Coach Anwar Wahab helps model Dimpy with the knee sublaxation
exercise at Karma
Whats the difference between functional training and regular exercise routines? A hint: the answers in the word functional. Functional training aims at improving overall movement efficiency, says fitness coach Ranadeep Moitra.
Perhaps its an oversimplification, but the aim of some regular exercise routines is often cosmetic. For instance, a well-built youngster might want bigger biceps so he will focus on exercises that will give him a bulging upper arm.
Functional training exercises, by contrast, were first developed as part of rehabilitation therapy mainly for athletes. The exercises are useful for everyone but they are particularly good for athletes who are recuperating from an injury and who need to get back into action.
For example, external rotation with the arm is good for tennis players as it exercises the forearm. Similarly, for baseball players it can increase their throwing ability.
One way of getting a functional workout is to use a functional trainer, a multi-purpose machine which allows you to do 40 different types of exercises, all of which mimic movements that we make in our daily lives.
Multiple movements are possible on a trainer. If you alternate lunges with cable cross, then you can work your chest as well as legs at one go. Also, a lot more sports exercises and rehab exercises are possible on the trainer, says Anwar Wahab, fitness coach and advisor at Karma.
|(From top) The functional trainer is a
convenient way of performing various exercises; Coach Ranadeep Moitra (right) demonstrates a functional training
exercise at Kronos, Pic by Anindya Shankar Ray
The functional trainer has an extraordinary number of fittings that make it possible to exercise different parts of the body. Get hitched to the machine and you instantly realise that handles and the cable-height settings are the two elements that give the functional trainer great versatility. The functional trainer allows you greater ranges of motion than a standard multi-gym.
Once you attach your handle to the cable, you can lift weights too. You can also use a variety of different handles to work your muscles slightly differently. The lat bar gives you a wider grip and exercises your back and the soft-grip handle is good for a bicep curl and tricep extension exercises. You can collect many different handles and create more options, or you can stick to a few handles and still have more options, says Wahab.
The height setting for the cable also gives you more exercise options. If you set the cable down low, you can use an ankle strap for leg exercises. You can also keep it low for shoulder, back, and arm exercises. The cable can also be set high and this will work your back in a totally different way.
The trainer also helps you to perform daily activities better and that includes anything from walking, running, climbing a staircase to bending and picking up weights. Working out on the functional trainer strengthens your muscles, balances the right side of your body with your left side and even helps you reduce weight, said fitness pro Leena Mogre, who trains many of her clients for up to 30 minutes daily on the trainer.
Like all functional training devices, the machine is often used by sportspersons who want to improve their playing skills. Anyone from golfers (who could try the reverse wood chop which mimics the golf swing) to footballers, can perform simple exercises on the trainer and hope to up their performance levels.
Functional training teaches athletes how to handle their own bodyweight. Stand with your legs a little apart, fasten the pulley strap on one knee and lift the leg, extending your hands outwards. Do 10 repetitions. This improves your balance considerably if done regularly, says Wahab.
The players who come for rehab on the machine often end up working out for weeks on the trainer before they can go back to their sport. Says Moitra, who trains students at gyms like Solace and Addlife: Sometimes joints get injured or muscles corresponding to the joints get injured and rehabilitating those parts involves training them in isolation for a short period. However, in the long run the patient has to be taught how to imbibe these correct movement patterns into the entire kinetic chain and that is where functional training is so important.
The functional trainer is a very convenient way of performing a plethora of functional exercises. But there are other tools used during functional training like the Swiss Ball and the Medicine Ball. Alternatively, the Power Plate machine can be used for teaching functional exercises.
If you are thinking of using a functional trainer, remember that its a portable machine and doesnt require much space. In India, some of the better brands like Rocksport or Cybex FT 360 sell for around Rs 4 lakhs. But youll still need a qualified personal trainer to guide you on how to use the machine effectively.
Is functional training for you? It depends on what routines you follow. But theres no doubt that it can be a useful addition for almost anyone.
EXERCISES YOU CAN DO
Cable knee rehab strengthening: This exercise helps to strengthen the tendons and
ligaments around the kneecap.
External rotation with arm: This is good for tennis players suffering from arm injuries. It can help to improve the backhand in tennis or racquetball and throwing ability for baseball. Besides, it can improve spiking ability
for volleyball players and also results in an overall better posture.
Cable push-pull: Push-pull is a great exercise for your obliques (abdominal muscles on either side of the stomach) and also a good way to coordinate your chest and back. Perfect if you are a cricket player.
Reverse wood chop: Mimics the golf swing and thus helps golfers.
High pull: Strengthens the back muscles and traps (muscles at the back of the neck). Good for sprinters, rugby players and weight lifters, who need to have a strong back and traps.
Step-up lunge: Works your hamstring and core (abdominal muscles); helps squash players and all sportsmen using