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What is functional training?

July 17th, 2013

Functional Training a Growing Fitness Trend

Functional training is an important new philosophy. As a trainer, I am amazed at the extent to which the health and fitness industry changes with newfound trends. Take a look at any fitness publication, and you will be confronted with countless advertisements and endorsements for the latest and greatest nutritional supplements, group fitness classes, and training ideologies. With every new marketing ploy that consumers encounter, fitness experts like myself are presented with the same questions: is it worth my time and money, and will it serve to impact my fitness in a profound way?


Industry-wide, health and fitness has experienced a renewed focus on our understanding of how the body moves. Armed with a greater appreciation of the body’s mechanics and structural limitations, many health and fitness experts have shifted their training from confined, unidirectional movement patterns guided by machines focusing on muscle groups, to more  dynamic movement based training regimens designed to help prepare the body for real life stressors. In the interest of capitalizing on this newfound shift in priorities, many fitness regimens have touted the benefit of incorporating these “functional” fitness principles. While this seemingly ubiquitous term has been utilized to describe every form of training under the sun, I have found that many fitness types have confused sport specific training with functional training. The overall confusion as to the true definition of functional training merits a closer look.


According to the American Council on Exercise, functional strength training can be defined as: “…performing work against resistance in such a manner that the improvements in strength directly enhance the performance of movements so that an individual’s activities of daily living are easier to perform.” Simply stated: if your goal is to move more efficiently and pain free (of course while burning calories in the process), then your exercise regimen should incorporate movement patterns that recruit and strengthen muscle groups that assist you in day-to-day functions. Additionally, functional fitness training serves to “enhance the coordinated working relationship between the nervous and muscular systems.” The takeaway here, regardless of your day to day “function”, is to incorporate exercises that serve to use muscles that you need on a day to day basis, while challenging the neuromuscular system to perform movements in multiple directions. Since real life movement does not happen in one direction, our training should prepare us for movement in a three dimensional world.


functional training

Armed with a deeper understanding of the implications of so called “functional training”, the savvy fitness consumer can use products that serve to reinforce the notion of training with a purpose. Enter the SandBell®. What other piece of free weight equipment is as versatile? By nature, it is the ultimate functional fitness tool by incorporating the most positive features of dumbbells, medicine balls, kettle bells, and any other free weight training modality you can imagine into one training sandbag. Any goal, any movement, and any workout warrior can find some way to grip, flip, lift, throw, and slam in any direction to improve their fitness!


As we can appreciate the impact that a powerful tool like the SandBell can have on a functional fitness training program, we would be well served to return to the questions posed of every fitness trend. First, is the SandBell worth my time and money? As you can see from the endless training resources featured on the Hyperwear blog, the answer is a resounding “Yes.” You cannot find a better value as an efficient way to get fit. Second, I would challenge you to get your hands on one of these neoprene bags of sand and see how they can completely change your training and fitness forever!


Cheers! Happy lifting.

Sam Dowd



Source: Bryant, Cedric X. 101 Frequently Asked Questions about “Health & Fitness” and “Nutrition & Weight Control”. Sagamore Publishing, 1999.

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