Finding Mighty Me

The Significance of Functional Training

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Of course, there's a time and place for biceps curls, but generally speaking, that time and place is limited. Physical therapist Jarlo Ilano explains, "The main difference between functional training and other, more common movements, is that exercises such as biceps curls or leg extensions attempt to isolate a particular muscle. Now, this can be great, and even necessary, when recovering from injuries, but these isolations tend to treat the body as a series of parts rather than a whole."

Frankly, your body isn't just a series of parts—it's a beautifully designed machine, where all the parts are intended to work together. Ilano goes on, "A workout consisting of isolated movements will create a stimulus within those parts, whereas a more functional movement encourages the use of your whole body at once with a more holistic innervation."

To explain it a slightly different way, take a moment to think of yourself as a human athlete. Athletic coaches are known for saying things like, "You're going to play the way you practice." In other words, if you practice sloppily, don't push yourself, and constantly make mistakes without correcting them, you're going to experience the same sloppy, sluggish, mistake-ridden play during a game.

As a human athlete, you're playing the game of life. If you don't train your body to move effectively as a fully innervated single unit, it's not going to be able to crouch, slide, duck, or change direction effectively when you need it to. Functional exercises are tools you can use to help you "practice" effectively and efficiently "play" the game of life.

If you're used to a very static, isolated style of training, switching to a more functional workout will feel different. As Ilano's clients have described to him, you're likely to feel better connected throughout your body, instead of feeling worn out or fatigued in certain body parts. Another common phrase Ilano hears? "I feel I've used muscles I didn't know I had!" Which is exactly the point. The goal of functional training is to train all of you, not just individual parts.

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