T Nation

The End of the 'FUNCTIONAL' Debate


The word 'FUNCTIONAL' is paramount to this discussion and I believe the majority of the debate revolves around the ambiguity of the word. If you are not 'FUNCTIONAL', you are 'DISFUNCTIONAL'.

Looking at the Merriam-Webster site, this definition would seem most appropriate:

2 : used to contribute to the development or maintenance of a larger whole ; also : designed or developed chiefly from the point of view of use

Therefore, the quality of being 'FUNCTIONAL' is dependent on the purpose of use. Thus, it can be said that you are 'FUNCTIONAL' at attaining maximum mass, while 'DISFUNCTIONAL' at maximum cross-sectional "powerlifting" efficiency.

However, we then run into degrees of 'FUNCTIONALITY'. Nothing is black and white. To really assess one's 'FUNCTIONALITY' one needs to determine the fiber makeup of the muscle and then run a whole battery of tests to really know what that muscle is "made of."

A common question in the debate is whether an athlete can perform "real-world" tasks. That is a viable definition for 'FUNCTIONAL' but it is not limited to "real-world" tasks.

If you want to make a claim to 'FUNCTIONALITY' of an athlete, you have to look at the sport in which he competes. Thus, Ronnie Coleman is the most 'FUNCTIONAL' bodybuilder. Lance Armstrong is the most 'FUNCTIONAL' cyclist.


oh shit.....we're all going to be functionally fucked here.....again.


Ha, yea probably. I just wanted to convey that FUNCTIONAL, the word by itself, doesn't have substance when speaking of an athlete.

I can wipe my ass, does that make me FUNCTIONAL?


I left the gym tonight and found that I had trained myself into such dysfunction that I could not find the strength to put my car keys in the lock...or press the alarm button to unlock the car. It took me 3 hours to walk home...on crutches.

Thanks to bodybuilding, my car is still at the gym. Damned muscles. Luckily the handicap elevator I installed last week due to not being able to support my own weight up stairs was still operational. In fact, I am typing this now through spoken word to a typist. Her name is Shirley and she will be posting for me from now on.

PS, Damn I look sexy.

Hey, don't write that. Stop it. They're going to think I wrote it! Quit!! Stop tickling me!!


I guess the term means carryover from working out to real life. Well if you lift free weights you're more 'functional' than 95% of people, so who gives a shit.


Fuck sake! Stop making me laugh at work!


I lift heavy and I put the "ncti" in "functional".


So, whether or not something is functional would be determined by use.

Something I used to do to be more functional- Doing manual labor used to tax some specific groups of muscles more than others. So after learning about imbalance and the effects it has on joint mobility and overall developement, I started lifting to exercise the opposite muscles- The ones that weren't used all day. I also combined this with flexability program that would relax and lengthen the groups used all day.
Voila'- More functional, but the approach was not from the direction you would think.


I like this part. Perhaps functional strength and fitness have been inadvertently interchanged? Fitness, contrary to popular belief, is not the ability of Denise Austin's hamstrings to connect her ass to her ankles. One is fit to perform a task. One is physically fit to perform a specific physical task. Yet fitness has been generalized to that of 'being healthy.'




Training opposing body parts is also why I think many trainers overstate the roll of "full body exercises" as if you aren't functional unless you are doing power cleans. Unless you are training biceps and neglecting triceps, training your chest and forgetting about your back, training quads and not training hamstrings, you are functional for whatever you are training for.

I am just tired of hearing this term. It is usually used as a way to degrade bodybuilding for some reason or make someone feel better in spite of the fact they have been lifting for 5 years and no one can tell.


LOL!! Funny, but true. A lot of guys talking about functional strength don't look like they lift at all. It almost seems like some of these guys feel the need to justify their lack of a physique.

I think things would be a lot clearer if these lifters would just say that they are interested in increasing their relative strength and have no interest in gaining size.

This would state their goal clearly without taking shots at others. I guess some people have to put others down to feel good about themselves though.


This is one of my many pet peaves. Whenever I hear someone say they work out just to be fit" or that they're going to start working out so they can "be more fit" I always think "fit for what?". I damn sure wouldn't want most people who train for "fitness" to help me load a truck, buck hay, dig a ditch or throw down in a dark alley, so what the hell are they fit to do?

If your goal is "fitness" or to be "in shape" in my experience that is just an excuse for working out out half assedly. People seem to think there's one hardcore way of training that makes you huge, bulky and strong overnight, and another that makes you svelte and pretty, when fact is we all know it requires damn hard work to make favorable body composition or performance changes of any kind.

Hard work is the common denominator between successful folks of all kinds, be they bodybuilders, powerlifters, strongmen, accountants or the guy that manages the grocery store down the street. Hard work is the key, and it's the one thing guys who argue about this stuff leave out.


Fit for attracting sexy women.

Fit for wearing clothes that aren't tent like.

Fit for having sex without having a heart attack.

Isn't that what the shorthand generally refers to?




Obviously this wasn't the end as it spawned another two threads about this very subject!