Functional training is a buzzword in the fitness world. According to Wikipedia, the resource most people will go to for a simple definition, functional training is “an exercise that involves training the body for the activities performed in daily life.” This definition of “functional movement” is dangerous because it is widely open to potential misinterpretation. Functional movement should be thought of in relation to a movement continuum.
To get even more specific, the best assessment of whether a movement is functional or not is to determine whether or not it is conducted in a closed kinetic chain (CKC). Closed kinetic chain exercises are movements performed where one extremity is fixed in space and cannot move. During a CKC exercise, or functional exercise, the extremity stays in constant contact with the immobile surface, which is often the ground or the base of a machine. Additionally, since CKC exercises are often compound exercises (they involve more than one muscle group at a time), they are known to be more beneficial to the body. The human body was uniquely designed to function optimally in a closed kinetic chain movement. The exception to this is for the upper extremity, where many movements are performed in an open kinetic chain (OKC). Unfortunately, OKC training can compromise the integrity of the rotator cuff, leading to injury and a lapse in training. To optimize the “functional training” of your upper extremity we recommend that you program and plan with CKC exercise in mind.
Below are some examples to help get you started in thinking about ways to intentionally incorporate more CKC movement for better “functional” results:
Examples of lower body functional / CKC exercises are:
Examples of upper body functional / CKC exercises are:
CKC Shoulder Press
CKC Inverse Rows
CKC One-Arm Push Ups
CKC One-Arm Pull Ups
Many of the suggested CKC exercises for both the lower extremity and upper extremity are hard to accomplish with correct form. The CKC Trainer allows all users to perform these difficult exercises by providing assistance through offloading body weight.
These exercises are not functional:
DB Shoulder Press
Clean and Press
Rotator Cuff Band Work
The CKC specified upper extremity exercises are movements that are typically open kinetic chain exercises (OKC) that have been taken into a closed chain environment for the movement performance. As already mentioned, even though the upper extremity can move functionally in an open chain, it simply was not designed to bear heavy loads in an open chain. Therefore, to maximize the training of the upper extremity, it is highly recommended to train functionally in CKC movements. Specifically, this conversion is done through the use of the CKC Trainer, which permits manipulation of angles and immobile surface points to allow what might typically be an OKC exercise to become a CKC one. The CKC Trainer essentially transfers non-functional movements into functional movements.
It is important to train with closed chain movement in mind when training the upper extremity; this type of functional training will elevate results, preserve joint integrity, increase metabolic function and affect overall wellness.