Functional Training

(Article shared by one of our exclusive guest writers – Victor Chan!)

When it comes to ‘Functional Training’,  this term means a lot of different things when it comes to different people. In this article, I will like to highlight on some exercises which are done in the weight room on how functional they may truly be.

To some, such training may involve in the usage of unstable surface (foam pads, half-dome stability balls, wobble boards and etc.) to exercise whatever muscles groups that they did not ever know existed.

This ain't functional training to me
To me, this is not functional training.

Functional training to me is simply training methodologies that allow you to perform more efficiently in the physical tasks of your daily life or your athletic pursuits with minimum risk of injuries. 

To me, there is no point in training muscles that only look good but do not work well at all.

Imagine if one day your girlfriend gets pinned down by her closet of VS lingerie and naughty halloween costumes. She requires your rescue but all that you have been doing in the gym were endless bouts of bicep curls, crunches and leg extensions. You could not even lift her treasure of sexy clothing up because you are lacking strength in your back, power in your legs and have no stability in your core (which may even result in you getting pinned down with her and getting buried together – not a sexy sight).

Imaginary Lats Syndrome
Do you walk around like that after your 1 hour worth of bicep curling workout?

*Note, I am not saying that you should not do any of the above exercises, but if those are the only exercises that you are capable of doing, good luck on rescuing your girlfriend.

So, how do I train in a more functional manner?

Human Body Planes

Do not get intimidated by this diagram now. To put it simply, the human body is meant to move in 3 distinct planes of motion (and it’s usually a combination of more than 1 plane of motion).  In order to have a truly functional body, you have got to train all 3 body planes.
“In functional training, it is as critical to train the specific movement as it is to train the muscles involved in the movement. The brain, which controls muscular movement, thinks in terms of whole motions, not individual muscles.” – Amercian Council on Exercise (ACE). Q: What is functional strength training?

Another illustration – Imagine that you are about to a punch to the guy who tried to get flesh on your girlfriend. Does your brain send signals to tell you flex your bicep, raise your deltoids (shoulder) and then extend your arm fully to land a hit on his face? If it does, your girlfriend would have been stolen by another guy already.

Thus, think about training in movements instead of muscles.

Here’s what you should be doing in the weight room if you have done nothing else but isolation exercises (exercises that only train 1 plane of motion / 1 joint / 1 muscle) –
Compound exercises (exercises that train multi joints / muscle groups / planes of motion) that consist of:
1. Upper Body Horizontal Pushing & Pulling Exercises (Bench Press / Bent Over Rows)
2. Upper Body Vertical Pushing & Pulling Exercises (Overhead Press / Pullups)
3. Hip Dominant Exercises (Deadlifts)
4. Quad Dominant Exercises (Squats)

Remember, if you push, you have to pull. Else, there will be imbalances to the muscles in your body. A good example will be someone who does bench press all the time for bigger chest. No doubt his chest will be bigger, but at the expense of a poor posture that consists of a pair of forward slumped shoulders that makes him only more attractive to the female apes.

Poor Posture
You want to be the guy in the middle. Not the ape on the left or the snake on the right

Does that mean that I have to give up on doing any isolation exercises ever?
No. Isolation exercises have their time and place in the training regime. Depending on your goals, isolation exercises can help you get to where you want as well. But with that being said, do not build your foundations of training based solely on isolation exercises.

Summary
1. Functional training is simply training methodologies that allow you to perform more efficiently in the physical tasks of your daily life or your athletic pursuits with minimum risk of injuries.

2. Think about training in movements instead of muscles

3. Build your foundations of working out on Compound Exercises

4. Isolation Exercises are not everything

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