What Is Functional Strength Training?

Male and female performing functional strength training

Ever heard of functional strength training? Even though the term has been around for almost a decade, many people are still unaware of what it is and its benefits.

You move every day. The human body goes through various movements in the day that are apart from fitness and physical activity. You walk, run, jog, bend down, squat, lift, reach, twist, and jump. All these movements are also present in exercises. However, just because you may be doing similar exercises to your everyday movements, doesn’t mean you’ll be benefiting from them in your daily life. This is because specific and targeted exercises often just work the muscles and not the movement. This is where functional strength training comes in – it focuses on the movement, not just the strengthening of the muscles being utilized.

Functional Strength Training Defined

According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), functional strength training focuses on how the body moves together, not just specific muscles.

Functional strength training focuses on exercising several muscles and joints together rather than working a particular muscle or group of muscles independently, resulting in an individual being able to perform daily activities with greater ease.

The goal of functional strength training is to improve performance not only related to fitness level but also to daily activities and overall well-being. The point is to transfer what is learned during this type of training to activities outside of fitness and physical activity. It should positively affect your everyday life and the movements therein. Your ability to climb stairs, walk, get up from a chair, and pick up an object off the floor should be easier with these specific training exercises including functional strengthening.

ACE says that four necessary factors make up functional strength training: coordination, muscle contractions, speed of movement, and range of motion. Each exercise should incorporate these focuses to be successful in transferring to other activities.

The Benefits Of Functional Training

When you understand the purpose and goal of functional strength training, it’s easy to see the primary benefit. It helps you live life easier.

Functional strength training allows you to carry groceries, move large boxes, and climb the stairs. Moreover, it helps you do this with a lower risk of injury and pain. How many times have heard someone complain about pain from doing housework? Probably more than you can count! With functional strength training, pain becomes less of an issue. This is because you strengthen the necessary muscles and joints that are used for real-life activities. Furthermore, it teaches you to move properly. Moving improperly is one of the greatest causes of pain and injury from everyday activities.

Functional strength training has its roots in physical therapy. Physical therapy works to build muscles through exercise that can aid you in your everyday life. You can almost say that they are one and the same – having the same focus, goal, and purpose. Physical therapy focuses on improving movement in everyday activities just as much as it’s used for chronic pain management and injury rehabilitation. Fitness is more than just being fit. It’s about functionality and how it transfers and aids you in your everyday life. This is what functional strength training, and more specifically physical therapy, is all about.