be true that traditional, machine-based exercises are not the best way to transfer performance from the weight room to the real world, it does not mean that such exercises should not be a part of a training program.

For example, "non-functional," single-joint exercise can play a critical role in helping to strengthen a "weak link" that a person may have to restore proper muscle balance. Furthermore, doing such an exercise can allow an individual to more safely and effectively participate in functional-training activities while also reducing the risk of injury.

So if you've heard the "buzz words" functional strength and didn't know what they meant, hopefully this sheds a little more light on the subject.

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