We’ve all heard of strength training - using your body weight, free weights, or machines to strengthen your muscles. Body builders and casual gym members tend to move around the circuits and strength train regularly - and there’s no harm in that. But what many people really need - especially those recovering from injuries or training in sports programs - is functional strength training.
Functional strength training originated, believe it or not,
in medical rehabilitation and physical therapy programs. The rehabilitation specialists looked closely at people who had trouble with certain types of movement, or who had been injured, and attempted to create exercises that not only strengthened the muscle but prepared them for normal, day-to-day movement. Strengthening the muscles used in daily activities not only provides normal strength benefits but helps to make normal activity less strenuous, thus
preventing common injuries.
Functional strength training becomes especially important in the world of sports, where muscular and orthopedic injuries tend to be par for the course. As we look at the movements used in different sports - like football or soccer, for example - we can devise functional strength training plans that help to not only improve endurance but strengthen the muscles needed most to protect the joints. Ball players may need to suddenly cut side to side, putting excruciating pressure on the ankle and knee joints traditionally designed to propel him forward or backward more easily than side to side. Choosing exercises that focus on the muscles needed for these specific movements is critical.
Not necessarily. Some functional strength training can be done with your body weight or with common pieces of equipment such as barbells, dumbbells, medicine balls, or even exercise balls. Other exercises incorporate more advanced pieces of equipment, like vibration equipment, suspension systems, and slideboards.
When opting for functional strength training, it is important to make sure you are working the entire muscle group in question - not just one or two. If in doubt, consult your sports coach or personal trainer for assistance devising a plan that is appropriate for your daily activities or training goals. You won’t regret the decision to focus on functional strength.