The trend of “functional fitness” is here to stay, and at the base of it all is functional movement. More useful and applicable in real-world situations, functional movement is much different than most of the normal exercises you see in the gym. While it can still be trained in traditional workout facilities, the use of alternative equipment for functional movement is becoming more popular. Here is a brief rundown on the subject and why it could matter to you.
What Is Functional Movement?
Functional movement is a type of exercise that generally requires the use of multiple muscle groups/joints and takes place across multiple planes of motion at the same time. It also usually involves the core much more than traditional exercises. More athleticism is both needed and trained doing functional movement workouts. And such exercises generally provide multiple benefits at the same time.
For example, a lateral raise is an isolation exercise that only trains the side deltoid, only requires the shoulder joint to move, and is really just best suited for hypertrophy. An overhead press is more functional as it trains all three heads of the deltoid, involves the triceps, and indirectly trains the upper chest. It requires both the shoulder joint and elbow to move, and it can be used to improve both hypertrophy and strength.
A clean and press would be even more functional as it targets the same muscles and moves around the same joints as the overhead press. However now you’re bringing into play the upper back, hips, possibly legs, much more grip, and the core also has to do much more stabilization work. Almost every joint in the body is used or moves in some fashion, and the exercise can improve hypertrophy, strength, power, coordination, and athleticism.
Why Use a Functional Movement?
You’d want to use a functional movement for two main reasons. The first is that as demonstrated above, the execution of a single exercise can result in multiple different physical benefits at the same time. The next reason is that functional movements tend to better prepare you for activities and situations outside the gym. If you have to use your body to make your living, a functional movement program can improve your performance.
The reason why this is the case is because when you train functionally, you’re training your body to work as a single unit, accomplishing many tasks at once. Too often muscle groups and specific goals are isolated in the gym. You do this particular movement, targeting this individual muscle to achieve this specific result.
But this is not how things take place in real life. Whether you’re a fire fighter going into a burning building, a soldier rucking through the mountains, a football player going for “3rd & goal”, or a brick-layer putting up a new wall, you have to use your whole body at the same time. You’ll also have to be able to use strength, speed, cardio and more all at once. This is where a functional movement routine can be preferable.
Do You Need Specialized Equipment?
This question has “it depends” for an answer. A clean and press, power snatch, or even just a basic deadlift could all be put in the “functional movement” category, and can all be done with a barbell. However, a variety of other functional movements could require kettlebells, ropes, sandbags, medicine balls, or more. Your best bet is instead of worrying about what equipment you do or don’t “need”, perform the exercises you can with the setup you currently have.
A complete functional movement workout program could be your best option, but base it on the equipment your training facility already has. Even as little as a couple different exercise selections combined with slightly tweaked programming could see radical changes in your physique and performance in no time. If you enjoyed this article you may be interested in our feature on improving functional strength.