What is Functional Training?

“Functional Training” is an overused term in fitness. Some still think it involves balancing on a stability ball with one leg up while juggling knives.

Strength & Conditioning coach Michael Boyle simplified Functional Training to mean training that makes sense. At Control Your Health, our goal is to produce gains without injury.

Combining this goal with Boyle’s simplified meaning of Functional Training will help you safely reach the desired level in performance.

When you train, performance enhancement should come second to injury prevention. A good strength & conditioning program will be very similar to an injury prevention program or even a rehabilitation program.

Chiropractor and movement specialist, Dr. Andreo Spina uses the following equation to make this point. 


But I’m sure you’ve seen examples of the opposite at the gym, right?  Does putting a ton of weight on your back to squat (while having to wrap the knees so they only slightly bend and the back is doing most of the work) enhance your ability to do your activity, or did you just inflate your ego (along with herniating a disc)?

Depending on your goals, a basic training program may only need to develop strength in upper body pulling, upper body pressing, the lower body, and the core. Improving strength develops power, and since we produce most of our power without both feet planted fully on the ground, lower body training should consist of a lot of single legwork (i.e., single leg deadlifts, split squats, and single leg squats).

This type of training makes sense and has safety features built into it.

Here are two examples of bodyweight single leg exercises. 

Training to technical failure is also important. This means stopping when you can't complete a repetition to the best of your ability.

There is a saying that practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. If a particular movement can't be done correctly with weight, maybe you haven't earned the right.

Think of a child learning how to walk. She is not allowed to walk until she earns it. In my own training, I've had to take a step back and master a move with just bodyweight.

The regressions and progressions for all the basic body movements is beyond the scope of this blogpost, but know that there is a place you can start and move towards your goals safely.

It may seem basic to just work on a pushup or bodyweight squat. The mistake is to discount this training based on its simplicity. 

However, if it works for the best athletes in the world, then it can work for you. In the fitness world, there is a tendency to overreact to the latest and greatest.

The pendulum will swing far out to the right and we may need to push it left so that it goes back to the center…or maybe just ignore it. The pendulum will make its way back eventually.

When it comes to your training, put aside any preconceived notion about the past or the current bright & shiny new thing. Stick with ideas that work, and be wary of anything that seems too good to be true.

Never compromise technique because it will catch up eventually. Use exercises that allow you to respect your bodyweight and own a particular move.

Choose movements that are functional based on your goals. Think about the art of practicing common sense. That's Functional Training.

Oscar and the Control Your Health Team

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