Functional Strengthening

By Jon Stiffler, PTA, CPT, PES

Functional Strengthening

Functional Strengthening can help performance with everyday life.

Image of Functional Strengthening.

What is the Traditional Thought with Strengthening?

When it comes to athletes, functional strengthening is important. Traditionally it is thought to be strong and perform sport specific activities optimally while reducing risk of injury, you must regularly go to the gym and lift a lot of heavy weight and continue to progress your strength through things such as bench pressing or bicep curls week after week. Some of the aforementioned statement is correct, such as the fact you must train on a regular basis, and lifting weight does strengthen you to an extent.

However, simply lifting heavy weights in gym will not prepare an individual to perform optimally with sport specific activities or reduce risk of injury with a sport. This is because most gym exercises people perform that they think are helping in these areas are in a single plane of motion and also only typically require two kinds of contractions. The first type of contraction is a concentric contraction which is activation of the muscle while it is shortening under load. The second type of contraction is an eccentric contraction which is activation of the muscle while it is shortening under load.

The reason this type of training is not beneficial for an individual to perform optimally or reduce injury with sport specific activities is because most functional movement patterns with sport specific activities are multi-planar in nature and require several muscles or muscle groups working together to perform the movement pattern of the activity. These functional movement patterns also require not only concentric and eccentric contractions simultaneously, but isometric contractions as well. An isometric contraction is activation of the muscle without shortening or lengthening under/no under load.

What is Functional Strengthening and Why is it Important?

Functional strengthening consists of exercises focused on all of these types of contractions occurring and working together simultaneously through multiple planes of motion with movement patterns. A good example of why functional strengthening is important is a pitcher with the sport of baseball. When a baseball pitcher is pitching a baseball it requires stabilization of the pelvis and lower extremities through isometric contractions of the gluteus medius and gluteus maximus muscles during knee hike in the sagittal plane, concentric and eccentric contractions of the hip flexors, quadriceps, hip abductors, and hip extensors with knee hike to stride in the sagittal, transverse, and frontal plane, and concentric and eccentric contractions of the biceps, triceps, and rotator cuff muscles from stride throughout the follow through in the sagital, transverse, and frontal planes.

These are only some of the examples of contractions occurring during this movement pattern or kinematic sequence of pitching. As one can see, a lot of muscles work together at the same time through different planes to perform one movement. Again, this is where functional strengthening comes in and why it is important. Since this sport specific activity requires all these different muscles to simultaneously work together through different planes and with different types of contractions, simply lifting weights with only two types of contractions in one plane will not result in optimal performance and injury risk reduction through this movement pattern. Therefore, it is important to train with functional strengthening exercises that require all these types of contractions through multiple planes in order to better prepare an athlete to perform optimally with their sport while reducing risk of injury.

JOI Fracture and Injury Care

JOI Physicians are currently offering ASAP fracture and injury care. This is a new option for patients who would like to avoid the emergency room. To learn more about this service, read this article about fracture and injury care. Make an appointment by calling (904)JOI-2000.

Need to Book An Appointment?

Are you an athlete who has suffered an injury or wants to reduce risk of future injury? If so, and you would like to book an appointment with one of our experienced clinicians call 904-858-7045 or follow the link below.

Book An Appointment with JOI Rehab

Image of Book An Appointment with JOI Rehab Button

Jon Stiffler, PTA, CPT, PES

Image of Jon Stiffler, PTA, CPT, PES – Content Writer

Skip to content