A firefighter that cannot lift his hand above his head at 50 has lost function, and all the push ups and squats in the world cannot help him continue with his job.
An accountant who can no longer sit at a desk because of back pain has lost function that a thousand sit ups will not correct.
In every profession and every athletic performance as well as many of your activities in life, you move in a certain way. Moving in that particular way allows you to do what you need to do and what you love to do.
The exercises that help you perform well at your daily activities, your job, your sports or our hobbies are functional exercises.
There are some differences between functional training and traditional training. Lack of awareness of these differences leads to making mistakes and not benefiting from these particular exercise forms.
The first adjustment is a shift in mind set. These exercises are designed to improve your movement skills and not your appearance. In other words, they are not intended to give you six pack abs or big gun biceps.
The main question before you start is not which part of your body you want to work on. The question is, “which function do you want to improve”?
The function for a plumber is not the same as a runner, and a runner’s functional training is different than a housewife with small children. Functional training is the most customized training program.
One of the mistakes many makes in functional training exercises is treating it in a general and obscure form. You need to define your goal clearly first. Then you define the movements associated with that objective. It is those movements that you need to understand, often alter and then strengthen.
For example, if you are seated hunched over a desk for hours every day, your shoulder more than likely is no longer in its correct location and when you raise your arm, chances are that you will feel pain and gradually lose shoulder mobility.
Functional training for you is to examine your environment and how you interact with it and design correctional postures and motions to help you perform at your job better.
Another mistake many make with functional motions is random variety. Functional training is not like a bootcamp to lose weight in the sense that entertainment and boredom do not enter the picture. In functional training you must follow the anatomical pathways of the body as well as the job requirements. The exercises are precise and few to allow you to correct your imbalances and improve your pain free motions.
Another error in functional motion training is losing focus. This is not unique to functional training. We seem to have a lot on our plates these days which contributes to our short attention span. Since functional workouts is about developing skill, jumping around and losing focus will not work. You need to dedicate enough time to develop the skills to the degree that it becomes second nature to you.
Those who play sports with imbalances need to consider how much time they spend doing things in ways that interferes with their functions and that gives them an estimate of how long they need to focus on functional corrective exercises. It is the functional corrective exercises that help you improve your performance and it it up to you to give it enough priority to keep your focus.
It is said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. When it comes to functional training, you cannot imitate anyone. Your challenges are unique to you and an exercise that helps another may not help you at all. If someone has a limitation in hinging from the hips, they cannot bend forward and they are prone to lower back injury. The reason could be tight hamstring or inability to activate the glutes.
Glute activation exercises often tighten the hamstring. If their exercise is to tighten the hamstring and your low back dysfunction is due to tight hamstring, using their exercise program will actually make your situation worse.