What the Heck is Functional Training... And Why Should I Care?

Kendyl Comiskey BS, CPT

Kendyl Comiskey

Walking into a gym can be intimidating for many reasons. Maybe you have not been for a while and feel like everyone is watching you as you start an exercise. Maybe your favorite treadmill is being used, forcing you to use that stair stepper that looks way more intimidating. Maybe it is your first time into a gym and you have no idea how the heck this big, shiny equipment works, so you slyly watch for someone to (unknowingly) teach you before you can try it yourself.

Sound familiar?

Do not fret - everyone has felt uncomfortable walking into a gym at one time or another. This includes personal trainers, instructors, and even those power lifters who look like they were born in a gym!

One of the most common sources of stress that I see from people who join the gym (especially those who walk onto our fitness floor for the first time) comes from the realization that their favorite machine is not in sight. While it is true that our remodeled fitness floor has state of the art equipment and everything you need to get a solid sweat, it is also true that we do not have a lot of the traditional equipment that you may be used to. So, when I bring someone onto the fitness floor for the first time, I recognize that look in their eye that screams: “But where is the leg curl machine!? How will I work on my abs without the Torso Twist!? I hate using dumb bells, how am I going to do biceps curls now?!”

Again, do not fret – the lack of these traditional, often outdated machines was done purposefully with you in mind! What a lot of people do not know that is that for the most part, the machines that require you to sit, strap in, or perform bi-lateral movements are often not as safe, effective, or realistic for everyday life. Instead, a shift towards functional training is what the driving idea behind our equipment is – and I cannot tell you HOW EXCITED I am for the new equipment that is going into our new training zone!


What is functional training?

If you are one of those who has not been introduced to the idea of functional training yet, then I am happy to be the one to briefly explain!

In everyday life, we walk, run, pedal a bike, and take the stairs one step at a time. Similarly, we grab something from the top shelf, pull a door open, and return a serve with the use of one arm at a time. So, why do machines have us exercising both legs or both arms at the same time? It is funny to imagine, but if we walked around the same way that leg machines have us train, we would be hopping around all day.

Entertaining, but not efficient.

The use of these restrictive machines is not functional because they are teaching your muscles, joints, and even brain to adapt to a movement that is not as realistic for everyday life. This is because of the reduced range of motion that occurs due to having to either strap-in, sit-down, or both. Additionally, using a machine can hinder the development of core stability by having the weight move along a set path rather than having to engage your core while standing up right using free weights.

The good news is; you do not have to compromise the use of machines completely! In fact, one piece of equipment that we have on our fitness floor that is often referred to as a ‘machine’ is debatably the most functional piece of equipment that we have – the four-stack cable machine! The pulley cable system is optimal when it comes to “machines” because it allows for uni-lateral movements (using one limb at a time vs. two at a time) and can adjust to different heights. Additionally, the cable stack comes with a variety of attachments which allow for multiple exercises that take the place of nearly everything that old fashioned machines do. If you are ever curious about a certain attachment, please do not hesitate to ask!

Going forward with this new information about functional training, try to think about exercising as training a movement, not just a group of muscles. Perform exercises that translate to everyday living instead of performing isolated exercises that restrict the way your joints were made to move.

Here is a list of 3 exercises that can be done on our fitness floor (and in our new training zone) that can translate to your everyday, functional life:

  1. Single arm rows to train for opening doors, refrigerators, or picking something up
  2. Weighted or non-weighted bench dips to train for pushing yourself off of the ground or a chair
  3. Single leg glute bridge to train major muscles in the back of your leg that aid in running, jumping, and even walking

If you are still curious about functional training and would like to know more exercises like these that train you for life, ask me about setting up a training session! In the next couple of months, we will have some exciting updates about our new functional training zone as well as new classes that meet your fitness level and will excel you to the next!

Happy training!