Functional Fitness is a trending phrase and niche focus in the health and fitness industry. Much like “Functional Medicine” it’s usually a much more holistic approach than just getting sufficient reps at the gym.
The best way to understand functional fitness is to think of the fitness industry as a marketplace… which it is. Not all fitness is the same, and that’s a good thing. Fitness can serve a lot of purposes. Some fitness methods (or products on the fitness shelf) have a heavier attribute focus like acquiring significant strength, more speed and other amazing feats of human capacities.
Some fitness approaches aim heavily towards streamlining the aesthetic benefits of weight loss and body building-shaping. While things like yoga can sometimes put stress management and body awareness at the tip of its spear.
Functional Fitness stakes it’s claim in the name itself. It’s goal is to have a fully functioning, well-balanced and smooth running machine.
Don’t get me wrong, most people who exercise or train others to do so, are trying to avoid injuries and want to have increased performance levels, but there is always a value hierarchy when it comes to how someone executes their workouts.
For instance, some people gravitate towards increasing their gains more aggressively, as it is the measuring stick for their work. To a functional fitness practitioner or trainer they like to see their numbers go up as well, but they may focus more heavily on maintaining full ranges of motion throughout their body, and exercising with great technique. Even if that means not being able to lift as much.
I also like to think of functional fitness as a long game focus. Since it’s not really a competitive model and is focused on the balancing and maintenance of the human body it doesn’t rate quite as high on the injury frequency scale. This means less instances over time due to damages incurred from overtraining. Even though they are to be expected, injuries are actually a weakening of the body. Actively trying to avoid injuries is a built in core value of a functional model.
In the end, you could codify all the differences, but it all comes down to the location you train at, their coaches and their culture. There are strength and performance coaches who are amazing at understanding body mechanics and calculated growth. As well as functional fitness coaches who make people incredibly stronger, faster and more coordinated. A mature coach understands that good fitness promotes good health first and foremost. Oddly enough, you can be “fit” without being “healthy”.