Functional Exercise:What it is and why it’s good December 29, 2007Posted by Matt Brown in Fitness.
You hear the term functional exercises thrown around pretty often. Usually everyone agrees that doing them is a good idea, but not everyone understands why. What are functional exercises and why should I do them are some common questions posed. After reading this, hopefully you’ll have a better understanding of what they are and the effect they can have on your training.
Functional exercises are so named because they mimic many of the movements found in activities of either daily living or sport activity. In short, they utilize the movements that allow us to “function” in a given activity. Typically they involve use of free weights, medicine balls and other types of equipment that allow a great degree of motion. This is important because athletics, and daily life, always occurs in three planes of motion. A running back in football may have to accelerate quickly in one direction, cut quickly in another direction, spin away from a tackler before leaping into the end zone.
So what are functional exercises? They are for the most part, multi-jointed exercises. This is because almost all of the movements performed in sport or daily living involve multiple joints (running, jumping, catching, throwing). Isolation exercises on the other hand, most often found on exercise machines, work one muscle or joint at a time and are not considered functional. As an example, exercises like squats or deadlifts would meet the criteria because they involve the use of many joints and muscles, while something like leg extensions would not. As stated earlier, they tend to mimic activities of the sport or of daily living. To use the previous example, squats and deadlifts are movements found in almost all sports and in daily activity, that is pushing and pulling with the legs, and are therefore functional. Leg extensions or other isolation exercises are not functional because the movement they train, movement of one joint in isolation to the rest of the body, almost never occurs.
One important thing to remember is that an exercise that is functional for one group may not be so for another. For example, long distance running, while certainly functional for marathoners and triathletes, would not be considered a functional exercise for a football player, since football involves very little long distance running. Since football consists of short bursts of activity followed by longer periods of rest, a football player would be better served using interval training, or another exercise which mimics the events of a football game, to increase his endurance. When deciding what exercises you should utilize in your exercise program, it is important to consider the movements you will be performing in your activity. Try to choose exercises that are as close as possible to the movements found in your sport or daily life. In this way you can maximize the effects of your training.