Are Your Workouts Making You Dysfunctional?

If you are someone that has been working out for at least the past 6 months, you have probably heard the phrase “functional training”.  You may even be going to a place or a trainer that specializes in it, or says they do!

Maybe you don’t go where they specialize in it, but you’ve been wondering if you should incorporate functional training into your workout routine.

Either way, it is best to understand functional training and dysfunctional training to get the most out of your workout.

Functional training as defined by the National Academy of Sports Medicine is:  the integrated (total body), multi-planar movement that requires efficient acceleration, deceleration and stabilization capabilities.

Putting into everyday terminology, functional training is training that focuses on exercises that allow individuals to perform daily activities easier and with less chance of injury.

The opposite of this is dysfunctional training. This training targets overdeveloped or overused muscles, and creates greater imbalances in ones physique thus increasing the risk of injury while performing daily tasks.

Why, you ask would someone do workouts that create more dysfunction?

There are a number of reasons, but often times the two most prevalent reasons are lack of knowledge on what exercises are right for their body and a tendency toward working body parts that are more “fun” than working the “weak” areas.

To counter these, you have taken the first step to understand the difference! Next, here are some of the more common functional exercises along with a daily task it can help with. The more you change it up and turn your week areas into strong, the results will be better than the “fun” exercises!

  1. TRX Rows or Pull Ups-I prefer these rather than seated pull-downs.  Most of us are sitting too much as is and when doing so, we compress or spine and tighten our low backs and hamstrings.  Using a TRX or traditional pull ups/chin ups allows you to work your back (which helps with posture) and open up the low back and hamstrings.
  2. Push upsyes, good ol fashion push up!  These will target your chest, triceps, shoulders, and core.  All of which are important in daily activities. Being able to push yourself up is important not just for daily activities, but also in extenuating circumstances, your body needs to be prepared.

  1. Overhead Squats-These are a tough one!       But, you can work towards this one over time. Start with no weights; keep your arms extended with hands over head while squatting down then standing up. Once you feel confident in this and your arms remain extended, you can add a dumbbell in each hand or a body bar to increase difficulty. These are great because they will not only work your gluts and legs, but they open up your back and work your core.
  2. Deadlifts-another movement that focuses more on the lower body. These do require a strong core. You strengthen your traps and back; this enables you to lift boxes, small children, or whatever it may be from the ground up, without hurting your low back.

These are just 4 exercises that are common and functional.  There are hundreds more; but, as you can see not necessarily easy! However, with consistency, slow increase in difficulty, and practice they will become easier. Additionally, functional exercises help you with daily activities while burning some serious calories due to the amount of muscles being worked! That is DOUBLE the benefit!

If you are going to a gym and you are primarily using machines, not lifting weights and/or doing the same routine day in and day out you are most likely creating more dysfunction. I suggest you reach out to a professional and have him/her assess you and create a plan specific to you for functional success!

About the Author

Scott Keppel is the owner of Scott’s Training Systems, a world-class coaching facility in Chandler, Arizona. He is a nationally certified trainer through NASM and ISSA. His mission is to empower women of all ages and fitness levels. For more information head to or check him out on Instagram @stsnation.


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