|A lot of equipment to accomplish very little.|
We hear this buzzword a lot, nowadays - either as a marketing tool ("Come in and do FUNCTIONAL training...!") or as an oversimplified/under-educated descriptor ("I do FUNCTIONAL training...!"). And more often than not, we see in our heads the nonsense that can be found in the accompanying picture.
Truth is, "functional" training is any type of training that allows us to do what we want to do, only better. So everybody's definition of "functional", just like their program, is going to be different (though I defy anyone to show me a reason for the exercise being demonstrated in the accompanying picture applying to anyone, for any reason other than it's fun to play around with this particular type of equipment).
To simplify the concept even further, we can break our daily needs down into about 9 basic movements, and simply try to improve at each of these if we want to be "functional". Now, depending on your goals and or your sport/skill, some of these will need more attention than others - and similarly, for some who have a genetic contraindication or injury may not be able to train every one of these. However, barring these limiters, consider restructuring your training so that you address all of the following equally in your program to allow for a solid foundation of "function":
- How to Pick Something Up (the "hinge" or "deadlift" pattern)
- How to Sit Down and Stand Up (the "squat")
- How to Push Something Away in Front of Us (the "horizontal press")
- How to Pull Something in Front of Us Closer (the "horizontal row")
- How to Put Something Away on the Top Shelf (the "vertical press")
- How to Pull Ourselves Back Up on the Cliff (the "vertical pull")
- How to Move Forwards/Backwards/Sideways (the "lunge")
- How to Throw a Ball in Front of Us (the "extension/anti-extension" pairing)
- How to Throw and Catch a Ball from the Side (the "rotation/anti-rotation" pairing)
Now, this is extremely simplified, and most of our daily movements are actually a combination of two or more of the above - however, if we are not adept at them individually, then how can we possibly be good at them when they're put together?
And that, in a nutshell - is "functional" training.