Sunday, October 16, 2022

My Patient Was Asked To Go For Functional Training

My patient said her friend told her she should attend a 'functional training' (FT) class in order to regain her strength and mobility after she broke her ankle. 

She was also told that that FT would improve her neuromuscular adaptations (increasing the efficiency the way her body moves and safety during activities related to daily living, work and sports). Other terms include high intensity functional training (HIFT) and functional fitness (FF).

I shared with her what I read regarding a review on whether FT programs are different from traditional strength, power, flexibility and endurance training programs that are already being used in the physical training of professional, recreational athletes, healthy adults and geriatric populations.

The authors focused on the FT definitions, exercises employed and the neuromuscular adaptations reported. Firstly, they found that there is no agreement on a universal definition for FT. 

FT programs hope to improve the same neuromuscular adaptations similar to traditional strength, power and endurance training programs. The exercises employed are in fact the same. 

The main confusion with these 'new' training programs is that (other than the new fancy names) they often always overlap with traditional strength, power, endurance and flexibility programs. There is also no precise definition of functional movements. Do our muscles perform any non functional functions?

Some studies have classified that FT involves resistance training while FF has been defined as a trend using strength training. So, both FT and FF can be easily described as strength training programs.

HIFT was defined as high intensity and high volume exercises with short rest intervals. This is similar to a strength, power, and endurance session elite athletes use during specific phases of training. In fact FF has also been known as HIFT. So FF is actually HIFT. Since exercise intensity is a training variable and not an exercise type, FT and HIFT is the same training program performed at different intensities.

The authors concluded that FT has no consistent and universal definition. FT programs and exercises are not different from those already used in sports training since the neuromuscular adaptations are the same. The authors concluded that FT is not different from traditional strength, power and aerobic endurance training.

In short, there is no "non-functional" or "traditional" training. There is no real need or rationale in classifying exercise training programs as FT.

The names of these new training progams may sound cool and fancy, but you now know that they are in fact similar to weight training. 

The authors also recommended that the terms FT, HIFT and FF no longer be used to describe any training program. These can be easily classified as strength, power, endurance and flexibility programs. I found that a little too harsh since they are just names to describe training programs. At least now you know.


Ide BN, Silvatti AP, Marocolo M et al (2022). IS There Any Non-functional Training? A Conceptual Review. Frontiers Sport Active Living.3: 803366. DOI: 10.3389/fspor.2021.803366.

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