Functional training: Concepts and benefits



ANTUNES, Bianca Siqueira [1], BIANCO, Roberto [2], LIMA, Wilson Pereira [3]

ANTUNES, Bianca Siqueira. BIANCO, Roberto. LIMA, Wilson Pereira. Functional training: Concepts and benefits. Revista Científica Multidisciplinar Núcleo do Conhecimento. Year 05, Ed. 06, Vol. 08, pp. 69-80. June 2020. ISSN: 2448-0959, Access link:, DOI: 10.32749/


This study discusses the characteristics and benefits that can be provided by the practice of functional training. The central idea addressed is based on studies by different authors on the subject, causing several views about the existing concepts of functional training. Functional training was the type of training chosen for this investigation, in view of its increasing performance over the years. For this analysis, a literature review was carried out. The information found allows us to conclude that most authors have convergent ideas that complement each other about the concept and characteristics of functional training. On the benefits, all point to improvements in the level of well-being, health, performance and efficiency in daily activities.

Keywords: Functional training, features, benefits.


According to Boyle (2015) functional training can be described as a training with a purpose, since function is essentially the purpose. Teixeira and Guedes Júnior (2010) state that functional training is based on the concept of specificity, as it is characterized by the similarity of exercise with day-to-day situations.

It is explicit the great advance of this style of training in recent years, which has made it achieve notoriety worldwide and has been gaining a lot of space in the routine of individuals of different age groups and social classes. However, most people have a distorted view of what functional training really is about, simply associating it with training with various materials such as balls, rollers, rubber bands, etc.

With this, functional training becomes mischaracterized, without any sense, making it difficult to understand what this type of training serves, and what it would bring benefits to its practitioners. Therefore, it is perceived the importance of studying the theme about the effects and possibilities of this training, taking into account the concepts initially presented in this study.

In view of the above, this article aims to identify the benefits of functional training, as well as its practical possibilities.

Given the initial assumptions, a literature review in national and international articles and books will be used in this study, in order to gather the main effects related to the practice of this training, in addition to theoretically supporting physical education professionals in this context.



Like all novelty, functional training aroused the interest of professionals in the area and began to be included in gyms. Just as, it has gained several different concepts about what it really is, concepts that are sometimes criticized by some authors and reformulated by others.

The Portuguese-language dictionary shows that training is defined as the action of training, and functional refers to vital functions. So when doing word association, functional training is the action of training to improve vital functions. (TEIXEIRA and EVANGELISTA, 2014).

According to Teixeira and Guedes Júnior (2010) the term "functional" was only used in the past for rehabilitation purposes, but over time it began to be included in the exercise practices of many students. Like all training, the functional comes to add to other training strategies and enable a more homogeneous body development.

According to Novaes, Gil and Rodrigues (2014) the term functional training originated with physiotherapy and rehabilitation professionals who worked to return the functionality of their usual activities to their injured patients. In recent years, physical education professionals have inserted this type of training to add benefits to the practitioner, and define it as a training whose purpose is to refine the functional capacity of the body, and for this it is necessary the training of the central region of the body, defined as "core".

Staley (2005) defines functional training as exercises performed in various devices designed to create a challenging environment to engage the neuromuscular system. He also says that those who propose this type of training insist on stating that this type of exercise works more the smaller and more deeply located stabilizing muscles, an argument that he does not agree.

Boyle (2015) states that functional training and unstable surface training are not synonymous. For the author, function means purpose, so it can be described as a training with a purpose. What functional training actually does is divert the focus from exercise to incorporate stabilizing muscles, because in them are the source of the injuries, according to the physiotherapists.

Liebenson (2017) considers that functional training becomes more functional as the focus becomes to develop patterns of stereotypical movements that an athlete uses in all sports, rather than isolated movements. So if the goal is to improve the quality for functional tasks, integrated motion should be the focus.

Bossi (2013) says that functional training should be part of a training involving strength work, hypertrophy and localized muscle endurance, as preparation for functional training. It considers as a current problem the search for functionality and balance that causes a significant reduction of the load involved in training, in order to work the stabilizing musculature, and, finally, causing a detraining in the agonist musculature.

According to Silva-Grigoletto et al. (2014) for a training to be considered functional should include selected exercises based on their functionality and for this one must meet the five distinct variables of functionality, which are: frequency of stimuli, volume of each session, adequate intensity, density and methodological organization of tasks.

Resende-Neto et al. (2016) state that currently the concept of functional training is defined by the structuring of training programs for the neuromuscular system with the use of exercises and movements considered functional for the specific needs of daily life.

Clark (2001 apud MONTEIRO and EVANGELISTA, 2015) points out that functional movements are integrated, multiplanar movements, which involve reduction, stabilization and force production, seeking the improvement of the necessary components that allow the practitioner to acquire an optimal level of function. In addition, flexible and unlimited, since it is possible to perform movements in different amplitudes, with infinite variations

D'Elia (2017) considers the concept of functional training as forming a broader exercise base, in order to generate specificities for neural, mechanical and metabolic demands together, to improve performance.

According to Teixeira et al. (2016) the main characteristic of functional training is the objective, because while in traditional training there is a tendency to objectto aesthetics, the function is aimed at function, having as a guide the principle of specificity, assuming the characteristics of daily activities, being integrated, asymmetric, acyclic and multiplanar. Another characteristic is the stimulation of the adaptation of the control system and coordination of human movement.

Cress et al. (1996) are very objective when talking about the importance of training specificity citing examples such as: swimmers must train swimming, weightlifters must lift weights, American football players should run and pitch. They question that although this strategy works for athletes, it is not used in the daily training of an adult, in which the intention would be precisely to develop the functions used in daily activities. For this, it is necessary a training that promotes the integration of multiple joints and various muscle groups, since in our daily movements we always perform coordinated actions.

Liu et al. (2014) also mention that the basis of functional training is the specificity of training, which means that training specifically for what one wants to improve is the best way to achieve it. On the characteristics of functional training, they highlight the need to work the musculature in an integrated way, in multiplanar and dynamic movements.

Functional training has been appearing as an innovative method, which prioritizes the functional capacity of the individual, with a dynamic, motivating, challenging and complex approach. The training is based on daily movements, in order to train the individual to perform, efficiently, his daily tasks. It is characterized as a continuous exercise that involves balance and proprioception through the stabilization of the core. (ANDRADES and SALDANHA, 2012)

Moreira et al. (2011) believe that one aspect of vital importance in this type of training is the use of exercises that stimulate proprioception, in materials that offer untitable surfaces with movements performed in various planes and axes. Through exercises that challenge the various components of the nervous system, functional training aims to improve neurological aspects that affect the functionality of the human body.

D ́Elia and D ́Elia (2005) consider that functional training represents a new form of conditioning, and affirm that the appearance of functional training was due to three fundamental points, being the largest volume of information that the practitioner of physical activity receives nowadays; the change of the current aesthetic standard, now combining good physical shape and performance; the stagnation of the physical activity model that academies, clubs and schools present.

Functional training aims to improve functional capacity through exercises that stimulate proprioceptive receptors. This provides the development of systhesia awareness and body control, static and dynamic muscle balance, in addition to reducing the incidence of injury and increasing the efficiency of movements. (LEAL et al., 2009)

With the progress of this investigation on the concepts and characteristics of functional training, it is possible to notice that most authors have similar ideas and that they often complement each other for the definition of functional training. And since it has become a highly practiced modality, there is a need to analyze below, the benefits that can be acquired with your practice.


One of the most relevant points regarding functional training is the benefits it offers. To start working and practicing functional exercises it is necessary that the individual must possess muscles and joints prepared to support muscle actions and balance required. (BOSSI, 2013)

Based on the search results of Resende-Neto et al. (2016) functional training is a safe alternative that brings positive impacts on muscle mass, muscle strength and power, cardiorespiratory endurance, flexibility, balance and cognition. Nevertheless, there is still a lack of a systematized model for a better comparison between protocols used.

The study by Leal et al. (2009) achieved the initial goal, which was to improve functional autonomy, balance and quality of life, suggesting improvement in the performance of activities of daily living.

According to Silva-Grigoleto et al. (2014), if the training prescription follows a reason, and the variables of this training were controlled and manipulated in such a way that an adequate dose of exercise that the individual must perform, the psychobiological state will be adequately stimulated, generating positive responses and adaptations.

In view of the above by Novaes, Gil and Rodrigues (2014) functional training improves all the skills of the musculoskeletal system reflecting improvement in daily activities and specific sporting gestures. It also promotes benefits to well-being, health, aesthetics and performance, providing the balance between central stability of the body (core), neuromuscular and neuromotor control.

According to Andrades and Saldanha (2012), who researched the benefits for balance with functional training, it can be observed that since functional training works other than strength, it is notorious the evolution in terms of balance improvement in the analyzed group. In addition, strength, speed, coordination, flexibility and endurance also present development and provide significant performance gains for the individual.

According to Boyle (2015), functional training shifts the focus from exercises to incorporate stabilizing muscles, which would benefit in reducing the incidence of injuries. Technique and quality are extremely important for the recruitment of stabilizing muscles, and to allow the gains that functional training provides.

Cress et al. (1996) reported that the purpose of the research was to evaluate the benefits of functional training in older women, with a stair climbing exercise, with extra load, in addition to aerobic work, since they are common activities in people's routines. It was observed that there were adaptations in muscle fibers, with strength growth, which was considered as a total development of body performance, which is good, since it is an important task for an independent life.

The studies of Liu et al. (2014) demonstrated beneficial results in muscle strength, balance, mobility and activities of daily living, especially when training was specifically focused on this. It was concluded that functional training can be used to improve the performance of the elderly, and may be a better option than strength training alone, if the goal is to reduce the inability of the elderly to perform some task of their routine.

Currently, adults spend most of their time performing tasks related to work, tasks considered work, involved with automation. In addition, it is observed that there is a decrease in the practice of physical activities in childhood and adolescence, precisely the phase that motor skills develop, due to the advancement of technology and the increase in violence.  (MONTEIRO AND EVANGELISTA, 2015)

Based on these aspects, muscle imbalances and decreased total work capacity may occur, since neither adults nor children and adolescents are establishing good neuromuscular efficiency, dynamic flexibility and functional strength, and the number of dysfunctions and injuries is increasing. So, it is believed that with the insertion of functional programs in the lives of these people, there would be benefits related to these capacities, which would provide an improvement in daily life. (MONTEIRO AND EVANGELISTA, 2015)

In the research of Moreira et al. (2011) a comparison was made between the benefits obtained by the elderly through resistance functional training and strength training. Improvements in the general physical condition of the elderly were observed due to health rehabilitation, in addition to the prevention of certain pathologies. This facilitates the maintenance of good levels of independence and autonomy for the activities of daily living.

According to Teixeira and Evangelista (2014), as functional training includes different physical capacities, since they involve combinations of neuromotor exercises, endurance and flexibility, the benefits arise in the level of improvement of skill and functional capacity to perform daily and/or sports functions with autonomy and safety.

3. Discussion

Aiming to identify the benefits of functional training, as well as its practical possibilities, a literature review was made in this article in order to gather the main characteristics and benefits related to the practice of this training. It was possible to perceive many similar ideas among researchers in the area, with one or other divergence regarding a certain aspect.

Both Teixeira and Guedes Júnior (2010) and Novaes, Gil and Rodrigues (2014) approach the concept of functional training based on the fact that it originated for rehabilitation purposes in physiotherapy, and over time, has become included in the exercise practices of many students to enable a more homogeneous body development, refining the functional capacity of the body.

They converge in the ideas about the subject Liebenson (2017) and Monteiro and Evangelista (2015), which point to functional movements as integrated movements instead of isolated ones, which allow the practitioner to acquire better quality at the level of function. Just as Teixeira and Evangelista (2004) agree that functional is the action of training to improve vital functions.

Teixeira et al. (2016) and Liu et al. (2014) point out that the main characteristic of functional training is the objective, being based on specificity, that is, to work specifically what is intended to improve in daily activities.

Andrades and Saldanha (2012), Moreira et al. (2011) and Leal (2009), when it came to characterizing functional training, they are looking at the use of proprioception and balance in order to improve neurological aspects and increase movement efficiency. On the other hand, Bossi (2013) considers a problem this search for functionality and balance, because it causes a significant reduction in the load involved in training, which can cause a detraining in the agonist musculature.

Silva-Grigoleto et al. (2014), Resende-Neto et al. (2016), D'Elia (2017) and Cress et al. (1996) consider that functional training should meet the distinct variables defined by the training structure, which contemplate neural, metabolic and mechanical demands together, coordinated and integrated.

Divergent views are presented in the works of Boyle (2015) and Staley (2005). This relates functional training with exercises performed in various devices designed to create a challenging environment. That says functional training, and training on unastable surfaces are not synonymous, going against Staley's ideas.

In terms of benefits provided by the practice of this activity, it is understood that all authors point out benefits in terms of well-being, health and performance, especially those related to day-to-day activities.


The present study identified concepts and characteristics of functional training, defined by several authors in recent years, as well as the benefits acquired by its practice, both by young people, adults and the elderly.

In view of the above, it is possible to notice that most of the ideas of each author complement each other to form a broader view of the possibilities of functional training.

As a result of analysis by different authors, it can be concluded that functional training is an efficient method that contributes to the evolution of skills used in daily life or to a specific activity, besides helping in the development of other physical capacities, such as strength, flexibility, balance, muscular endurance, among others. An activity that should involve the work of the body in its entirety, respecting the limits of each one, based on functionality and specificity, to achieve positive results.


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[1] Postgraduate in Kinesiology, Biomechanics and Physical Training – Estácio de Sá University. Postgraduate in Physical Education School – Estácio de Sá University. Graduated in Bachelor's degree in Physical Education – Estácio de Sá University. Graduated in Physical Education Degree – Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

[2] Advisor. PhD in Science. Master's degree in Physical Education. Bachelor's degree in Physical Education.

[3] Advisor. Master's degree in Physical Education. Specialization in Biomechanics of Physical Activity and Health. Graduation in Physical Education.

Sent: May, 2020.

Approved: June, 2020.

Postgraduate in Kinesiology, Biomechanics and Physical Training - Universidade Estácio de Sá. Graduate in Physical Education School - University Estácio de Sá. Graduated in Bachelor of Physical Education - Universidade Estácio de Sá. Degree in Physical Education - Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.


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