Functional training, here’s what you need to know!

Here at Barefoot we’re often asked about buzzwords in the fitness space and a phrase that regularly comes up is functional training. You’ve probably seen the term used in fitness advertising and many trainers offer it as a part of their exercise programming. So we want to discus the functional approach to exercise, the benefit it provides, and give you a few tips on how to ensure your exercise involves a functional component.

 

Let’s begin with the term functional.

 

adjective

  1. having a special activity, purpose, or task.

“a functional role”

  1. designed to be practical and useful, rather than attractive.

“a small, functional bathroom”

 

With this definition in mind, the concept of functional training involves performing exercise that has purpose and will be useful to the exerciser. To assess the practicality of the exercise you are currently doing it is worth considering the kinds of movements that are purposeful to you. Or to put it another way, what movements are you required to do everyday in your environment? This varies from person to person and depends on variables such as work, sport, life stage, and personal goals and hobbies. Programming exercise with a functional approach, therefore, must take into account such variables in order to be practical and useful. As it turns out, a majority of the time, the complexity of human movement can be broken down into just a few basic fundamental movements – pulling, pushing, squatting, lifting, and walking/running. When you see “functional training” offered as a part of a fitness service generally speaking it is offering an exercise program that involves training these fundamental human movements. It should also be considering your individual goals and lifestyle.

In many cases exercises that could be considered as “functional” involve movement of multiple joints, action of multiple muscles and ultimately has a basis in fundamental human movement. The reason for this is that this reflects many of the movements of day to day life – think carrying groceries in from the car, picking up and holding children, placing objects up on an overhead shelf, even running to catch a train – each example involves movements of multiple joints and muscles, and has a basis in one of the fundamental human movements – sound familiar?

By performing exercise with a functional approach not only do you receive the benefits of exercise and gain strength but the movements and moments of day-to-day life become easier. If you can train what it is going to be useful to you in the real world environment your ability to carry out physical tasks improves.

This also means your resilience to injury improves too!

 

Want to make your training more functional? Here are some things to consider.

  1. Ensure your trainer understands the sort of physical activities you do regularly. This will give them an idea of your movement profile and whether you need to train for strength, power, or endurance.
  2. If you’re already doing certain exercises ask yourself how the exercise will be useful to you. If you’re told an exercise is functional consider asking “functional for what?”. Often times, exercises involving multiple joints and muscles will be more practical since they mimic the movements of day to day life.
  3. Keep in mind that not everything we do in our day to day lives needs to be trained in the gym. For example, the best way to train your good sitting posture and build endurance in your postural muscles, is to use your time in the office to practice!

Regardless of the term you use to describe your exercise just remember to move often in a variety of ways and above all find something that you enjoy. Exercise can come in many forms. There’s lifting weights, rock climbing, martial arts, yoga, running, gardening, barefoot bowls…the list goes on. Just be sure to move often and if you find this difficult find something you enjoy as this will make your movement habits easier and set yourself up for success.

Want to know more? Or meet with one of the physios to discuss how you can get your body moving again? Click here.

Snapping hip syndrome

Common knee injuries and how to treat them

Knee ligaments and injury

The knee is vital for everyday functions, yet it is often poorly understood. There are many misconceptions about what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for knees and exactly what is going on inside the joint.

The knee is identified as a hinge joint, meaning it primarily moves in one direction (ie bending and straightening). It is made up of the femur (thigh bone), tibia (shin bone) and patella (knee cap). These bones are all held in place by a number of ligaments. The ‘joint surfaces’ (parts of the bone that glide on one another) are covered in articular cartilage to absorb shock and reduce friction in the joint. The joint capsule and ligaments serve to provide stability to the knee, whilst allowing it the necessary movement.

high knees

The main knee ligaments are summarised below:

  • Medial collateral ligament: sits outside the joint capsule and runs between the tibia and femur (inside of the leg) to provide resistance to forces pushing the knee inwards
  • Lateral collateral ligament: sits outside the joint capsule and runs between the tibia and femur (outside of the leg) to provide resistance to forces pushing the knee outwards
  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL): is within the knee joint and runs from the front of the tibia to the back of the femur
  • Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL): runs from the front of the femur to the back of the tibia (also within the joint)
  • Patellar ligament: sits outside the joint capsule and runs from the patella (kneecap) to the front of the shin

The meniscus is another key structure in the knee joint. It is a fibrocartilaginous disc that sits between the tibia and femur to help absorb shock and improve load-bearing of the knee (twisting and stretching).

Common knee injuries

While we see a lot of pain that is a result of a build-up of accumulated strain, there are also a number of injuries that are caused by sudden trauma. These can include a rugby tackle, poor landing in netball, falling over skiing and even your form during rock climbing.
Knee pain

While accumulative strain injuries are usually the result of tight or weak muscles and stiff joints, traumatic injuries may involve structural damage to the knee joint.

Stay tuned for next weeks blog post, where we will discuss common knee injures, what causes them and most importantly, how to treat them.

If you would like to learn more, or visit one of our physio’s click here!