What is Functional Training?

By: Scott Davis, Campus Recreation Services, Certified Personal Trainer

Perhaps you’ve noticed the new Functional Training Studio in Eppley Recreation Center, but you haven’t ventured in quite yet because you’re not sure what functional training is all about … let us help!


The Functional Training Studio is located on level 0 of the Eppley Recreation Center and is open to all CRS members – no sign-up or prior experience necessary.

Functional training is essentially a workout program designed to make the things you do every day easier.

Whether an “everyday task” is something as basic as stepping out of a car or something as complex as scoring a touchdown, the way you train your body to perform is the way your body will respond.

While every person can benefit from a functional training routine or functional training exercise, it is especially advantageous to individuals with movement issues or movement-related goals.

For instance people attempting to recover from an injury or nagging pain in a joint, the elderly, athletes or people who endure difficult daily tasks like a construction worker or mover are prime candidates for a functional training routine. Specifically tailoring your training toward your living is arguably the most important element of a functional training routine.

The science behind functional training is focused on dynamic movement, characteristic of training in a 4D environment. Traditional exercises typically focus on one “plane of motion”, or direction of the movement such as forward or backwards (e.g., sit ups, chest press), side to side (e.g., lateral raises, jumping jacks) or rotational (e.g., swinging a bat, Russian twists). For certain goals like building the volume of a muscle, traveling in one plane of motion is not a bad thing.

However, the disadvantage of working in one plane of motion is that it limits the amount of muscles and joints at work to assist you in accomplishing your goal (usually to only one muscle group and joint). For a bicep curl, you are only working one muscle and joint- the bicep and elbow joint. Functional training concentrates more on working multiple joints and their stabilizer muscles through multiple plains of motion.

Training in multiple modalities will decrease injury when you’re living in a 4D world.

Most movements throughout the day do not follow just one plane of motion, especially the complicated movements that take place in certain workplaces or sports. Ask yourself: how often are you strictly moving your arms in a chest press-like manner? How often are your arms over your head by default doing a shoulder press-like motion? Chances are not often, and if you do these tasks you most likely incorporate other muscle groups to assist.

While single-planar exercises focus on one muscle group, multi-planar exercises focus on multiple muscle groups, which is more natural to the body’s everyday living.

This will lead to a greater strength and movement efficiency in the real world. For example, pushing a couch back requires the use of the triceps, chest, legs, shoulders, core and possibly the back. For a single planar traditional exercise, it is very difficult to work all these muscles at one time.

Functional training is training your body the way you want to live. If you want to live better, move more efficiently and be better at the things you do– consider adding functional training to your exercise routine.

The new functional training studio is open to all Campus Recreation Services members

The Functional Training Studio in the Eppley Recreation Center is open to all Campus Recreation Services members and has friendly staff on-hand and all the tools you’ll need to train the way your body actually moves  – including TRX trainers, kettlebells, stability balls, and BOSU. All you need to do to get started is just drop in and get moving. You can also check out one of the guided workouts throughout the week or talk to a personal trainer at Ask the Trainer or BYOT – Build Your Own Training plan. No sign-up or prior experience necessary.

Learn more:

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