There’s strength training and then there’s functional strength training. Those who workout at the gym regularly are likely more familiar with the concept of strength training, but if you’re an athlete of any kind, or even do physical labor daily, you should seriously consider looking into functional training. Here’s what you need to know.
What is Strength Training?
Strength training, simply defined, is the use of resistance exercises to create muscle contractions which in turn help you to increase the size of your muscles, build strength, and increase your anaerobic endurance. Strength training has been known to have a myriad of incredible benefits. It’s an incredible complement to any plan focused on increased well-being and health and has been shown to increase bone density, support cardiac function, strengthen your tendons and ligaments, and so much more. Anaerobic exercises that fall into the strength training category are often paired with aerobic exercises like running. Just about every sports program will include strength workouts in the training program.
What is Functional Training?
Functional training is still strength training, but it’s more specific and focused. The concept, while broadly interpreted by some, focuses on the movements we make naturally and how to strengthen the supporting muscles so that we can make those same movements stronger and more efficient.
For example, you get up and down from a chair at work all day, so you might do a variety of squats that support the same type of motion (up and down) on your knees and hips. As a runner you might use your legs to propel yourself, and your core to maintain stability, so you might focus on leg and core activities that will strengthen and support your track and street workouts. Many runners who cross-train find they have increased speed and endurance. Even lifting and carrying your groceries takes functional strength.
Functional training isn’t just about building strength and creating bigger muscles. It’s about creating strength you can actually use in everyday life, in your regular activities of daily living or in your athletic pursuits.
Not sure how to get started? There are lots of functional strength exercises you can do in your home gym or in a more formal setting. Make sure you talk to a personal trainer if you aren’t sure where to start. Remember – safety first!