My Story

Functional Exercise

What is a functional exercise? Based on the previous articles discussing the characteristics of functional strength, in addition to the correlation between posture and strength, a functional exercise consists of the following 2 qualities:

  1. A functional exercise suits the particular needs of the person based on the activity and lifestyle for which he/she is developing strength. This means you must look, in closer detail, at the movement in the activity and the exercises, not simply whether you are pushing or pulling. So, in order to determine whether an exercise develops functional strength for your particular activity, you must look closely at both and compare whether they apply the same principles of physics.

This is important because, when the physics change, it changes which muscles are used. Let me give you an example. In a previous article, I discussed the flat bench press. Your back is against an immovable object, the bench, and you are pushing the weight directly against the force of gravity. Let’s flip it 90 degrees so you are standing with your arms pushing against a wall. Now you are pushing an immovable object at an angle that is perpendicular to the force of gravity. Let’s flip it another 90 degrees so you are in push-up position on the ground. When doing a push up, you are pushing your body away from an immovable object, the ground, and going at an angle that is directly against the force of gravity. Give this a try and take note on how all three feel different on your body despite the fact that they are all similar looking pushing motions.

  1. A functional exercise is one that does not create or enhance dysfunction in a person’s body. So if the repetitive movement of a particular activity causes a muscle imbalance or an imbalance already exists, a functional exercise does not increase that imbalance. In fact, a functional exercise would be one that would negate an imbalance. This quality takes precedence over the first quality mentioned above.

If an exercise increases an imbalance, it causes the body to deviate farther from proper postural alignment (remember, from the previous article, the connection between functional strength and posture). Therefore, in many instances, a functional exercise program may consist of movements that are the exact opposite of the movements in the particular activity or sport! So the question arises- when do exercises with the first quality come into play? The answer is- after muscular balance has been re-established, but then those exercises must be balanced out with exercises with the second quality.

MBF® strength training programs are designed to increase functional strength while creating and/or maintaining muscular balance (as seen through the athlete’s posture). In addition, MBF® strength programs are individualized because each person’s postural dysfunctions are different. Without an understanding of an individual’s specific postural dysfunctions, there is little understanding of how to properly correct the muscular imbalances. Most strength and conditioning coaches and personal trainers tend to only be familiar with the first quality of a functional exercise that I mentioned above. This leads to huge muscular imbalances and that is also why we see so many athletes who seem very strong, but are plagued with injuries and play through pain. It should be obvious that a person is not at their maximum strength and performance capabilities when he/she is in pain or injured. Through personalized and specifically sequenced MBF® strength programs, we are not only making a stronger athlete, but also one that is injury and pain free which ultimately leads to greater performance potential.