When home gyms in the late '90s broke away from the traditional arms and levers that were fixed in form and path, a whole new mode of strength-training was born. Although physical therapists had talked of "functional training" for a very long time, it was a concept just being learned and accepted in fitness training. And one that was to leave its imprint on all things moving forward.
What is functional training?
Basically, training functionally means training for life and for life's activities and movements, from day-to-day things like picking up the kids from the floor to reaching up into cabinets to the demands of sports endeavors like pitching a baseball or running. That means training the body as it will be moving, forcing the entire body and musculature to take part in the intended movement rather than artificially isolating one joint or muscle. Functional training by definition means you will in one exercise use multiple muscle groups that cross several joints. For example, doing a squat while standing up and forcing the torso muscles to keep you balanced is functional; doing a leg extension sitting on a seat so only your knee joint and the muscles that cross it are working is not considered functional.
What are functional trainers?
Today's functional trainers are therefore many things, but mostly they incorporate cables instead of fixed arms and have hand grips that move around on the end of a cable rather than a welded-on lever for the exerciser to hold. This allows you to stand, sit and lie down using a bench, the floor or other accessories such as balls or foam rollers, and then grab the handles on the cables and pull them against resistance to strengthen and tone muscles.
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