Functional movement is a topic that has been beat to death in the fitness and physical therapy industries. It’s become a word that people can understand and relate to. Hell, it’s in the definition of crossfit. And it makes sense- exercise should be functional!
(Crossfit definition, according to crossfit.com: CrossFit is constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity.)
Here’s the reality… ALL EXERCISE IS FUNCTIONAL. Everything you’re doing in a training or rehab protocol should and can be easily justified with a simple explanation. Sometimes exercise is as easy as strengthen what’s weak, stretch what’s tight.
To give credit where credit is due, Buddy Morris, an old mentor and now strength coach for the Arizona Cardinals is the first person I ever heard say “all exercise is functional.”
Let’s say you have a 75 year old man who tore his achilles trying to run after the ice cream truck. He had surgery 3 weeks ago and he is still in a boot holding him in plantarflexion. He can’t dorsiflex his foot past neutral per doctors orders for another 2 weeks. When he comes to PT he’s doing open chain, no resistance ankle pumps with his therapist guiding him closely. Is this functional? YES IT IS! It is a piece of the equation that is eventually contributing to his increased functionality. His achilles needs to scar down more and the surgery cannot be stressed at this point.
The point here is to not judge a book by it’s cover. I’m not saying ditch your squats for leg extensions and stop working on your balance and hip hinge patterns. I’m just saying don’t be so judgey when you see other modalities of exercise and you don’t know the whole story.
This topic has been covered by numerous other smart people and I have admittedly been influenced by their stance.