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Functional training

The term “functional training” is a fitness buzzword and thrown around in the fitness world without properly defining what it is. Contrary to popular belief, functional training is not unstable surface training, balance training, or using stability balls.
Functional training is an integrated approach using multiple planes of movement and body position that are relative to the sport with the objective of moving more efficiently. Functional training (in a nutshell) is about reducing the risk of injury and training the body to perform better to meet the demands of everyday life and sports.
According to Michael Boyle, author of Functional Training for Sports, functional training focuses on injury reduction through the use of progressively more demanding exercises, and at the same time on performance enhancement. Function means purpose; thus functional training, Boyle states, can be described as purposeful training. I love Boyle’s definition; it makes perfect sense.
Vern Gambetta, considered the Founding Father of Functional Sports Training, states functional training is a misleading term because all movement is functional. However the distinction must be made “regarding the functionality of the exercise or drill relative to the movements in the sport.” You must train the kinetic chain, the whole system and understand the interrelationship and interdependency of the links. This is what function is all about: free flowing, not segmented, rhythmic, not jumpy. Thanks, Vern!
Gray Cook explains, “Functional movement for all sport is built on the foundation of the ability to simply move without restriction or limitation. Great athletes develop efficiency through mobility, stability, and motor programs that use the least amount of energy with greatest possible result.”
Some people believe if they feel the muscle burn, it must be functional as this could not be farther from the truth. Gray Cook mentions how some athletes feel like they accomplished something when they feel their abs burn when doing crunches. His clever response is “an abdominal routing that makes your abs burn does not necessarily train your core: it just helps you get really good at an exercise while laying on your back. The strength and endurance you gain while lying down will not completely transfer into a standing position…” Cook, would you mind if I post this on every wall of every gym in South Africa?
So what makes movement functional? The movement is functional if it relates to the target activity. For example, picking up a box on the floor requires one to squat; therefore, squats are very functional exercises. (However, exercises such as squatting on a stability ball are not functional). Putting your pants on in the morning requires you stand on one leg; therefore, single leg stability training is functional. In fact, single leg training probably has the greatest transfer from the gym to the field with respect to function. With the exception of rowers, can you name a sport in which two feet are on the ground at the same time? Just think about it. Even when you run, don’t you run with one foot on the ground at a time?
It is important to realize that it is not about the exercise, it’s about the exercise’s application. For instance, torso rotation is a very important component of the golf swing; thus, just doing traditional sit-ups alone (which only flex and extend the spine) is not as functional to this sport as exercises that advocate torso and hip mobility in multi-planes of motion.
Where people miss the boat is when they value an exercise merely based on its level of difficulty. Just because an exercise is difficult doesn’t necessarily mean it’s useful or functional. Juan Carlos Santana of the Institute of Human Performance once said, “Standing on a rocker board catching a 7lb medicine ball doesn’t functionally train anyone unless you are a surfer who needs to catch a bowling ball!”
My two cents worth: Functional training is considered to be training that attempts to mimic the specific physiological demands of real-life activities with precision and ease

Functional training has its origins in rehabilitation. Physical therapists often use this approach to retrain patients with movement disorders. Interventions are designed to incorporate task and context specific practice in areas meaningful to each patient, with an overall goal of functional independence.[1] For example, exercises that mimic what patients did at home or work may be included in treatment in order to help them return to their lives or jobs after an injury or surgery. Thus if a patient's job required repeatedly heavy lifting, rehabilitation would be targeted towards heavy lifting, if the patient were a parent of young children, it would be targeted towards moderate lifting and endurance, and if the patient were a marathon runner, training would be targeted towards re-building endurance. However, treatments are designed after careful consideration of the patient’s condition, what he or she would like to achieve, and ensuring goals of treatment are realistic and achievable.
Functional training attempts to adapt or develop exercises which allow individuals to perform the activities of daily life more easily and without injuries.[2]
In the context of body building, functional training involves mainly weight bearing activities targeted at core muscles of the abdomen and lower back. Most fitness facilities have a variety of weight training machines which target and isolate specific muscles. As a result the movements do not necessarily bear any relationship to the movements people make in their regular activities or sports.
In rehabilitation, training does not necessarily have to involve weight bearing activities, but can target any task or a combination of tasks that a patient is having difficulty with. Balance (ability) training, for example, is often incorporated into a patient’s treatment plan if it has been impaired after injury or disease.


Functional training for sports
Functional training may lead to better muscular balance and joint stability, possibly decreasing the number of injuries sustained in an individual's performance in a sport. The benefits may arise from the use of training that emphasizes the body's natural ability to move in six degrees of freedom. In comparison, though machines appears to be safer to use, they restrict movements to a single plane of motion, which is an unnatural form of movement for the body and may potentially lead to faulty movement patterns or injury.[3] In 2009 Spennewyn conducted research, published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research which compared functional training to fixed variable training techniques, this was considered the first research of its type comparing the two methods of strength training.
Results of the study showed very substantial gains and benefits in the functional training group over fixed training equipment. Functional users had a 58% greater increase in strength over the fixed-form group. Their improvements in balance were 196% higher over fixed and reported an overall decrease in joint pain by 30%.[4]
In addition, a recent study of the effectiveness of sandbag training on athletic conditioning, found that training with a variable load has significant cardiovascular benefits over conventional methods. The study compared subjects doing exercise with a sandbag, a kettlebell and battle ropes for 5:44 seconds each. The study concluded that sandbag training burned 24% more calories over the other methods.[5]
Functional training rehabilitation in patients after stroke
Rehabilitation after stroke has evolved over the past 15 years from conventional treatment techniques to task specific training techniques which involve training of basic functions, skills and endurance (muscular and cardiovascular).[6] Functional training has been well supported in evidenced based research for rehabilitation of this population.[6][7][8] It has been shown that task specific training yields long-lasting cortical reorganization which is specific to the areas of the brain being used with each task.[8] Studies have also shown that patients make larger gains in functional tasks used in their rehabilitation and since they are more likely to continue practicing these tasks in everyday living, better results during follow-up are obtained.[6][7]

Standard resistance training machines are of limited use for functional training – their fixed patterns rarely mimic natural movements, and they focus the effort on a single muscle group, rather than engaging the stabilizers and peripheral muscles.
Some options include:
• Clubbells
• Macebells
• Cable machines
• Barbells
• Dumbbells
• Medicine balls
• Kettlebells
• Bodyweight training
• Physioballs (also called Swiss balls or exercise balls)
• Resistance tubes
• Rocker and wobble boards
• Whole Body Vibration equipment (also called WBV or Acceleration Training)
• Balance disks
• Sandbags
• Gymstick
• Suspension system
In rehabilitation however, equipment is mainly chosen by its relevance to the patient. In many cases equipment needs are minimal and include things that are familiar and useful to the patient.

Cable machines
Cable machines, also known as pulley machines, are large upright machines, either with a single pulley, or else a pulley attached to both sides. They allow an athlete to recruit all major muscle groups while moving in multiple planes. Cable machines also provide a smooth, continuous action which reduces the need for momentum to start repetitions, provide a constant tension on the muscle, peak-contraction is possible at the top of each rep, a safe means of performing negative repetitions, and a variety of attachments that allow great flexibility in the exercises performed and body parts targeted.

Components of a functional exercise program
To be effective a functional exercise program should include a number of different elements, which can be adapted to an individuals needs or goals:[6]
• Based on functional tasks directed toward everyday life activities.
• Individualized – a training program should be tailored to each individual. Any program must be specific to the goals of an individual, focusing on meaningful tasks. It should also be customized for training load.
• Integrated – It should include a variety of exercises that work on flexibility, core, balance, strength and power, focusing on multiple movement planes.
• Progressive – Progressive training steadily increases the difficulty of the task.
• Periodized – mainly by training with distributed practice and varying the tasks.
• Repeated frequently.
• Use of real life object manipulation.
• Performed in context-specific environments.
• Feedback should be incorporated following performance (self-feedback of success is used as well as trainer/therapist feedback).


1. ^ O'Sullivan, Susan B. (2007). Physical Therapy 5th Edition. glossary: F.A. Davis Company. pp. 1335. ISBN 0-8036-1247-8.
2. ^ Cannone, Jesse. "Functional training". Retrieved 2007-08-26.
3. ^ Burton, Craig (2007). "What is Functional Resistance Training". Retrieved 2007-08-26.
4. ^ Spennewyn,K. 2008. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, January, Volume 22, Number 1. [1]
5. ^ Henkin, Josh. "Sandbag Training Exercise is the Best Fat Burner!". Retrieved 2011-09-25.
6. ^ a b c d Timmermans, A. A, Spooren, A. I. F., Kingma, H., Seleen, H. A. M. (2010). "Influence of Task-Oriented Training Content on Skilled Arm–Hand Performance in Stroke: A Systematic Review". Neural rehabilitation and neural repair 24: 219–224. DOI:10.1177/1545968310368963.
7. ^ a b Blennerhassett, J., & Dite, W. (2004). "Additional task-related practice improves mobility and upper limb function early after stroke: A randomised controlled trial". Australian journal of physiotherapy 50: 858–870.
8. ^ a b "Upper extremity interventions", Evidence-based review of stroke rehabilitation

9 Skinny Salads RecipesLove your heart!

Simple salads

These crisp and cool salads have a refreshing combination of ingredients to satisfy your taste buds while giving you the nutrition you need. Dig your fork into one of these 9 low-cal, main dish salads.

Curried Chicken Salad

Turn leftover chicken into a zesty part of the simple salad. Combining curry powder and fat-free yogurt upgrades a boring salad to a spicy, tangy bowl of greens.

Ingredients: Fat-free yogurt, grapes, curry powder, salt, walnuts, lettuce, chicken

Calories: 238 (approximate)

A Skinny Caesar

This dish tastes exactly like your favorite Caesar salad, but it contains only half the fat of traditional versions. How? The dressing uses silken tofu instead of mayo, to make a lighter, leaner topping for your salad.

Ingredients: Olive oil cooking spray, chicken breast, salt, pepper, silken soft tofu, lemons, extra_virgin olive oil, Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, anchovy paste, fresh Parmesan cheese, romaine lettuce, fat-free croutons

Calories: 269

Grilled Chicken and Wheat-Berry Salad
Boost your intake of whole grains by digging into this hearty salad. You’ll get plenty of fiber, plus vitamins A and C.

Ingredients: Winter wheat berries, bay leaf, spinach leaves, green apples, red bell peppers, Dijon mustard, chicken breasts, salt, pepper, cooking spray, green onions, Cucumber Yogurt Dressing

Calories: 332

Grilled Chicken Salad With Avocado and Mango
Fresh and full of flavor, this salad brings together your favorite tastes of summer. Plus the mango chutney adds a spicy-sweet kick to each mouthful. Serve with a crusty baguette for a low-cal summer dinner.

Ingredients: Olive oil, limes, mango chutney, low-sodium soy sauce, fresh ginger, chicken breast, cooking spray, salad greens, mango, avocado

Calories: 185

Chicken-and-Cornbread Salad With Lime
Cornbread isn’t just for Thanksgiving. The tangy salad combines this comfort food with a citrus dressing for a delicious, vitamin C-packed meal.

Ingredients: Cornbread, limes, olive oil, cumin, chicken breasts, tomato, red onion, heart of romaine

Calories: 390

Orange Chicken Salad With Feta
Contrast sweet mandarin oranges with zesty feta for a quick, filling salad. The orange juice dressing adds an extra layer of fruit flavor, and you can enjoy this colorful meal for less than 300 calories.

Ingredients: Chicken breast, cooking spray, lettuce, orange bell pepper, cherry tomatoes, carrots, feta cheese, green onions, orange juice concentrate, white vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, mandarin oranges, almonds

Calories: 299

Chicken-Garbanzo Salad
This creamy chicken salad provides fiber by combining chickpeas with chicken and veggies. Though it works great as a salad, it is also delicious spooned into a pita half.

Ingredients: Chicken breast, chickpeas, cucumber, green onions, fresh mint, plain fat-free yogurt, garlic, salt, spinach leaves, feta, lemons

Calories: 258

Blackened Chicken Salad With Tomato Chutney
Tomato chutney adds a spicy kick to the smoky, seasoned chicken in this recipe. The veggies provide vitamin C and fiber, allowing you devour the savory salad guilt-free.

Ingredients: Chicken breasts, blackened steak seasoning, romaine salad greens, cucumber, yellow bell pepper, olive oil vinaigrette, Tomato Chutney

Calories: 247

Chinese Chicken-Cabbage Salad With Peanut Sauce
Don’t be fooled by this salad’s bare-bones appearance. It’s packed with plenty of flavor—and nutrients. Cabbage, unlike iceberg lettuce, is rich in vitamins C and K, and carrots are a good source of vitamin A. Plus the dressing adds just the right amount of nutty flavor.

Ingredients: Rice wine vinegar, olive oil, sesame oil, Thai peanut sauce, napa cabbage, carrots, scallions, rotisserie chicken, pepper, black sesame seeds

Calories: 302




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