What training for “function” really means

What training for “function” really means

Written By: Mario Ashley, MBA

As trainers, I’m guilty of it myself, we talk about how our training program promotes exercises that are “transferable” but we don’t really go into detail as to what that actually means. From my 8 years of experience as a gym owner and 12 years as a personal trainer here is how I’ve come to understand transferability…

I understand transfer to mean an improvement in the following:

Transfer to everyday living
At the most basic level, functional movements produce a capacity to make life easier. Functional movements provide a quality of life you would not have otherwise. If you don’t believe me just ask the individual in the nursing home struggling to squat themselves off a chair. The fitter you are the less this is an issue in your life. Although I know many young males who can’t raise their arms overhead without squinting in pain. This too will become problematic over time if not taken care of.

Transfer to similar movements (muscular)
In training, we believe functional movements have the ability to translate into more advanced movements of similar fashion. The air squat is a non-loaded barbell squat. The KB Deadlift is similar to the barbell Deadlift. This series of progressions from least advanced to most advanced provides a protocol all trainers can use to develop mastery of the most complex movements.

Transfer to similar time domains (physiological)
Movements aren’t the only thing that can be transferred. The muscle doesn’t care whether you train with a bar or a band. The muscle knows no difference. Thirty pounds of resistance is thirty pounds of resistance regardless of the tool. The transferability of functional movement training is that using movements for cardiovascular training has the same benefits as traditional cardio training with the benefits of strength, power, and speed of weightlifting. Training 1-minute intervals transfer into 1-minute intervals of like motor patterns.

Transfer to a sport (ultimate demand)
At the most elite level, athletes training in the gym to become better athletes. The idea is that becoming bigger, faster, stronger will translate to becoming a better athlete. Functional movements provide that opportunity by attempting to mimic the movements, time domains, and requirements of their respective sport. This is not to neglect the skill specific training required to be a great athlete. It is not a coincidence that the age at which kids are training for sport is getting younger and younger.