“Functional Training, Functional Movements, Functional Fitness” We have all heard one of these terms before. But what do they mean? What is Functional Training? A coach might tell you something, a physio might tell you another. In this series of articles, we are going to discuss what Functional Training is based on the various settings this term is used.

In this second part of the series, we are going to discuss what Functional Training is from a rehabilitation perspective.

Functional Rehabilitation

Pick something up, reach for the cupboard, putting on socks, walking, sitting and standing (squatting). These are all forms of every day movements that the body should effectively be able to perform. These are what come to mind as healthcare practitioner when the term “functional training” comes up. They are also often referred to as Activities of Daily Living (ADLs).

My Masters thesis involved the development of a digital questionnaire that assessed the degree to which a knee injury or condition affected their ability to perform ADLs. The questionnaire we used as a template was the KOOS-PS (Knee Osteoarthritis Outcome Score – Physical Function Shortform). It assessed 7 different movements that could be affected by the knee and the patient is meant to grade their level of pain or difficulty for each one. The movements were:

  • Rising from bed
  • Putting on socks/stockings
  • Rising from sitting
  • Bending to floor
  • Twisting/pivoting on injured knee
  • Kneeling
  • Squatting

These are all movements that require adequate function of the knee. And a sound rehab program would be one that restores these functions.

Now that we have an idea of what may be considered “functional,” lets look at what rehabilitation is.

Rehabilitation is a set of interventions needed when a person is experiencing or is likely to experience limitations in everyday functioning due to ageing or a health condition, including chronic diseases or disorders, injuries or traumas. Examples of limitations in functioning are difficulties in thinking, seeing, hearing, communicating, moving around, having relationships or keeping a job.

World Health Organisation (WHO)

Therefore, if you put the two together, functional training is an intervention to reduce limitations and restore a person’s ability to perform ADLs. This may include supplementary exercises that may not necessarily be “functional”, but aid in the restoration of function of a particular joint. Then as a progression adding functional movements. In order to get better at a movement, you have to perform that movement pattern. The practice of this movement will then be your functional exercise. For example, someone injured their knee, but need to walk for their occupation, GAIT training will be a functional exercise in the program.

Functional Rehab Programs

As we work through what a rehabilitation program with functional exercises might look like, see if you can find any major similarities or differences between this form of functional training and that of the previous article and the next one. We will compare all 3 of them in the final article.

What type of Equipment is typically used?
  • Balance pads
  • Hand rails
  • Stairs
  • Therabands
  • Light Dumbbells
  • Med Ball
What type of exercises are performed?
  • Pick an object up
  • Climbing stairs
  • Pressing over the head
  • Balancing on one leg
  • Squats or sit-to-stands
  • Walking/running (GAIT)
  • Get-ups
What are the typical workout formats?
  • Standard Sets & Reps
  • Intervals (For cardio)
  • Performing daily tasks (go for a walk)

Wrap up

This tends to be how healthcare practitioners think about Functional Training. As a healthcare practitioner myself, I often use this term interchangeably between my peers, and on a few occasions I’ve been “corrected” that what I am saying is not functional training. It comes down to what setting you use it in, the context matters in this case. I hope that this article helps you distinguish between what your CrossFit coach and your physio might tell you to do. Next week we will look at functional training in the globogym.

I hope you enjoyed this article and be sure to check out next weeks article.

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