Understanding And Defining Functional Training (Continued)


7. Challenge joint motions in a manner that acknowledges the degree to which sport and daily life movements are similar. Developing general movement capabilities that have a high transfer and relevance to sport and daily life provides a clue that functional training approaches are generally not trying to create sport specific movement. This generalist approach views most activities as more similar than different and focuses on commonalities of daily activity and sport. The adage, “Train and practice like you play!” is a testament to quality of training in kinetic chain or functional training, as well as to the importance of specificity and sport skill practice. Transitioning from muscle isolation, to high ­transfer functional activity, to skill practice and participation in the activity or sport brings the training paradigm full circle if improved performance is the ultimate goal.

8. “Drill” or practice in a manner that identifies and trains general skills that are integral to the performance of an activity or sport. Basic motor skills – linear movement, lateral movement, diagonal movement, jumping, hopping, leaping, skipping, overhead throwing skills, striking, bending, reaching, rotating, weight shifts, single leg balance, and core bracing to name a few – are common to many sports and activities. Using drills for the sake of having a lot of drills is unintentional training and moves away from purpose driven functional training. Analyze activity and incorporate movement and balance challenges that mirror the activity or activities, and remember, focus on what sports have in common with each other. For example, rotary power training for the torso has a common link to baseball, softball, golf, tennis and hockey based on the swinging or striking motion used to propel a ball or puck. With this knowledge, an instructor can create workouts that emphasize a number of common skills, as well as simultaneously develop secondary fitness components that can result in training that improves coordination, proprioception and body control. Rather than indicating a drill is sport specific, understand the movement commonality factor and its application to other sports.

9. Have a specific application in mind for accomplishing training goals. Activity for the sake of activity is a dead end approach that goes nowhere. Without specific training goals, participants will drop out, become discouraged or get less than optimal training/performance result. Training must make sense (functional training makes sense to athletes!) and have application toward accomplishing the training goal of being able to move more effectively in a 3­D, dynamic world. This is called useable or functional training. 

10. Be fun. Functional training, by its very nature can be fun. Though it is challenging, it is also rewarding and synchs ­up with improved performance. It trains a person to move naturally. Since this type of training feels natural and is challenging, yet has direct links to personal success and every day movement applications, “fun” takes care of itself in the form of diversity, results and exercise compliance.

fitness and performance training hierarchy 

Many instructors and trainers ask, “Where does functional fitness training fit in relationship to what I'm already doing?” or “Where does functional fitness fall in relation to the classic training hierarchy of cardio, strength and flexibility training?” The importance of developing a foundation of fitness components as they relate to health and performance has been expressed in a number of ways and by revisiting both primary and secondary components of fitness the answers to the above questions becomes quite clear. 

A triangle ­hierarchy of importance generally places primary components of fitness near the base of the triangle (most important initially or critical to a base of fitness), followed by secondary components of fitness, which then leads to the top of the tier which represents a desired outcome as it relates to integrated movement capability and accomplishment of training goals. In this case, the top of the triangle is “performance.” 

primary fitness components 

As the Fitness and Performance Training Hierarchy diagram shows, primary components of fitness include cardiovascular fitness, muscular endurance and strength, and flexibility fitness, as well as teaching a participant the basics of how to attain a healthful body composition ratio of fat to lean mass. This basic foundation highlights the importance of overall fitness and proper nutrition. 
Though there is some functional transfer of this basic foundation training to real­ life movement and sports participation, the development of secondary fitness traits distinctly marks where the training outcome shifts to training for function and has a high ­transfer to performance. This step moves training from less useful to more integrated and useful as it relates to fitness and movement. To reiterate, one type of training is not necessarily better, or worse, when compared to another. They are simply different. 

secondary fitness components


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