What is Functional Fitness?
People generally have a good understanding about how fitness training works: stress weak muscles and they'll grow stronger, stretch tight muscles and they'll become looser, challenge the cardiovascular system and it will become more efficient, burn more calories and you'll lose weight.
Functional training also does those things, but with a different intention. For example, when your personal trainer gives you a squat as an exercise, the intention is to strengthen your gluteals, quadraceps, and hamstrings. A functional trainer looks at a squat as an opportunity to lower and then raise your center of gravity better. The intention is to make your whole body stronger and more efficient at that task, making it more functional!
Proper activation and stabilization of your feet, ankles, calves, hips, spine, ribcage, shoulder girdle, neck, and head becomes equally, if not more important than strengthening your hips and thighs, or in functional training lingo, fingernail to toenail training.
When whole movement becomes the focus, we can evaluate the postural deviations, strength imbalances, flexibility limitations, and neuromotor issues that are the root cause of bad movement technique. We can design specific exercise that repair and strengthen those problems and build them into your workout.
When you combine functional exercises into your routine, your workout becomes practice for better movement, as well as exercise that makes you fit.
When you improve quality of your movement, you create more power, balance, and stability, which is important for athletic performance. But the same movement that gives you power is also important to prevent and repair orthopedic injury.
A few minutes of strengthening weak muscles and stretching the tight muscles is a drop in the bucket toward correcting imbalances when every step you take and every move you make reinforces the postural habits that caused the imbalance in the first place.
If you really want to make lasting change for weak, tight, painful muscles; if you really want to become more coordinated and stable, you must learn to correct neuromotor patterns and apply them to whole movement. Practicing correct movement while exercising is the most powerful way to drive new skills into new motor habits, correcting tight and weak muscles for good.