Functional fitness exercises train your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by simulating common movements you might do at home, at work, or in sports. While using various muscles in the upper and lower body at the same time. Functional fitness exercises emphasize core stability while using various types of resistance or body weight positions.
All CrossFit workouts are based on functional movements, and these movements reflect the best aspects of gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing, and more. These are the core movements of life. By employing a constantly varied approach to training, functional movements and intensity lead to dramatic gains in fitness.
What is functional training, and why is so common place in gyms and the fitness industry? I Googled functional training, and found two descriptions. Not to pick on CrossFit, but their’ s came up with a simple Google search of “functional fitness”. When reading through them, they sound great and can be used to sell your fitness product/service and make it sound like you are offering up something that is helpful for daily function. When breaking down functional training or CrossFit, it is easy to pick apart how these exercise movements don’t actually resemble daily function or activity. What part of Olympic lifting resembles daily function? The clean and press? Thrusters, slamming a ball, etc…? These are great fitness exercises, but to call them functional is farfetched at best. When does a long-bar deadlift, one rep max relate to almost anyone’s daily life? If you are a long-distance runner, how does this functionally relate?
I follow a group online called Functional Patterns, amazing care of the human body using some anatomically “functional patterns”, however, it is difficult to call much of the exercises demonstrated as “functional”. Again, I am not saying these exercises or workouts are bad because they don’t really recreate function, what I am saying is that we need to update the terminology. When I was working on my master’s degree in physical therapy at The University of Colorado Medical Center in the early 90’s, the phrase we used, and I still use to this day in specific medical charts, is that of “closed chain” or doing things when your feet are on the ground. This creates “functional” patterns that are used more frequently for daily functioning. Just because we are doing a “power clean”, doesn’t make if functional, but it is “closed chain” as my feet are on the ground and my movement patterns more resemble daily sport or activities. Open chain or non-functional movements are when your feet are not planted on the ground and generally you don’t get the most efficient and effective use of your muscles in these positions. The best example of this is the seated leg extension machine, which builds your quadriceps up (in bulk), but doesn’t really improve the function of the muscle or associated joints. Generally speaking, this movement doesn’t relate to the actual function of the muscle group (quads) as it isolates them and the quads almost never function alone in that fashion, with that type of external load. Closed Chain activities with my feet on the ground as in a squat or lunge, where my quads must coordinate movement with my gluteals, hamstrings, abdominals and calf muscle to generate force and movement, can generally be considered better for us. These movements are much more “functional” effective and efficient resemble more activities and movements.
The semantics behind the term “functional fitness” seems to have been misunderstood. If this gets people out to do more exercise, great, but let’s not relate “crossfit” to function, instead let’s relate any exercise to helping our better well-being. Almost any exercise is good exercise when done correctly and with good form. It is important, however to understand the big difference between a “crossfit” workout and other “functional training”.