If your gym follows trending fitness then no doubt it offers some rendition of ‘functional fitness.’ Whereas traditional strength training isolates muscle groups to induce strength, endurance, size or power gains (think barbell bench press), functional fitness is all about integration. It teaches muscle groups to work together, and the exercises almost always engage the core (think dumbbell shoulder press while standing one-legged on a Bosu ball).

Functional fitness is all about intra-muscular communication, especially because in traditional routines the upper body rarely connects with the lower body, and besides the antagonists talking to the agonists, other chatter is limited. Biceps day is biceps day, and any benefit to other muscles is (typically) incidental.

Functional fitness developed as a response to the seemingly improbable scenario of being able to bench press more than your body weight yet struggle to complete a benign task like putting an infant in a car seat. Physical activity professionals recognized that everyday movement was not isolative, thus overloading differently could optimize physical quality of life.

Fast-forward to now, and common to the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ dynamics that stir from lifestyle trends, functional fitness is the favored child while traditional strength training has been relegated to the dusty back rooms of gyms.

No doubt, the features of functional fitness make a significant contribution to wellness, cognitive as well as physical since control, synergy, and balance all stimulate different brain function than traditional strength training. But the all-or-nothing, or either-or stance is an ironic disservice to the very thing functional fitness touts – balance.

Like any approach to fitness, take care to engage in ALL of what we know to foster optimum wellness – cardiovascular exercise in its appropriate training zone, strength training to induce gains of strength, power and/or endurance, and stretching to sustain joint range of motion.
Mixing traditional and contemporary might be the ultimate in functional fitness since good old-fashioned strength, mass, and power training is beneficial just as that which induces synergy, balance, and integration.

Yep, and its ok to wear stripes with solids!