Functional strength is the strength we need to get through our day-to-day life. Lifting our children, carrying the groceries, swinging a racket … these are just some of the everyday activities that rely on functional strength. Whether it’s playing sport, doing our job or simply living an active life, it’s our functional strength that makes us fit for what we do.
Squats and lunges are great examples of functional strength training exercises. These integrated exercises use lots of muscles, whereas isolated exercises, such as leg extensions, do not.
Functional strength is proven to improve strength and balance much more than isolated exercises1. We also know that functional strength exercises help improve joint control. This is important because improved joint control helps avoid injury.
The importance of joint control was highlighted in a 2004 study2. The study looked at the muscles around the bum, and showed that athletes who had poor gluteus medius control had the highest rate of injury in all athletes.
This isn’t only relevant for athletes. If you’re exercising and you perform any movement that involves impact, the way you land on each leg will determine whether or not you get hurt. If you keep the middle of your knee in line with the middle of your foot on impact, chances are you’ll be quite safe. However, if your knee collapses inward, you significantly increase your chances of getting injured.
Functional strength exercises force us to use our stabilizing muscles (which keep our knees from collapsing inwards) whereas fixed exercises do not. So, put simply, functional strength exercises give us the type of strength that stops us from getting injured.
Here at Les Mills functional strength training is at the heart of all of our programs and we use carefully selected movement patterns and cues designed to improve joint control. The only LES MILLS™ class that uses a machine is RPM™, and RPM instructors are highly-trained and able to coach alignment control and stability. Find a class near you or get 24/7 unlimited access to online workouts with LES MILLS On Demand.