Coach Alicia Fong

Just another weblog

What is Functional Training?

I have been asked this question a lot recently.  Let me try to answer it in a simple way so that everybody can understand.

Functional training has been around for centuries; however, it has been mislabeled by many coaches as “sport specific” training because, in general or by definition, functional training is training body movement patterns rather than specific muscles BUT it is not about training your body in specific movements according to what sports you play. To best describe it, functional training is training “general movements” whether it is sport purpose or not. Functional training has a great carryover to everyday life such as walking and running. Don’t we all bent over and pick something up from the ground?  Well, it’s the same movement as a deadlift.  Everybody should be training according to how their body functions and their goals. Since each individual is unique on its own way, what is functional for that individual may not be functional for another person.

Machine-based training which guides a body through a fixed movement (especially the smith-machines) is not functional at all for anybody. There have been arguments that training with smith machines results in fewer injuries in training, but the lack of stabilization and sense of your body’s whereabouts will more than likely lead to injuries while playing a sport or when a person goes for a simple run.

Everybody needs some sort of functional training because it improves our balance, speed, strength, and power. Body movement patterns like squats, lunges, deadlifts, chin ups and bench press (to name a few) are all functional movements but they are not all functional to everybody. Each category has its variation movements, in other words, under the squat category, there are back squat, front squat, single leg vertical squat, Bulgarian squat. Depending on each person’s goal and the way their body moves, a certain squat is preferred and better over another. For instance, the back squat is terrible for someone who has upper and lower cross syndrome posture (which most Americans have) because the loading puts too much stress on the spine and therefore can seriously result in lower back injuries. It is not worth the risk. I will give the back squat exercise to those who trains for Olympic Weight Lifting because back squat is a must for them or for those with different posture who can handle such loading on the spine. For most Americans, the front squat or Bulgarian squat is far more beneficial and effective. For athletes, they need lots of single leg exercises to improve their stability and balance. For runners, they need lots of glute exercises to stabilize the hip which then stabilize the knee.

Functional training uses many concepts and different type of exercises (ie. Flexibility, core, plyometric, strength, metabolic, etc) to improve speed, strength and power and thus improve their performance while going for a simple run or playing sports and at the same time reduce incidence of injury.

It is important to understand how your body moves and functions before starting any training; therefore, going through an assessment first is essential.  At AF Performance Center, we provide a very comprehensive assessment to all clients.   This is the first thing we do when each person signs up to join our gym. Besides, the assessment will give an indication to what type of functional training program an individual needs.

If you are still confused or have any questions, you may email me at


Alicia Fong


January 17, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , ,

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