General Question

LDRSHIP's avatar

What is functional strength?

Asked by LDRSHIP (1191 points ) April 20th, 2014

In my mind it is body weight exercises and being able to have endurance, flexibility, power and speed.

A balanced fitness is how I think of it.

Is this correct? Do you have an exact definitions or how do you think of it?

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5 Answers

livelaughlove21's avatar

Functional strength does not consist only of body weight exercises by any means. Hardly any strength (muscle growth) occurs during body weight exercise or even exercise utilizing light weights. Heavy weights build strength, regardless of your gender. Functional strength training involves unsupported exercises using free weights (no machines) and focusing on compound movements (squats, overhead press, bench press, rows, deadlifts) as opposed to isolated movements (bicep curls, leg extensions/curls, tricep extensions).

LDRSHIP's avatar

@livelaughlove21 Why is it many people think it consist of only calisthenics? This was my understanding at first, but clearly is not the case. Also how do you draw boundary on functional and other types of goals if you will.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@LDRSHIP I suspect the same reason there are so many other common misconceptions about fitness out there. I mean, how many women still use 1–10 lb weights because they believe heavy weights will make them “bulky”? It’s absolutely not true, but people insist on “light weights, high reps” in order to “tone” their bodies. Lifting heavy is something men and women can do (barring any health issues) the same way and they’ll see very different results.

A very popular functional strength routine is Stronglifts 5×5. It focuses on only five exercises, but they’re compound moves that engage muscles throughout your entire body. It’s very effective for building strength.

There are people who insist on using machines and isolation exercises, but most trainers will tell you a functional training program is the way to go. It’s simply the most efficient way to work your muscles. Just stabilizing yourself while doing free weight exercises instead of a machine will engage muscles through your entire body, especially your core.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

My understanding is that the strength is useful in an athletic context. This is best done with calisthenics and/or proper use of free weights. Too many exercise machines build strength in isolated muscles. But when performing an athletic task, muscles don’t work in isolation. They work as part of a team. If only one muscle of the group has been strengthened with an isolation machine, it will be unable to use it’s strength, as the rest of the muscle group can’t complement it.

For an example, compare someone at your gym who squats correctly, and someone who uses the Smith machine. Take the Smith user to a real squat rack, give him/her the same weight as before, and watch him/her crumple.

majorrich's avatar

I’m with @FireMadeFlesh . When I was in College, I worked in a meat packing house. My job was hanging quarters of beef on hooks once they had been..uh.. liberated.. as such. often these pieces would surpass my weight and I had to lift them up to engage the hook. At the time I was at my pre-marriage weight of 135 pounds. I could regularly earn beer money arm wrestling weight trained people. We had good-natured ‘rasslin’ at my fraternity and found my overall strength to be superior to more bulky men of my same age.

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