If you have ever walked past a functional trainer machine and wondered how it works, it’s time to learn about the true value of functional strength training. As a short summary, functional training involves performing exercises that you can translate into your daily life. While most weight training focuses on repetition that only gets used at the gym, functional training focuses on movements that you might recognize and repeat while doing yardwork or performing other duties around the house. Here is an explanation of how this exercise technique works and what you should look for in a functional training machine.
What is Functional Training?
You probably recognize many functional training exercises as the same sort of fitness routines that you practice in the gym, but with a new twist. Most functional fitness personal training focuses on compound exercises that combine various movements and repetitions to mimic the movements you make during a normal active lifestyle. The word “functional” in the phrase functional strength training means that you can take the strength and flexibility from these exercises and use them to improve your ability to perform daily tasks. Most of the exercises are multi-joint, and any successful functional fitness personal training routine involves movements on multiple planes to give you a whole-body workout.
What is a Functional Training Machine?
Because functional training requires so many different kinds of movement, a functional training machine has to be flexible enough to provide a wide variety of different exercises. Some equipment commonly used in functional exercises includes plyometric machines, speed ladders, and barbells. Somebody with a particularly strong interest in functional training is best-suited looking into different cable machines that provide a combination of versatility with the ability to provide many different kinds of resistance exercises. A well-constructed functional training system often has two independent weight stacks and an array of different cables and pulleys that can provide resistance for all parts of the body and the chance to perform multiple complex exercises in the same workout session.
What are the Benefits of Functional Training?
Functional training uses your real-life experience to build on your strengths and improve upon your weaknesses. When you engage in functional training, you have the opportunity to mentally focus on movements that you make every day. Not only does this improve upon your muscle memory, but it also trains your brain to respond to certain mundane tasks more effectively. These exercises build core strength, balance, and coordination. Because they do so in a functional and comprehensive manner, somebody who engages in functional training is more likely to have good balance and body awareness. This can help in physical performance, sports, and even to avoid simple falls and common injuries.
Here are some of the ways that functional training helps different age groups:
- Adolescents and young adults gain the physical training and muscle memory to perform important tasks and activities that will help them well into adulthood and beyond.
- As a person approaches middle age, they need more cardiovascular and coordination training. Functional training exercises provides ways to keep the body feeling younger and more flexible. This can also help to keep muscles from atrophying due to a sedentary lifestyle.
- People approaching retirement age can use the flexibility and coordination benefits provided by functional training to help avoid slips, falls, and accidents. As the body gets less able to recover from even minor injuries, the ability to avoid such accidental injuries can help you live a longer and healthier life.
What Should You Look for in a Functional Training System?
When you start to look for a new functional training system, you should keep an eye out for cable machines first and foremost. While other exercise machines can be great for building a specific area of your body, only cable machines provide the ability to transition between different planes of movement. This means that you can use the same machine in a different configuration to tone more areas of your body. For example, you might begin your routine by doing some simple pullet exercises while standing straight, thus working your arms and shoulders. You could then use the same pulley but change your position to work your back and thighs.
When you start shopping for functional training machines, you should consider the following important items:
- Durability: Is the machine capable of providing the same consistent level of resistance after hundreds or possibly even thousands of different repetitions? Many exercise machines come with a warranty to show the company's trust in their brand, and you should check this information out.
- Easy Transitions: The best cable machines make transitioning from one exercise to another easy. If you have to spend a lot of time changing the configuration of the machine between exercises, your fitness routine won't be as effective as you need it to be.
- Weight Options: Before you commit to any exercise machine, make sure that it can fit your weight needs. Test to see how much weight you require for a given resistance exercise, and then expect that you will get stronger as you build more muscle. If a cable machine starts with weight settings that don't fir either where you are now or where you plan to reach, you won't get the most out of the exercises.
- Cost: Of course, you should always weight your finances before making a major purchase. Be sure to consider the cost of the cable machine that you prefer, but also think about the quality of the product you are purchasing. Check reviews online to make sure that you select a machine that will last, which will provide you with the range of exercise you need, and that fits into your budget.
What Sort of Functional Exercises Work the Best?
After purchasing your functional trainer, you should plan out a workout routine that will benefit you in both the short and the long term. Ideally, you should consult a personal trainer or fitness expert on this matter so you make sure not to overdo anything or engage in a routine that might cause you physical injury. If you have experience in developing an exercise routine, you should find adjusting to a functional training routine to be relatively easy.
Some of the most popular exercises performed with functional training machines include the following:
- Cable Front Squat: Face the functional training machine with the pulley as close to the ground as possible. Use a rope attachment and grip the rope as though you are about to perform a curl. Move into a squat position and then raise yourself back up in a quick but controlled manner.
- Lunges: You can use the cable to perform both forward and reverse lunges. Face the cable machine for forward lunges and turn your back to it for reverse lunges, keeping your hands on the rope attachment at all times. Make sure to position your knee properly so it doesn't extend past your toes during your lunges.
- Upper Body Exercises: You can use a functional training machine to perform a variety of different upper body exercises. When you do this, position yourself as normal for each exercise. Make sure that the cable has some tension in it and give yourself room to perform each exercise as explosively as possible.
- Chest and Shoulder Presses: You should use a D-handle attachment for these presses and position yourself in a split stance, which means that you should have your feet and legs in a staggered position instead of close together. You can then pull the attachment with one hand in a controlled manner, switching to the other hand to make sure that you get even exercise on both sides of the body.
- Rowing Exercises: You can use a cable machine in the same way that you would normally use a rowing machine. In this case, the cables function as the oars and you perform your exercise in more or less the same manner. Just make sure that you provide yourself with room to extend your legs properly as you perform the exercise. You should also have support for your back to make sure that you don't pull any muscles there due to poor form.
When Should You Avoid Functional Fitness Training?
Functional fitness exercises fit most people’s needs and, when performed consistently, they can improve almost anybody’s health and lifestyle. The notable exception to this is if you have a cardiac issue or are pregnant. If you have one of these conditions, you may still be able to gain the benefits of these exercises. However, you should make sure to check with your doctor first.
Functional training is helpful to virtually everybody at almost any age. It can improve your balance, coordination, strength, and ability to perform normal exercises. To get the most out of a functional training routine, you should make sure to purchase a cable machine that will help you perform these exercises. By using the tips above, you should be able to find the right machine and get started and some excellent functional exercises.