I like Mike Boyle’s definition in Functional Training for Sports. He says that “functional training is best described as a continuum of exercises that teach athletes to handle their own body weight in all planes of movement.”
We humans perform a wide range of movements (walking, running, pushing, pulling, bending, twisting, starting, stopping, etc.), which take place in all three planes — front-to-back, side-to-side and rotational. So we should train in all three planes, not just the front-to-back plane emphasized in the traditional gym setting.
Functional training began in the rehab environment. Physical therapists recognized that many of the injuries they saw in athletes and workers were caused by weak stabilizers in the hip, spine or scapulo-thoracic joint. So functional training programs began to address these weaknesses by incorporating exercises that strengthen these stabilizers. Hence, core strength training.
But at the very essence, function is about purpose. So functional training is about preparing yourself for the specific activities of your life.
More on this to come…