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The Importance of Functional Training

Everyday life requires us to perform activities that involve complex movements which can test our sense of co-ordination, balance, stability and proprioception. Now we aren’t constantly aware of these kinds of things, but it includes anything as mundane as walking down the street, sitting down or getting up, moving around obstacles and walking backwards, which we all do more than you might think.
Functional training then helps to bridge the gap between our daily lives and the exercise we most commonly do. It prepares us to cope with life at a higher and more satisfying level. It stimulates the nervous system in ways single plane movements can not, and as such everything improves right across all the range of movements.

functional exercise equipment

You see, the trouble with standard forward facing movements like the bench press, or gym-machine work, is that is only works in a single plane, in this case the sagital or forward plane. Now, as we have seen, this just doesn’t mimic everyday life. Nobody walks down the street like a robot. If all you ever do for your legs is squats and some lying leg curls, you will struggle to perform at any decent level outside of that single plane.

At best you’ll have limited balance and stability, and at worse you’re a major muscle injury waiting to happen.

Although functional exercise has its roots in injury rehabilitation, it has found mainstream popularity in sports, gyms and personal training studios all over the world due to its ability to mimic situations you might come across every day.
These days every sports player will engage in regular functional exercises that incorporate tri-planar movements. The three angles of attack are:
Sagital – forward
Frontal – sideways
Transverse – backwards


lunge with rotation

medicine ball lunge with trunk rotation










With these three we can of course make any combination in-between. Diagonally forwards or diagonally backwards for example.
Balance, stability, co-ordination and proprioception will all require extensive work utilizing all the tri-planar movements and all the angles in-between. The amazing thing is many people don’t realize how under worked they are in these areas until I ask them to step-off backwards or to hop sideways in an exercise, often being completely useless at it for a few weeks until the body and brain start to work together as a team.
If you aren’t yet incorporating angled movements into your regular training, it’s never too late to start. I’ll be featuring some more articles on how to do this in the coming days and weeks so be sure to check back often.

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