The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Energy Usage of Functional Training

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Move more

Friday, May 28, 2010

A new type of training referred to as functional training has increased in popularity. Functional training is “multiplaner, multijoint resistance exercises that simulate movement patterns from everyday life and sport.”1 To find exercises for functional training, look at activities in your daily life. Think of squatting down and getting something out of a low cabinet. This can be turned into a functional training exercise in the weight room.

To convert the exercise you may add weight by doing a standing low row. You might stand holding onto handles of an adjustable cable pulley with arms extended in front of you. Then, before doing the low row, you would perform a squat. While holding the squat at the bottom position, perform the normal low row with the cable and repeat.

Other exercises like the one above could be put together to create a complete workout using only functional exercises. Since functional training exercises tend to focus more on the coordination, technique, posture, and core engagement versus weight, they are often effective in a continuous routine similar to circuit training. Focusing less on the amount of weight lifted though, how much energy does functional training use?

A study in the March 2009 Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research1 evaluated the caloric expenditure of 10 male and 10 female individuals. During the study, the participants completed a 28 minute exercise session. The session was made up of seven exercises performed at three different handle heights for 10 repetitions each. The study found the average caloric expenditure of this exercise session was 289 calories. 

This meets the daily recommendation for calorie expenditure of 200 – 400 calories from physical activity. What other types of daily activities do you think you could safely incorporate into a functional training exercise in the weight room that would burn a high number of calories?

Think of activities you do in your normal daily activities that can be replicated in the weight room. Remember to always look at safety as the number one factor when looking at exercises. In addition, continue to remember the goal of why you are doing the exercise.

As you consider functional training, consider checking out CI’s Advanced Personal Trainer course for more ways to incorporate this into all types of workouts. Functional trainer seems to only be getting more popular, but why do you think that there is becoming so much more of a push towards functional training?

1Lagally, KM., Cordero, J., Good, J., Brown, DD., & McCaw, ST. (2009). Physiologic and metabolic responses to a continuous functional resistance exercise workout. Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 23(2), 373-379.