“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.

This is the final article of the series where we conclude what our take is on Functional Training and how we utilize it to help people move better and accomplish more.

What have we learned?

So leading up to this article we have identified various settings in which the term “functional training” is used and illustrated how it is perceived in these various settings of the health and fitness industry. Namely, the trend or brand associated with functional fitness, the rehabilitation sector and then in a commercial gym environment.

We have taken a few aspects from each of these domains and compared them to identify differences and similarities so that we can better under stand WHAT FUNCTIONAL TRAINING IS!

Here is our analysis based on their utility and application:

Functional FitnessRehabilitationGlobo-Gym
AIM/GOALMove high loads over a large distance quickly.Return-to-Play (activity)Strength and Hypertrophy, Weight loss (aesthetics)
MOVEMENT PATTERNSPush, Pull, Run, Squat, Lunge, Hinge, Press, Jump, Sit up, Balance, CrawlPush, Pull, Walk/Run, Squat, Lunge, Hinge, Press, Jump, Sit up, Balance, Crawl, Turn & TwistPush, Pull, Walk/Run, Squat, Lunge, Hinge, Press, Jump, Sit up
EQUIPMENTKettlebells, Dumbbells, Barbells, Pull up bars, Gym rings, Battleropes, Boxes, Medballs, Bands,Dumbbells/ Kettlebells, Bands, Balance pads, BOSU, MedballsDumbbells/ Kettlebells, Barbells, Pull up bars, Medballs, BOSU
PROGRAM FORMATSAMRAP, EMOM, Chipper, R4T, Standard Sets & Reps, Intervals, TempoStandard Sets & Reps, IntervalsSuper Sets/Compound Sets, Standard Sets & Reps, Tempo

They each have very different aims for their use of functional training. The brand of functional fitness aims to increase all-round athleticism, the rehab domain aims to return the patient to full functional capacity, and in the commercial gym, aesthetics still seems to be a priority among the members and personal trainers.

They all make use of the same movements patterns (with a few exceptions). Although the exercises explained in the articles may seem different, they possess the same basic functions ie. push, pull, run/walk, squat, lunge, hinge, press, jump, sit up, crawl. Note: We did not include the actual exercises done as this can be listed over hundreds of pages, so we went straight to the basic movement patterns that the body performs when doing the exercises.

They all make use of the basic free weights and accessories, with some novelty additions in that specific domain. Eg. The BOSU in the rehab setting and Battlerope in the functional fitness setting.

The program formats have a few commonly used methods across the board but functional fitness revolutionized the way this is done and is slowly working its way into the other domains. More and more PTs and exercises therapists are starting to make use of varied programming methods.

What does this mean?

This tells us that no matter the domain, whether you are trying to rehabilitate an injury or condition, trying to gain muscle or lose weight, or even increase your human performance, you can use the same movement patterns, and therefore similar exercises. The differences will lie in the intensities at which they are performed which will be determined by the domain they fall in and what program style they adopt.

How we do it at Limitless

We like to use all schools of thought and incorporate the best practices into our methods. We make use of the functional fitness view when our clients want a solid workout and want to achieve a high level of performance. We make use of the commercial gym views when our clients want to gain specific strength and reduce risk of injuries, and the rehabilitative view for rehab, injury prevention and accessory work.

Wrap up

It may seem like a certain field or domain in health and fitness has claimed their own version of functional training when in fact, all these “versions” are more similar than different. I hope this article series has made that clear for you and if you have any questions regarding this series, please feel free to comment below and we will get back to you on them.

PS: I would like to take this opportunity to say that these are not hard scientific facts, but observations by us practitioners. There will be some exceptions to what we have mentioned and it should not be taken as “be-all and end-all” information. We just want to outline the various general misconceptions around the term functional training.

The Series – What is Functional Training?

Here are the other articles in the series in case you missed them.