Bring functionality into your workout

Function basically means as much as meaning or purpose. Functional training is therefore appropriate training. Many athletes and also coaches misunderstand functional training as sport-specific training. In their opinion, every sport has its own laws, its own specific movements, and therefore needs specific exercises.

In fact, functional training should even be seen as a cross-training form of exercise because it focuses on the commonality of sports, not the differences. Basic forms of movement such as jumping, running and sideways movement occur in many sports. For example, speed is needed in all ball sports and can therefore be practiced in the same way in these athletes. Hull power is as important to the tennis player as it is to the golf or hockey player.

Functional training builds on the similarities of different sports and trains these athletes with similar exercises. Few sports are out of the ordinary and have to be trained with special exercises. A special group is the sports practiced while sitting. This includes, for example, the rowing.

Traditional strength training is usually limited to one joint

When we test traditional strength training on equipment for its functionality, we find that the strength device takes over the stabilization for the athlete, since the weight is moved on a fixed predetermined path. This is not functional, as the athlete has to provide stability in the movement process when performing practically all sports. It follows that strength training on equipment can not be described as functional. Proponents of traditional strength training like to argue with the safety factor. They emphasize that with guided movements the risk of injury is lower. That's right, because it's unlikely to get injured in squats when the barbell runs along a multipress. But who does not at the same time his proprioception (the self-perception of muscles, tendons and joints) trained and builds his muscles successively with stabilization exercises, which sets itself in competition or training outside the weight room increased risk of injury.

Let's take a closer look at the exercises of traditional strength training with its movements limited to a single joint, and ask ourselves how many movements in everyday sports are confined to just one joint or muscle group. The answer is no. Therefore, the exercises of functional training involve largely complex movements, which occupy multiple joints and muscle groups simultaneously. Vern Gambetta and Gary Gray, two renowned experts in functional training, say: "Movements that use only a single muscle in isolation should be considered unfunctional. Functional forms of movement always integrate multiple muscles and muscle groups simultaneously "(Gambetta and Gray 2002, paragraph 13).

Exercises with both feet on the floor

The predominant goal of the coaches and supervisors of professional athletes is the injury prophylaxis. Trainers should therefore not only pay attention to prevent injuries during training, but also equip the athlete with the specific strength that protects him in extreme stress situations from injury. Functional training has exactly this one goal, namely to prepare the athlete optimally for the practice of his sport.

Functional training consists mainly of exercises in which the athlete stands with both feet on the ground and is not supported by a strength device. He learns to hold his own body weight and to stabilize or balance it in different positions. As resistance, often only one's own body weight is used. The exercises improve the strength, speed, balance and stability of the athletes and thus reduce the risk of injury. Gambetta and Gray (2002, paragraph 8) explain: »Functional training programs put the athlete in an unstable position. The athlete must react and rebuild stability with specific movements. "Advanced athletes perform the exercises in one leg. Gradually, the ground becomes more unstable, making it increasingly difficult for the athlete to maintain stability and balance. We work on different surfaces such as ice, grass or artificial turf. These offer unpredictable disruptive factors that the athlete has to compensate for.

Functional training is based on exercises such as squats and lunges for the leg muscles as well as pulling and pushing movements for the upper body. The athlete learns to stabilize and balance his body weight in different movements. Functional training is best described as a continuum of exercises that teaches athletes to control their own body weight at all levels of movement. Experts emphasize that functional training primarily trains movements, not muscles. No single movement should be trained in excess. Rather, care is taken that there is a balance between the ability to bounce and pull as well as between knee and hip-dominant hip extension, ie the strength of the anterior and posterior thigh muscles. (Also read: The basics of functional training)

Michael Boyle


Michael Boyle: "Functional Training - The Success Program of Top Athletes", Riva Verlag 2010

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