You’ve heard it before. “Functional training.” Usually surrounded with a picture of a woman deadlifting, or lifting some kettlebells. Then, it also follows a codified definition of what it means to be functional. This codification is usually derived from personal agenda and dogma.
The truth is simple.
Your function is to move. My coach, Frankie Faires, first told me that. And I have never doubted it since.
How you move determines how you look. Not just in aesthetics, either. This encompasses your posture, your tissue elasticity, and your overall shape. So form follows function, in other words.
How We Move
We move in different ways. We are capable of moving in infinite ways. Whether we play sports, go to the gym, work a desk job, act, play music, or whatever else we do with our lives, we are not using all our ranges of motion. If we engage in any of the above activities, we’re using a limited set of movements, to paraphrase Mel Siff.
Now, those movements we do so often become our form. Because they are our function. Next time you go to the gym, see if you can spot the person with the internally rotated shoulders. Usually a male, likely comes from a lot of bench pressing. Or if you know someone who has practiced Jiu-Jitsu or boxing for 20 years, look for the hunched thoracic spine, and flexion at the hips, even when standing.
As a result of their particular function, they started to look like what they did the most. There’s a way not to get stuck though.
What We Move
The question now is, “how do we focus our training?” Well, the first thing to do is to take a look at your life and ask yourself a few questions:
What do I spend a lot of time doing?
Do I play sports?
Do I have a desk job?
What do I do at the gym?
What am I not doing at the gym (or anywhere else)?
At the beginning of your training, you will want to start with where you are. So if you’re a desk jockey, you’re very good at two things—sitting and slouching, respectively.
This isn’t bad, but it DOES give you some good starting points for skills to work on in the gym. Things like seated Arnold Presses, Box Squats, and Seated Cable Rows come into mind. You are starting with how you move now and adding in more movement.
As you progress further in your lifting, you will be able to expand these limits. As such, your gym training will start to look less and less like your everyday life, and you will start to regain the motions you lost or didn’t know you had.
Our function is to move. If you spend too much time in one position, you start to develop movement problems. Then you can’t move in certain ways. After that, you start to look like how you move. Your form follows your function. It’s time to regain your functionality.