May 2021

What Is Functional Training

What Is Functional Training?

(4 minutes, 22 second reading time)

 

A common concern we see getting brought up regarding the terms "functional training" today is that it has yet to be clearly defined. While it's true that interpretations of functional training can get pretty subjective, Functional Patterns has provided a clear definition of what functional training is for over a decade. 

From our perspective, a scientific definition of "functional" isn't arbitrary, it is biological. It comes down to a two step process: first, you define the organism; then, you identify their primary movement functions. Training to specifically enhance those foundational elements of an organism's movement is what defines functional training. It's really that simple.

As an example, let's say you were tasked with training a dog to move better. You've already defined the organism (ie: a dog). Next, you recognize that dogs move in a particular fashion. They don't prioritize hopping on two legs like a kangaroo, crawling like a lizard, swimming like a fish, or flying like a bird. At their foundation, dogs are quadrupeds, meaning the vast majority of the time they move around on four legs. Now that you've solidified their primary mode of movement, the next step is figuring out how to best enhance a dog's functionality.

One thing you could do is study other dogs that move fluidly and effortlessly. Using your observational skills, you start to notice that dogs move through the performance of certain patterns, sequences, rhythms, and cadences. Drawing on these guiding principles, you decide to invent ways to train your dog's movement in order to replicate the good-moving dogs as closely as possible.

By designing a training program for the dog in this manner, basing it on the specific functions that relate to its biological blueprint from the best movers, you've effectively created a "functional training" program relative to a dog! Great job!

Functional Patterns is Training for Humans

This same approach can be applied to humans, and is the bread and butter of the Functional Patterns training system. Anthropologists unanimously agree that humans walk, run, throw (and stand) as their evolutionary priorities. The characteristics of those movements define us from every other organism on planet Earth (ie: unique contralateral and ipsilateral reciprocations that happen with our species). Furthermore, our  entire movement catalogue is derived from these primary functions. Put another way, every other motion we do stems from our ability to do these seemingly basic movements in our biology.

The survival of our species was contingent upon the fact that we stand on two legs; using the opposing swings of our arms and legs to walk, run, and throw. Just as in the dog example, in the context of humans we can clearly define "functional training" as one that optimizes these four functions (ie: standing, walking, running, and throwing).

Fast forward to the modern era, and we find ourselves in the unique scenario where the best movers are typically filmed for sports and events. The result is the production of video and film that can be slowed down and watched countless times over. This remarkable situation provides us with the opportunity to decode how the best movers move, essentially bringing those biomechanical insights to the everyday person!

This is what has separated Functional Patterns from the rest of the pack. And the consistency and efficacy of our results from thousands of people around the globe are demonstrating that training in relation to your biology can have profound effects on your body and health.

What People Want

Regardless of your movement background, at the end of the day we all just want to be able to move without feeling overly tight and restricted. At some level, we want to have the ability to move in a variety of ways if we so choose. You may have just read the paragraphs above and thought: "Well what about the squat? The deadlift? Handstands? What about all these other movements outside of those big four that humans can do?"

And you'd be completely right to ask those questions. Humans do much more than just four movements. It's not to say that those movements don't have their place. But in the realm of training it comes down to your priorities. If your priority is to function optimally, to move better, and to have a physique that complements those functions, then from this new perspective prioritizing your human functions should be at the top of your training program.

At the end of the day, you don't have to train like a human. You have the freedom to choose whatever training program you want. But I imagine you're here because at one point or another you've asked yourself the question "Are these exercises I'm doing really helping me in the long run? Is this exercise transferring over to my life in the best way possible? Or is there a better way of doing things?"

It's questions like these that spurred the innovation of the Functional Patterns training system. We've sought for over a decade to find a better way of enhancing people's fitness without all the aches and pains that come with conventional training programs. Because at the end of the day, what the vast majority of people want is to live their lives without worrying about their bodies breaking down. People want great physiques that don't come at the cost of tight muscles, achy joints, and stiff movements. These are the types of people that Functional Patterns aims to provide a solution for, and why we've developed a training program that anyone from anywhere in the world, and with any movement background, can benefit from.

FP is Real Functional Training

Functional Patterns is training for humans. We've designed it in such a way that if you're a human, then this training is for you! We get results with literally every population of people around the world. From "average Jane's/Joe's," to high-level athletes, to those with neurodegenerative or physical impairments. Functional Patterns has the capacity to improve you because at the most fundamental level we consider the fact that you are a human before you are anything else.

Of course we also recognize that no two people are alike, so by no means does this make it a rigid cookie-cutter approach. Just as in life, we believe training should be adaptive, and when you work with us in person you'll discover firsthand how personalized we get meet the most specific of needs.

What 'training for humans' means in the way FP does it is that we provide you with a real foundation of movement decoded from the human biological blueprint. Taking this route allows for a far more integrated approach than dishing out the typical advice of having a "strong core," "pulling the shoulders down and back," or having a "straight spine."

We get the results we do because we build a foundation that coincides with your biology at a fundamental level. Then, we show you exactly how to bridge the gap between your movement and those who move at the highest levels. Combined together, your body has less inclinations towards feeling restricted, helping you move better as a result, look better aesthetically, and facilitating you in achieving the goals you want. All it takes on your end is a little practice, and you can enjoy the same benefits that thousands before you have with the real functional training of Functional Patterns!

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TRANSCRIPT

Naudi Aguilar:

Hello, once again, this is Naudi at Functional Patterns. Today I'm going to discuss the term "functional training." It is all over the place so before I even start this video, I invite you to go on Instagram, and type in the hashtag functional training. And then after you watch this video, I invite you to go right back to the hashtag functional training, and I want you guys to see what is on the whole list of people. 

I think it's got probably about a million posts on that. I don't know how to the words that you're supposed to use to describe how many people have posted on that. But I believe it has a million posts now or near that for the hashtag functional training. That's what prompted this video. It's kind of like it was my recent inspiration for it. And I'm going to go into detail about that.

Functional training has probably become the most bastardized word in training in the history of training, maybe — I guess bodybuilding is another one, when you're thinking about thinking about building a body, I'd say bodybuilding should have better connotations to it, you know, where you build a body and you make it better. I think bodybuilding is maybe another word that's become really bastardized. So maybe that's the number one and maybe number two would probably be functional training. And this is how I view functional training. It's very simple. Okay, we have an organism, let's say, a dog, a cat, a dolphin, whatever. And we analyze its evolutionary adaptations. We see what do dolphins do? They don't run on the ground. Dolphins tread water. That's what they do. And there's particular attributes that dolphins have to make them swim really, really well in the water. Birds, they fly, right? They fly, they have wings, they do that? Do they run very well? Probably not. Because what do they do primarily? They operate in the air. Right?

So when I think about determining functionality, I only relate functionality relative to the organism. I got two dogs, I got a Jack Russell and his name is Fresco, named after Jacque Fresco. And then I have another dog. His name is Bernie, and I named it after Bernie Sanders. And I just, I like Bernie Sanders. It was a big cultural thing going on when I got them. But never mind that, Bernie and Fresco are dogs. The last thing I would ever make my dog — I look at them run around. They are incredible athletes, they move amazing. The way they sling their bodies. I filmed them on my camera all the time. And I look at their biomechanics, and I can't and I'm compelled at how beautiful they move. And I'm also reminded of how I would never take that beautiful movement and then teach my dogs to walk and run on two feet.

And you actually see that people are teaching these poor poodles to do that. It's a horrible thing. You can look about it. It's very popular video online, people who do that should probably be ashamed of themselves, because you're taking away beautiful movement. And when you look at a dog's movement on all fours, it's incredible. The sling arrangements, everything, it's incredible. 

So if I was to think about training my dog, I would think, you know, because I've noticed that my dog would tend to get cramps, it would tend to get injured. And there was times where like my dog Bernie had gotten a hip dislocation, I tended to notice asymmetries in my own dog, which dogs are asymmetrical no matter what. But when it's an excessive asymmetrical shift, eventually, something bad ends up happening. And so when I started doing my myofascial manipulations and some corrective exercises with my dog, I would notice that he would get less situations like that to arise where he'd end up getting a cramp or he'd end up getting a hip displacement.

So when I think about relating my training to my dogs, I think about Okay, what does the organism need? What does it evolve to do? Well, dogs come from wolves. So if we see it from that perspective, I'm like, okay, what's a wolf's movement characteristics like? Well, they move on all fours, too. So if that's part of the species, then guess what I'm going to do? I'm going to directly orient my training to training my dog like a dog, right? Now, that makes probably a ton of sense to you guys. I'm not going to train my dog to try and fly like a bird. That would be ridiculous. Dogs can't even — they can barely adduct their arms, they can do barely any adduction and abduction, they're terrible at that. They're great at doing flexion and extension.

Okay, so a dog is really good at doing those types of movements, but it's not going to be very good at flying. So what do I do? I train my dog in relation to that. But the problem is, at some point, people haven't related that to the human body yet. When I think of using the term functional training, I'm saying essentially, that the human being has particular types of needs.

Of course, we can have a whole variation of different types of movements. But what is the human really adapted to do? Well, if we look at it from an evolutionary standpoint, if we just look at the evidence, the actual scientific evidence of you know, from from DNA to anthropological findings, studies, it's very clear that human beings are designed to walk and run, or adapted to walk and run.

If you talk about design, you can say the environment designs the organism to move in a particular fashion. So it's very clear that humans are adapted to walk and run as a priority. And throw — throwing is huge based upon how the adaptation of the human shoulder is. It's very clear that those are the big three.

Are there other things that we're supposed to be able to do? Yes, we need to bend down, we need to be able to, you know, hinge we need to be able to squat, right? Probably deep squat, there's certain things that we need to be able to do. But what's the priority? What's the the defining trait of human movement? Walking upright on two feet. Contralateral reciprocating. This is how we have functioned for literally millions of years.

So when I think about training somebody functionally, that's where I have to start. Now, what I do after that, if I want to do cartwheels backflips, or whatever the hell that may be, that's a whole — if I decided to dance — that's a whole other reality that could carry functionality. But if the premise of how I start my training does not respect the human for what it is, just like you would respect a dog for what it is, or like an eagle for what it is, you're going to have severe problems pop up with those humans.

So you then have to ask yourself, if a training program is not oriented around gait, should the term functional training be used? No, not even close. As far as I'm concerned, it's completely counter to the scientific evidence that exists. We know what we have been doing as human beings, in terms of our movement. At some point, we need to start orienting our training towards that direction. And that's the purpose of my use of the word functional training. I relate functionality relative to species, the species I am trying to optimize. Right?

So if it's functional, it's functional relative to a particular species, maybe there needs to be a new word for it. But I think functional training is a great word for describing Functional Patterns. I think it's a fantastic word. So I have no problems using it. So with that said, think about when you use that term, are you even caring about what organism you're trying to condition in the first place? Because that's really what it is. It's about conditioning an organism. 

When we look, go right back to Instagram, and we look at that functional training, think about how many people that put that hashtag functional training, or thinking about whether they're even relating their training to who they are as a human being. The odds are probably none of them, unfortunately. 

So I hope that shed some light on my perspective of training, training, anything, I guess, that are using the term functional training and the fact that I would assert that word in specific contexts. I think we have to start becoming more responsible with our words. Otherwise, we end up with a society where a whole heap of problems seem to exist everywhere. That said, I've rambled on too long. I will see you guys in the future with some more videos. This is Naudi Aguilar at Functional Patterns reminding you to train intentionally and not habitually, take care.