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Functional Lower Body Training

What is Functional Training?

We often hear that functional training is the use of gadgets/equipment like the BOSU Ball to perform Back squats.

Let me stop you right there, please do not try that as it is very unsafe. Functional training and unstable surface training are not synonymous.

Unstable surface training is one aspect of the larger thought process that makes up functional training.

As Charles’ Staley put’s it, “exercises performed on various devices -such as exercise balls, foam rollers, and “wobble boards”- that are designed to create a more challenging environment for the purpose of involving more of the smaller and more deeply located stabilizer muscles.”

Further, “functional training advocates purport that greater stabilizer involvement is the key to enhanced performance and overall training results”.

In essence, function is purpose. Functional training can be described as purposeful training. This is were many people get functional training confused.

Functional Training For The Lower Body

The common movements we see in when you hear lower body training are Back Squat & Conventional Barbell Deadlifts.

These movements certainly have their place in a program, but, with the population we often see (middle aged adults who just want to get in shape and not get injured) this may not be best.

Let me explain, at our facility we have clients that come in with knee problems and after a thorough evaluation we sometimes determine that it can be from weak hip stabilizers, leg extensors, or limited ankle mobility.

With that said, our emphasis for developing lower body strength has moved to more unilateral exercises.

The primary reason we do this is:

  • no injuries in training-people can easily hurt themselves doing back squats or conventional barbell deadlifts
  • decrease the risk of knee injuries-Unilateral work helps improve the smaller stabilizers in the lower body and improves strength.
  • increase performance-whether you are a marathon runner, basketball player or just enjoy hiking, you would benefit from unilateral exercises.

3 Quad Dominant Functional Exercises

Let’s go over some of our favorite exercises to really get your lower body strong while reducing the risk of injury.

Goblet Squat: We really like this variation of bilateral squatting because it helps you sink into your hips easier than a back squat, and also helps fire the anterior core to a higher degree which is a plus.

Split-Squat: One of the best squat variations to develop single leg strength. They are simple to perform and easy to learn.

Slider Reverse Lunge: This is an excellent single-leg exercise that combines single leg strength, dynamic flexibility, and moderate instability. This is a great movement for both training and rehabilitation.

3 Hip Dominant Functional Exercises

Now let’s go over some of our favorite hip dominant exercises.

Contralateral Single Leg Deadlift: This is one of the best exercises to develop the posterior-chain (Glutes & Hamstrings). In addition, it helps with improving balance (often neglected in most training programs).

Trap Bar Deadlift: Great exercise to develop major bilateral strength. It’s design helps reduce the shear forces that make Barbell deadlifting problematic for some lifters.

Goblet Hold Lateral Lunge: We can’t forget the other planes of movement. Hence, why we like the lateral lunge which targets the frontal/transverse planes and the goblet hold helps engage the anterior core.

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