Functional Training: Training for Life

Derek WrightThis column was written by Derek Wright, Wellness Coordinator at Marion Family YMCA

There are dozens of methods of training out there, but what is the best? Ultimately it comes down to every individual’s specific needs and goals. When an individual is looking to build an exercise routine, it is important to examine the goals and specific activities he/she would like to improve through training. At the Marion Family YMCA, our coaches are trained to understand this about each person and help develop an individualized plan. Through one on one appointments (we call these Fit 60), coaches talk with new and existing members about what their goals are and what they can do to help improve the functions required to reach those goals.

Most adults are no longer training for a particular sport, and they aren’t usually looking to compete in a figure competition. Generally, when a member enters our facility they are looking to simply improve their quality of life. They want to be able to perform everyday tasks, like playing with their children, doing chores, or working at their jobs more efficiently.  However, if left to their own devices many individuals train in a way that lacks the qualities that help them reach this goal.

Functional training is a method in which an individual trains in a way that supports the body’s natural movement and duplicates real world, situational skills. It is important to train in this fashion, especially if you find yourself with the goal of just wanting to improve life.  This way of training is focused on building better balance and coordination, range of motion, speed, and muscular endurance.

Here are some points to consider in building your routine to help support your functionality:

  • Work through a full range of motion with any exercise you are performing.
    Many people will sacrifice range of motion in order to move more weight in particular exercises. One I see often is the leg press.  Many people lift with a shallow movement because they notice if they increase the range of motion they can’t do as much weight. That is when I ask them, “what is more important, being able to lift 300 pounds or being able to squat down and pick something up off the ground comfortably and efficiently?”
  • Work your core.  The core is where your strength starts.
    This means not only doing abdominal exercise often, but also doing lower back movements and working on hip flexor strength. These areas are where functionality is born. You’ll find yourself with better balance and more strength if you pay attention to these areas.
  • Do body weight exercises more often.
    In day to day life it is very rare for you to be moving anything heavier than your own body. Also, with the obstacles life presents it becomes increasingly important to be able to handle and support your own body weight.  Being able to catch your body in an event of a fall or being able pull yourself up, or onto an object becomes more important as you move along in life.  Push-ups, pull-ups, plyometrics, and stretching should play a big role in your routine.

If you have any questions or would like to begin a functional training routine stop out and see us at the Marion Family YMCA and schedule a Fit 60 appointment. Our coaches would love to help tailor a workout that helps you feel better and perform better. You can also email me anytime at Good luck and stay healthy and happy.

About Marion Family YMCA

Founded in 1892, the Marion Family YMCA strives to enrich kids, adults, families and communities through well-being and fitness, camps, family time, swim, sports, and play, and other activities for people of all ages, incomes and abilities. The YMCA's column on Marion Online is written by a variety of staff members and volunteers. You can learn more by calling 740-725-9622, or visit