What is Functional Movement?

Jun 4, 2010

Clint Borman

by Clint Borman
PT, DPT, MTC, CSCS | Residency Faculty and Clinical Site Director at the Surprise Location

Every few years it seems there are buzz words in the fitness industry that gain popularity. Lately it’s the phrase “functional movement”. Although this is certainly nothing new in the arena of physical therapy, it has caught-on in mainstream exercise classes around the country.  The question is…
 What is Functional Movement?
Functional movements take place in multi-planes of motion with the use of multiple joints. These movements require the firing of multiple muscle groups in various positions, ranges of motion and varying intensity to achieve a common goal. For instance, in order to swing a golf club you have to tighten your right hip, rotate your shoulders over your hips, raise your arms across your body while maintaining your head still, allowing rotation through the spine along one axis. Pause, and reverse that entire process in a near mirror image back to the same point at which you started. Another example of functional movement is as simple as bending down and reaching over to pick-up your child and rotating through your core to put him/her in the car seat (or to help down a slide as seen in the photo). Functional training can be utilized after an injury or in preparation for an activity to mimic those actions and break them down into more basic components in order to achieve your “functional goal.”
 Why is Functional Movement Training Important?
Research has shown incredible gains in strength, balance and overall decreased joint pain with functional training. Functional training develops a healthy and well-developed body. It promotes kinesthetic awareness and body control, balanced musculature and a stronger core. Thus, functional training may decrease the number of injuries sustained in an individual’s life and sport.
 Who Can Benefit From Functional Movement Training?
Anyone can benefit from functional movement training. From the simple task of standing up from a chair or getting in and out of a vehicle, to training for your next tennis match, functional training attempts to adapt or develop exercises which allow individuals to perform the activities of daily life more easily and without injuries.
How Can I Tell if I Have Functional Movement Limitations?
There are many functional movement assessment tools. One simple test for the shoulder is to reach behind your back with both arms, one from above your head and one from behind your back, try touching your finger-tips together in the middle of your back. Another movement in the lower body is to assume a lunge position, with feet a good distance apart, then slowly lower your back knee down to the ground and back up again. If you are unable to perform either of these activities, you may want to seek a professional assessment from your local physical therapist.

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