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Top Tips For Functional Strength Training

14 May 2015
Wayne Rodgers
It is a fact that many daily tasks and sporting activities are full body activities. Whilst isolation training is incredibly popular in traditional gym training programs and has a legitimate role to play in the rehabilitation of an inhibited muscle, Kinetic Link Training (KLT), which utilises full body integrated movement patterns, is a more efficient and highly effective approach to strengthening human movement and sports performance.

Kinetic Link Training programs are developed with the following premises in mind:

  • Many activities of daily living and most athletic pursuits require integrated full-body movements with loading spread across multiple joints and muscles.
  • In rehabilitation, great results and optimal outcomes require more than just short–term encouragement of patho-anatomical healing, but more-so a long-term correction of unbalanced (and excessive) loading through the use of exercises that facilitate optimal force production in three dimensions and appropriate loading.
  • Effective functional resistance training should facilitate the summation of forces. Exercise choices should be based on the recognition that most power and strength movements of the upper limb involve significant activation of the lower limb and trunk musculature.
  • Sporting activity requires neuromuscular co-ordination. Functional training, for all levels of athletes, should explore sequential movement of body segments to transfer muscle energy and generate optimal force.

Here are a few top tips for designing KLT strength training programs that are truly functional.

  1. Respect The Kinetic Link Principle

The human body is naturally programmed to use the Kinetic Link Principle.

Even the most simple full body motor tasks require a complex series of sequentially activated body segments – in essence this is movement control from toes to finger tips. Movement at one segment ideally effects adjacent segments in a highly positive manner – generating greater force, greater speed and/ or greater stability. This equates to improved performance for any given daily task or sporting activity.

For example, in throwing: the hip and trunk accelerate the entire system and sequentially transfer momentum to the next distal segment, along the upper limb to accelerate the hand for ball release. (Try throwing a ball while sitting down and observe the obvious break down in the kinetic chain). Effective strength training programs should be designed to include full body exercises that respect this essential co-operation between inter-related muscles and body segments. 

  1. Take Away The Benches

Real life does not provide the external support of seats or benches whenever we are about to lift, push or pull an object. It follows that we must learn to perform resistance-training exercise with the foundation of our own “built-in” internal stabilisers rather than relying on external supports. Functional strength training / KLT exercises should always stimulate and challenge core control (posture awareness) and enhance peripheral joint stability.

  1. Train Movements Not Muscles

A popular adage in motor control theory is that “the body and brain know movement not muscles”. Therefore in KLT we should focus on training movement patterns not individual muscles groups. It is most useful to explore and then fully implement a movement pattern focus in both our exercise prescription and exercise descriptions.

For example, with a traditional strength training exercise such as the bench press the focus is typically on the strengthening of the pectoral muscles. In KLT the focus is on the development of strength, stability and control in the anterior pushing action. Replace the Bench Press with the Anterior Push with Cables.

An exercise such as the Anterior Push with Mid-Cables (performed with an appropriate lower body stance or movement) shown in these videos ticks all the boxes for Kinetic Link Training:  

  1. The full body action is respecting the kinetic link principle
  2. There is no use of external supports such as a seat or a bench
  3. The focus is on strengthening and controlling a specific movement pattern

For more information on KLT watch this video or visit the KLT website

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