In this era of fad workouts and gimmicks, sometimes we get caught in the hype, without knowing the reason behind it. People use terms that sound interesting and exciting but when you ask them to elaborate, they’re unable to. It’s the same with a workout routine, I’ve seen trainers guide clients through a routine that I didn’t understand the reason they used the selection and sequence of exercises that they did. Apparently, neither did they. Maybe they saw someone else doing it, maybe that workout was from a new video developed by the next person with washboard abs. Either way, the skills and knowledge required to build a successful and individualized program have been replaced with lack of knowledge and aesthetically appealing physiques. These days, it seems as if there is a lot more confusion and debate to what really defines a great workout.

A common misconception people have is that the workout has to leave them overly sore to be effective. People brag about being so sore that they can barely move for three days, vomiting induced by over exertion and being drenched in sweat during the entire workout. If your muscles got that sore, you probably overworked them and unless you’re producing as much testosterone as a bull, you probably caused more damage to your muscles than good. If you had to vomit, there’s a reason why and you either have to adjust your routine, your lifestyle or both so that this isn’t a common practice. If you are sweating profusely, drink enough water to prevent dehydration. While these factors are used by many as scales to rate how effective their workout was, they’re really detrimental to our physical state. The way to counteract this way of thinking is to exercise functionally.

There’s a large variety of exercises that fall under the umbrella of functional training. The best way to describe it is how you can relate your workouts to your daily activities. Typically, a functional exercise program would contain lateral (frontal plane) and rotational (transverse plane) movements in additional to the traditional sagittal plane exercises. A functional exercise program should increase range of motion, improve posture, increase strength and flexibility, while enhancing performance and improving balance and stability. The emphasis is not to build superficial muscle or lose weight but to produce the most enhanced version of yourself by progressively increasing your natural abilities. It also has to do with the lifestyles of each individual. For those that live a sedentary lifestyle, a program would be designed to reverse the misalignment of the body caused by it.

We may come across things in our day that we don’t expect. If we have to run across the street to catch a bus or climb a fence to elude a stray dog, the better shape we’re in, the easier these tasks will be for us. Climbing a ladder requires cross body (contralateral) coordination. Throwing a ball requires hip rotation, along with a contralateral movement pattern. When we push an object, we are usually stand up, not lying down on our backs. While a bench press may increase your strength so you bench press more weight, it doesn’t do much more than that. If you observe the bodies of fighters, they’re not going to win any bodybuilding competitions but they can most certainly outperform a bodybuilder on all levels. Their bodies are extremely functional. That doesn’t mean you have to train yourself to jump into the octagon, it means that performance and good health should be more of a priority than looks.

Instead of being concerned about the exercise you’re doing and if it is functional, consider ways to make each exercise more functional. If you squat on the assisted machine, using dumbbells or free weights will be a better choice. You will activate more stabilizing muscles and improve your range of motion. If you choose to barbell squat four hundred pounds, you may get stronger at the expense of your joints and range of motion. The emphasis on functional training is to allow our bodies to excel in all areas. With this approach your body will adapt to this style of training and the results will be felt all over. Don’t let your definition of healthy be reflected by the definition of your abs. Be truly healthy by optimizing your body and progressing to accomplish more challenging tasks.