Functional Fitness Defined

Throughout the years, exercise methodologie change, develop, and evolve.  As we acquire more knowledge about the human body and its response to different stimuli, we tailor our approach to maximize results, no matter the category of training or fitness. 

Whether it be performance optimization, general health and wellness, physical rehabilitation, or sport-specific training, people want to get the most out of their time and effort.  As stated earlier, while many things are constantly changing, there also remains constants.  In my opinion, the most important of these constants is the importance of functional fitness.

Regardless of the goal, people want to get the most out of their time and effort during training.

Functional Fitness is a term we tend to hear ever more often these days, especially with the growing popularity of CrossFit, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), Bootcamps and other similar methodologies. 

But what is “Functional Fitness?” 

To me, functional fitness should really just be thought of as performing functional movements.

 What are those you may ask?  Simply put they are movements that can be seen and applied in nearly the same manner in real world situations.  For example, a squat (which I call the king of exercise) can be applied literally in THOUSANDS upon THOUSANDS of instances.  Probably the most common being sitting up and down out a seat.  Or maybe a push press?  Putting a moderately heavy object in a cabinet or storage place overhead.  Push-Ups?  They make getting up off the ground exponentially easier.  The list can go on and on.  We can even take it to the next level by applying things such as the olympic lifts (i.e. cleans and snatches) to any field of athletic competition.  Yes, I consider any movement performed in the gym and replicated in any real life scenario to be a functional movement.

Why do I believe this to be so important?  Well, we have to look at the overall goal or purpose of physical training in the first place.  For most people whether they are eliteor recreational athletes, parents, office workers, etc, we all want to either live better and/or perform better overall.  In doing so we increase the quality of our life and those around us as well as the quality and efficiency of the tasks we perform. 

I reinforce these beliefs by citing two of the greatest quotes I've ever come across by two equally great men:

A physically conditioned man will outperform any unconditioned man at any job.
— Vince Lombardi
Whether you are an olympic athlete or a senior citizen, our needs vary in degree not kind.
— Matt Chan

Whether you know those men or not, I find it hard to argue against either one of those bits of knowledge.  Nearly ALL of our daily demands and time are spent in a real-world scenario.  So we should use our time training to optimize our performance in that environment.  Single joint, singular plane movements (i.e. bicep curls, tricep extensions done as the main source of training) aren't going to allow us to do that for the most part.  I'm not saying they don't serve a purpose, I'm not saying that “traditional” or “non-functional” training doesn't have a purpose or place.  I simply believe that the performance of Constantly Varied Functional Movements at a High Intensity or even varied intensity yield a far larger benefit than any other form or training.

There's a place for single-joint movements within functional programs. Yes, especially dumbbells.

There's a place for single-joint movements within functional programs. Yes, especially dumbbells.

If we spend time preparing for life, I believe we will be better at life.  You only get one chance, so make the most of it.  Functional movements are one of many things we can use to optimize it!

- Coach Taylor Rank

Rebecca Koch