What is Functional Training?

“Functional Training” might be an overused term in fitness. Some think it involves balancing on a stability ball on one leg while juggling knives.

Not saying that wouldn’t look cool though!

Strength & Conditioning coach Michael Boyle simplified Functional Training to mean training that makes sense. I would just add: training that makes sense to the goals you are trying to achieve.

It always comes down to what YOU want, doesn’t it? At Wah Lum and at Control Your Health, our goal is to help you achieve your goals without injury.

When you train, performance enhancement should come second to injury prevention.

A good strength & conditioning program will be very similar to an injury prevention program or even a rehabilitation program. Your training (strength, Kung Fu, Tai Chi) should also make you better instead of broken.

How’s an injury going to help you achieve your goals?

Chiropractor and movement specialist, Dr. Andreo Spina uses the following equation to make the point of why injuries happen. 


Does putting a ton of weight on your back to squat (while having to wrap the knees and having two spotters) enhance your ability to do your activity, or did you just inflate your ego (along with herniating a disc)?

Depending on your goals, a basic fitness training program may only need to develop strength in upper body pulling, upper body pressing, the lower body, and the core.

To train safely, don’t load your tissues more than their capacity!

I’m a big fan of improving strength. Improving strength develops power, and since we produce most of our power without both feet firmly planted on the ground, lower body training should consist of a lot of single legwork (i.e., single leg deadlifts, split squats, and single leg squats).

Or for you martial artists, think of single leg stances, kicking, balancing, transitioning from one move to the next…

This type of training makes sense and has safety features built into it. The biggest safety feature being, if you can’t do it, you can’t do it!

You also start off with body weight to give the tissues time to adapt.

A basic single leg exercise is the Split Squat or in kung fu we call it Kneeling Horse Stance.

Here’s how to do it:

When training, going to technical failure is very important. This means stopping when you can’t complete a repetition to the best of your ability.

There is a saying that practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect. If a particular movement can’t be done correctly with weight, maybe you haven’t earned the right to do it.

…YET. Got to keep that Growth Mindset, right?

Think of a child learning how to walk. She is not allowed to walk until she earns it. In my own training, there have been multiple times I had to take a step back and work on a movement with just bodyweight.

The regressions and progressions for all the basic body movements is way beyond the scope of this post, but know that there is always a place you can start and move towards your goals safely.

It may seem basic to just work on a pushup or bodyweight squat. The mistake is to discount this training based on its simplicity. 

However, if simple training works for the best athletes in the world, then it can work for you. In the fitness world, there is a tendency to overreact to the latest and greatest.

The fitness pendulum will swing far out to the right and we may need to push it left so that it goes back to the center…or maybe just ignore that swing and let the pendulum make its way back.

When it comes to your training, can you put aside preconceived notions about the past or the current bright and shiny new thing?

Stick with ideas that work, and be wary of anything that seems too good to be true.

Never compromise technique because it will catch up eventually. Use movements that allow you to respect your bodyweight and own a particular move.

Choose movements that are functional based on your goals. Think about the art of practicing common sense. That’s Functional Training.


Wah Lum Kung Fu and Tai Chi

Control Your Health

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