Functional Training Vs. Training with Isotonic Machines

Functional training has been gaining popularity in recent years as an effective method of improving strength, flexibility and coordination. But how does it compare to traditional training in the gym with machines? What is the best method for health and fitness?

“What mechanically stabilizes functionally destabilizes.” Thanks to this maxim, read in a very interesting book on the band several years ago, I would like to make you think about a very important question: “What role should the machines for the increase of strength that we find in the weight room become famous thanks to the legendary training of Arnold Schwarzenegger then Ronnie Coleman, in the training of the amateur sportsman who trains 3 times a week to stay active and toned?”

The answer is simple: “No one!”

The philosophy of functional training

The philosophy behind functional training is that the human body is an integrated system, not a machine composed of individual parts. Our movements in daily life involve kinetic chains of muscles and joints working in unison. Functional training aims to train the body as a whole through multi-articular and multiplanar exercises.

Functional exercises such as squats, lunges, pull-ups, push ups, planks and burpees are designed to improve strength, endurance, balance, coordination and flexibility in natural movements that replicate activities of daily living. The emphasis is on quality and efficiency of movement, not just muscle development.

Criticality of training with machines

Training with machines, on the other hand, tends to isolate specific muscle groups with guided and limited movements. This segmented approach can lead to imbalances and compensations, emphasizing some groups at the expense of others. The machines constrain the movement within rigid trajectories that do not reflect the natural degrees of joint freedom.

Forcing unnatural motor lines through specific machinery can destabilize long-term kinetic chains and stabilizing muscles. This increases the risk of injuries from functional overload. In addition, muscle isolation and repetition of guided gestures leads to less neuromuscular activation than multi-articular movements.

Advantages of functional training

Functional training offers several advantages over the use of machines:

  1. Improves strength, endurance, balance, coordination and mobility in an integrated way
  2. Maintains and improves joint health thanks to controlled physiological movements
  3. Activates synergies and natural muscle chains
  4. Stimulates the nervous system and motor control more
  5. Transfers athletic abilities useful in daily life
  6. Does not require expensive equipment, can be run anywhere
  7. It’s fun and varied, with endless exercise possibilities

Functional training is therefore more complete, safe and effective for psychophysical health than the isolated use of machinery. It is the best approach for non-competitive practitioners who want to keep fit naturally.

When to use the machines

However, machines have their role in training, for example:

  1. Integrate and enhance functional training in specific areas
  2. Providing variety to advanced athletes
  3. Rehabilitation and accident prevention
  4. Low-impact aerobic activity such as stationary bike or rowing machine

When integrated into a balanced program, they can expand training possibilities. But the exclusive and prolonged use of muscle hypertrophy machines can result in the disadvantages discussed above.

In summary, functional training is preferable for most people who want to improve fitness and well-being. It promotes functional movement, injury prevention, joint health and neuromuscular stimulation. Machines have a complementary role, but should not replace basic functional training.