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Functional training: a conceptual update

Abstract

Functional training (FT) has grown in popularity; however, such growth is still disorganized and multifaceted. Thus, a conceptual “update” is necessary, especially based on how FT has been applied in most research. In this context, FT has been understood as the synergistic, integrated and balanced improvement of different physical capacities to ensure efficiency and safety during the daily tasks performance, based on the principles of training, and above all, on the principle of specificity. FT sessions should focus on improving basic movement patterns, adequately stimulating strength in various situations, muscle power, and cardiorespiratory capacity, frequently activating the stabilizing muscles and including complex activities, respecting safety and effectiveness criteria.

Key words
Sedentary lifestyle; Resistance training; Daily activities; Quality of life

Resumo

O treinamento funcional (TF) tem crescido em popularidade, porém tal crescimento ainda ocorre de forma desorganizada e multifacetada. Assim, uma atualização conceitual se faz necessário, especialmente, baseado na maneira como o TF tem sido aplicado na maioria das pesquisas. Nesse contexto, o TF tem sido compreendido como aquele que objetiva o aprimoramento sinérgico, integrado e equilibrado de diferentes capacidades físicas para garantir eficiência e segurança durante o desempenho de tarefas cotidianas, sendo baseado nos princípios do treinamento, sobretudo, no princípio da especificidade. As sessões de TF devem focar no aprimoramento de padrões básicos de movimento, estimular adequadamente a força em diversas situações, a potência muscular e a capacidade cardiorrespiratória, ativar frequentemente músculos estabilizadores e incluir atividades complexas, respeitando critérios de segurança e eficácia.

Palavras-chave
Atividades diárias; Qualidade de vida; Sedentarismo; Treinamento resistido

INTRODUCTION

FUNCTIONAL TRAINING: CONCEPT REVIEW

Since the publication of the point of view11 Da Silva-Grigoletto ME, Brito CJ, Heredia JR. Treinamento funcional: funcional para que e para quem? Rev Bras Cineantropom Desempenho Hum 2014;16(6):714-19. on “Functional training: for what and for whom?”, many advances have been demonstrated in research involving functional training (FT) and new concepts have been solidified. That point of view defined the FT as the application of exercises that are similar to movements performed daily and aimed at the integrated improvement of physical valences aiming to guarantee autonomy during the performance of daily functions and has become popular but in a still very multifaceted way.

Considering this disorganized growth in the popularization and application of FT, both in research and in the practical performance of Physical Education professionals and Physiotherapists, our group has done efforts for the construction of review and opinion studies with information related to the real concept of FT, as approached in most scientific publications. From this perspective, in more recent publications22 La Scala Teixeira CV, Evangelista AL, Pereira CA, Da Silva-Grigoletto ME. Short roundtable RBCM: treinamento funcional. Rev Bras Cienc Mov 2016;24(1):200-06.

3 La Scala Teixeira CV, Evangelista AL, Novaes JS, Da Silva Grigoletto ME, Behm DG. "You're only as Strong as Your Weakest Link": A Current Opinion about the Concepts and Characteristics of Functional Training. Front Physiol 2017;8:643.
-44 LaScalaTeixeira CV, Evangelista AL, Pereira PEA, DaSilva-Grigoletto ME, Bocalini DS, Behm DG. Complexity: A Novel Load Progression Strategy in Strength Training. Front Physiol 2019;(10):839., we defined FT aimed at the synergistic, integrated and balanced improvement of different physical capacities to ensure efficiency and safety during the performance of daily, labor and/or sports tasks, based on the biological and methodological principles of training, especially on the principle of specificity. Therefore, different tools have been used, but the literature highlights strength training (and associated techniques) as a base tool55 Thompson WR. Worldwide survey of fitness trends for 2020. ACSMs Health Fit J 2019;23(6):10-18., but with an approach that emphasizes multisystemic adaptations (integrated improvement of strength, balance, coordination, power, among others) through the use of complexity as a primary progression strategy44 LaScalaTeixeira CV, Evangelista AL, Pereira PEA, DaSilva-Grigoletto ME, Bocalini DS, Behm DG. Complexity: A Novel Load Progression Strategy in Strength Training. Front Physiol 2019;(10):839..

Thus, although the literature clearly shows that every type of physical training generates functional adaptations, not every physical training program can be classified as “functional training” since FT is a broader training concept (as shown in the previous paragraph) and it is not simply limited to promoting functional adaptation.

Our point of view observes this type of conceptual “reinforcement” as necessary because together with the growth of FT in research, there is also a growing number of studies that explore other types of training that may, at some point, be confused with FT, such as multicomponent training (MCT) and multimodal training (MMT).

MCT and MMT are types of training that aim to improve general physical conditioning through training sessions that combine stimuli for different physical capacities66 Lopez P, Izquierdo M, Radaelli R, Sbruzzi G, Grazioli R, Pinto RS, Cadore EL. Effectiveness of Multimodal Training on Functional Capacity in Frail Older People: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. J Aging Phys Act 2018;26(3):407-418.

7 Cadore EL, Sáez de Asteasu ML, Izquierdo M. Multicomponent exercise and the hallmarks of frailty: Considerations on cognitive impairment and acute hospitalization. Exp Gerontol 2019;15;122:10-14.
-88 Daly RM, Gianoudis J, Kersh ME, Bailey CA, Ebeling PR, Krug R, et al. Effects of a 12-Month Supervised, Community-Based, Multimodal Exercise Program Followed by a 6-Month Research-to-Practice Transition on Bone Mineral Density, Trabecular Microarchitecture, and Physical Function in Older Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Bone Miner Res 2020;35(3):419-429.. However, unlike the FT, most studies involving MCT and MMT apply more traditional models of training, especially strength (use of machines; uniplanar, uniarticular exercises, cyclical, cadenced, stable), which gives little specificity, whereas, in FT, strength training is applied considering the characteristics of daily tasks (body weight and free weights; multiplanar, multiarticular, acyclic, high-speed exercises), that is, with high specificity. Thus, our perspective is that every FT program is multicomponent and multimodal by its nature, but not every MCT and MMT program can be classified as “functional training”.

FUNCTIONAL TRAINING: MAIN CHARACTERISTICS

As we already mentioned, although the FT uses several tools, strength training is one of the main or maybe the main one in most of the literature. Thus, at first, we can consider that any intervention based on strength training can be an FT. However, most traditional strength training protocols are based predominantly on analytical exercises with isolated neuromuscular work, to especially improve maximum strength and muscle hypertrophy through stress in specific muscle groups.

To be considered “functional”, the training must focus on improving movement patterns that, according to Cook et al.99 Cook G, Burton L, Hoogenboom BJ, Voight ML. Functional movement screening: Fundamental movements as an Assessment of Function? Part 2. Int J Sports Phys Ther 2014;9(4):549-63. are intentional combinations of stable and mobile segments working in coordinated harmony to produce sequences of efficient movements. In this perspective, strength exercises should include patterns of squatting, pulling, pushing and carrying, always with a similar neuromuscular and metabolic specificity with the daily actions of the individual1010 Resende-Neto AG, Da Silva-Grigoletto ME, Santos MS. Treinamento funcional para idosos: uma breve revisão. Rev Bras Cienc Mov 2016; 24(3):167-77.. This specificity is related to the necessity of using the strength in the most diverse situations of the day-to-day that most of the time are unstable and asymmetrical, reinforcing the multisystemic demand.

For example, a simple walk depends on the strength in a situation that demands a certain level of dynamic balance, motor coordination, flexibility, and postural stability. If maintained for a long period, the muscle and cardiorespiratory resistance are added to the components mentioned above. In the case of a fast execution (crossing a street), power, speed, and agility are added to the demand1111 Okada T, Huxel KC, Nesser TW. Relationship between core stability, functional movement, and performance. J Strength Cond Res 2011;25(1):252-61..

Considering this perspective, from a two-month intervention, Distefano et al.1212 Distefano LJ, Distefano MJ, Frank BS, Clark MA, Padua DA. Comparison of integrated and isolated training on performance measures and neuromuscular control. J Strength Cond Res 2013;27(4):1083-90. concluded that strength training programs that incorporate exercises with a high demand for flexibility, agility, balance, central stability and power were more effective than traditional training in improving functional performance measures in young adults. Other studies with similar interventions (high simultaneous demand for various physical capacities) have also shown better results of this type of intervention in the traditional training of the elderly population1313 Resende-Neto AG, Santos MS, Silva RJS, De Santana JM and Da Silva-Grigoletto ME. Effects of different neuromuscular training protocols on the functional capacity of elderly women. Rev Bras Med Esporte 2018; 24:140-144.,1414 Resende-Neto AG, Nascimento MA, De Sá CA, Ribeiro AS, De Santana JM and Da Silva-Grigoletto ME. Comparison between functional and traditional resistance training on joint mobility, determinants of walking and muscle strength in older women. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 2019; 59(10):1659-1668..

Thus, based on the analysis of the characteristics of several studies, Box 1 summarizes the strategies used in the strength exercises applied in the FT to increase the simultaneous demand for other physical capacities44 LaScalaTeixeira CV, Evangelista AL, Pereira PEA, DaSilva-Grigoletto ME, Bocalini DS, Behm DG. Complexity: A Novel Load Progression Strategy in Strength Training. Front Physiol 2019;(10):839..

Box 1
Strategies applied to strength exercises to increase the demand for other physical capacities.

FUNCTIONAL TRAINING: TRAINING SESSION STRUCTURE

As the FT is focused on movement patterns and the simultaneous stimulation of different physical valences, the preparation for a movement gains a prominent position in this type of training, both to ensure the maximum benefit from the stimuli and to ensure the physical integrity of the individuals during the performance of more complex tasks with or without the mobilization of overloads (strength training).

In addition, as cardiorespiratory conditioning is closely related to the general physical fitness and several health parameters, the FT sessions aim to stimulate this capacity at higher levels than those usually seen in traditional strength training sessions.

Thus, considering the needs and characteristics mentioned above, our research group developed a structural model of the FT sessions that has been applied in several studies (Figure 1). In our point of view, this model can assist professionals and researchers to develop FT programs since it has shown interesting results related to multisystem adaptations in several published studies1414 Resende-Neto AG, Nascimento MA, De Sá CA, Ribeiro AS, De Santana JM and Da Silva-Grigoletto ME. Comparison between functional and traditional resistance training on joint mobility, determinants of walking and muscle strength in older women. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 2019; 59(10):1659-1668.,1515 Resende-Neto AG, Oliveira Andrade BC, Cyrino ES, Behm DG, De-Santana JM, DaSilva-Grigoletto ME. Effects of functional and traditional training in body composition and muscle strength components in older women: A randomized controlled trial. Arch Gerontol Geriatr 2019; 84:103902..

Figure 1
Structural model of a functional training session

FINAL COMMENTS

The term functional training is suggestive and appropriate for a systematization that aims at the synergistic, integrated and balanced improvement of different physical capacities to ensure the efficiency and safety during the performance of daily, labor and/or sports tasks, based on biological and methodological aspects of training, and notably based on the principle of specificity. In addition, the sessions should focus on improving basic movement patterns, adequately stimulating strength in unstable and asymmetric situations, muscle power and cardiorespiratory capacity, frequently activating stabilizing muscles and including complex activities, respecting safety and effectiveness criteria.

COMPLIANCE WITH ETHICAL STANDARDS

  • Funding

    This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors. This study was funded by the authors.
  • Ethical approval

    The research was written in accordance with the standards set by the Declaration of Helsinki.

How to cite this article

REFERENCES

  • 1
    Da Silva-Grigoletto ME, Brito CJ, Heredia JR. Treinamento funcional: funcional para que e para quem? Rev Bras Cineantropom Desempenho Hum 2014;16(6):714-19.
  • 2
    La Scala Teixeira CV, Evangelista AL, Pereira CA, Da Silva-Grigoletto ME. Short roundtable RBCM: treinamento funcional. Rev Bras Cienc Mov 2016;24(1):200-06.
  • 3
    La Scala Teixeira CV, Evangelista AL, Novaes JS, Da Silva Grigoletto ME, Behm DG. "You're only as Strong as Your Weakest Link": A Current Opinion about the Concepts and Characteristics of Functional Training. Front Physiol 2017;8:643.
  • 4
    LaScalaTeixeira CV, Evangelista AL, Pereira PEA, DaSilva-Grigoletto ME, Bocalini DS, Behm DG. Complexity: A Novel Load Progression Strategy in Strength Training. Front Physiol 2019;(10):839.
  • 5
    Thompson WR. Worldwide survey of fitness trends for 2020. ACSMs Health Fit J 2019;23(6):10-18.
  • 6
    Lopez P, Izquierdo M, Radaelli R, Sbruzzi G, Grazioli R, Pinto RS, Cadore EL. Effectiveness of Multimodal Training on Functional Capacity in Frail Older People: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. J Aging Phys Act 2018;26(3):407-418.
  • 7
    Cadore EL, Sáez de Asteasu ML, Izquierdo M. Multicomponent exercise and the hallmarks of frailty: Considerations on cognitive impairment and acute hospitalization. Exp Gerontol 2019;15;122:10-14.
  • 8
    Daly RM, Gianoudis J, Kersh ME, Bailey CA, Ebeling PR, Krug R, et al. Effects of a 12-Month Supervised, Community-Based, Multimodal Exercise Program Followed by a 6-Month Research-to-Practice Transition on Bone Mineral Density, Trabecular Microarchitecture, and Physical Function in Older Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. J Bone Miner Res 2020;35(3):419-429.
  • 9
    Cook G, Burton L, Hoogenboom BJ, Voight ML. Functional movement screening: Fundamental movements as an Assessment of Function? Part 2. Int J Sports Phys Ther 2014;9(4):549-63.
  • 10
    Resende-Neto AG, Da Silva-Grigoletto ME, Santos MS. Treinamento funcional para idosos: uma breve revisão. Rev Bras Cienc Mov 2016; 24(3):167-77.
  • 11
    Okada T, Huxel KC, Nesser TW. Relationship between core stability, functional movement, and performance. J Strength Cond Res 2011;25(1):252-61.
  • 12
    Distefano LJ, Distefano MJ, Frank BS, Clark MA, Padua DA. Comparison of integrated and isolated training on performance measures and neuromuscular control. J Strength Cond Res 2013;27(4):1083-90.
  • 13
    Resende-Neto AG, Santos MS, Silva RJS, De Santana JM and Da Silva-Grigoletto ME. Effects of different neuromuscular training protocols on the functional capacity of elderly women. Rev Bras Med Esporte 2018; 24:140-144.
  • 14
    Resende-Neto AG, Nascimento MA, De Sá CA, Ribeiro AS, De Santana JM and Da Silva-Grigoletto ME. Comparison between functional and traditional resistance training on joint mobility, determinants of walking and muscle strength in older women. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 2019; 59(10):1659-1668.
  • 15
    Resende-Neto AG, Oliveira Andrade BC, Cyrino ES, Behm DG, De-Santana JM, DaSilva-Grigoletto ME. Effects of functional and traditional training in body composition and muscle strength components in older women: A randomized controlled trial. Arch Gerontol Geriatr 2019; 84:103902.

Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    18 May 2020
  • Date of issue
    2020

History

  • Received
    11 Jan 2020
  • Accepted
    19 Apr 2020
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