• Elana Withnall

Functional Training 101

Updated: Jun 26, 2020

Training for YOUR body - Functional training:

There are so many different styles of training available and easily accessible.

Resistance training, boxing, HIIT training, boot-camp, cross fit and the list is endless.

Whether you are a trained athlete, a former athlete, recreational exerciser or aspiring to make training a part of your lifestyle.


Especially for athletes, it is important your training style doesn't affect your movement pattern or discourage using core stability

(as that is always going to be needed in your specific sport).

Over the last two years I have been banned completely from machine weights - focusing on free weights and powerlifting.

This was due to my movement pattern developing some uncoordinated actions while running. E.g.) my arms no longer moved effortlessly with my legs. It had become very 'robotic' and no longer fluent or effortless.

This created a big problem with the amount of trainings sessions I was taking up, while training for the heptathlon.


A normal track session would leave me with DOMS or unusual soreness - because of the unnecessary energy I was putting into my arms while running. I was 'trying too hard,' as my coach put it.

Due to my resistance training program being primarily with machine weights; my natural movement pattern had been compromised for too long.


Back to basics:

But focusing my strength & conditioning sessions on 'functional movement' only specific to my events; it re-trained my movement pattern to utilize muscles freely and without hesitation.

Some examples of functional training, that is now an essential part of my training routine include:

Barbell back squats:

- Utilizing glutes, quads, core and Lower back.

Essential for sprinting, hurdling, long jump and explosive position at the bottom end of the squat: high jump

Barbell Dead lifts: straight leg - very important for hamstring flexibility and elasticity.

And barbell bent leg dead lifts: essential for lower back strength, core stability, timing which is used in shot put, javelin as well as high jump and hurdling.

Box jumps:

Essential part of my plyometrics program. Focusing on explosive power through the ground which is used in all of my jumping events, hurling as well as a simple block start.

Other Functional exercises I regularly include in my strength and conditioning program include:

- Barbell Lunges

- Barbell Power cleans

- Weighted Core stability exercises

- Dumbbell and barbell Bench press

- Bent over barbell row

- Body Weighted Chin ups

- Weight plate & barbell Glute bridges

- Standing Cable Shoulder fly's

- Tricept barbell, ‘’skull crushers’’


Most of These exercises (especially Olympic lifting) utilize ''whole body movements' which will complement your movement pattern.

The additional, wonderful benefits of functional training for the everyday person can include:

Correcting of bad posture and muscle imbalances caused by the daily grind, stressful jobs and hectic lifestyles.


Fat burning benefits, associated in ‘’full body exercises’’ that improve strength, endurance and boost metabolism.

Developing strong lean and ripped bodies from training movement patterns and lifting your own bodyweight – rather than static movements, isolating a specific body part.

Most sessions will include flexibility, mobility, core stability, balance and strength training principles to keep your body constantly challenged in all areas; without meaning to! Functional training utilises all of these principles.


Enhancing the relationship between the nervous and musculoskeletal system to provide quick, reactive, and powerful movement patterns – great if you choose to then join a sort or train towards an event

In Functional training every exercise involves core activation – A LANI FAVOURITE! It is extremely important to teach the core to stabilise the spine against external force, throughout a variety of different movement patterns. Your core is needed for practically almost every physical activity you could think of


J. Scott Kelso PhD: One of the leading movement scientists in the world, describes functional training as: “Real life movements are developed through the synergistic action of muscles and the movement of joints in response to environmental needs.

There you have it champs, by changing up your workout routine, by modifying or simply adding some functional exercises – you can be sure to reap the benefits!


Until next time…


Keep Dreaming and Believing.


Xx Lani

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