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What is Functional Training?

April 1, 2009

img_1086So you’ve probably heard the new catch word “functional fitness” or “functional training”. What the heck does that mean? Does that mean that I should start to do more circuit training? More bicep curls with lighter weight upside-down? OK, let me shed some light on this….

Functional training is:

1. Natural- No, cavemen didn’t do calf raises. They didn’t give a rip what their calves looked like in comparison to the rest of their body. Functional training focuses on multi-joint compound movements like squats and others that move large loads over long distances quickly.

2. Essential to your independent living- Everyone has a grad parent or a relative at every family get-together that you have to transport from one area of the house to the other because they can’t walk or get up from a seated position on their own. Functional training is focused on movements like squats, push-ups, dead-lifts, etc. that help you remain physically independent over a lifetime.

3. Safe a max loads- You step up to a loaded bar or the bumper of a Honda Civic with perfect form, correct lumbar curve, weight in the heels, butt back, chest up, and you attempt a dead-lift way too heavy for you and…..nothing happens.  All that happens is you just couldn’t make the lift and nobody gets hurt.  Functional movements and lifts are safe.

4. They are core to extremity movements- All functional movements keep loads to the mid-line of the body so you stay strong through the lifts and you recruit all the appropriate muscles to do so. If your friends were moving a piano and all of a sudden a leg broke and they were in trouble you wouldn’t run over to help by turning your back to the table, putting your foot under it, and try to leg curl the table corner as forcefully as you could off the ground! No, you would get under the table with your hands and your butt down and use all the muscle you could in a productive and safe manner to get the corner of that piano off the ground.  So why would you train things like leg curls, or bicep curls? Training universal functional movements allow you to stay strong in reduced movements like leg curls, but training leg curls won’t prepare you to use your body to lift a piano off the ground. Or lift your child off the ground, or play baseball, or get off the toilet.

Training functional movements is the only way to achieve optimal fitness that will prepare you for the unknown.  It is the safest, most conducive to health, and most natural way to train. This is how I train and this is how I tell all of my patients to exercise. Remember just as I said in previous posts that moving your body is not a choice.  It is a genetic requirement for health, not a treatment for weight loss, or depression, or fatigue. When people ask me what I’m training for I tell them I’m training for life. Check out in the video section for examples of functional movements. The “WOD” or workout of the day is a workout posted every day that  will help you achieve a level of fitness like you’ve only imagined. I recommend spending some time with a local crossfit trainer first before attempting workouts to make sure you’re training safe and properly.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. drhewitt permalink*
    April 2, 2009 8:24 pm

    Man, Great article and someone with really good timing must have snapped that picture.

  2. Cameron permalink
    April 7, 2009 4:34 pm

    Dr. Hewitt, whats your franson email address? Great Blog. You need to add to the list of your website links.

  3. drhewitt permalink*
    April 8, 2009 2:51 pm

    Thanks Cam and I will add to my weblog. My email is


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