Copyright 1997-2006  American Society of Exercise Physiologists. All Rights Reserved.



November, 2006; Vol. 10 No. 11   
 Editor: Dr. Lonnie Lowery

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BOD Editorial
Functional Training: A Brief Perspective
Diboll, D.
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Editorial: Functional Training: A Brief Perspective
Dr. Don Diboll, ASEP Board of Directors

In todays realm of strength training, the term functional is used quite often. It generally refers to a type of strength training program or, in a similar context, to types of exercises used in strength training. The term is heard in various settings such as fitness centers/gyms, physical therapy practices, and athletic strength and conditioning programs. Workshops are conducted on it, books have been written on it [e.g.; Boyle (1999). Functional Training for Sports. Human Kinetics), and even some certification programs are based upon it [e.g., National Academy of Sports Medicines Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)]. In many instances, the term is used incorrectly, or what is called functional training is actually nothing of the sort. The purpose of this editorial is to give my perspective on what functional training is and its use in strength training.

The term functional, as in functional training or functional movement, has been defined in different ways, but the concepts implied by the definitions are similar. Functional training utilizes all three planes of motion (sagittal, frontal, and transverse). In contrast, more traditional training tends to emphasis just one plane, often the sagittal plane. In functional training, all muscle actions (concentric, isometric, and eccentric) are considered, and it is understood that a particular muscles primary function may be more isometric or eccentric in nature in certain movements, rather than concentric (e.g., the hamstrings eccentrically control knee extension during walking). Traditional training often tends to focus on the concentric action only. Functional training emphasizes segments of the body working together to produce and control movement effectively, and that movement in one segment can affect movement in another. For example, weak hip abductors and external rotators can result in the knees collapsing inwardly (i.e., knock knees) upon landing from a jump (the hip muscles are not eccentrically controlling hip adduction and internal rotation caused by gravity and ground reaction forces during the landing). In contrast, traditional training often isolates muscles and joints, training them independently. Other concepts in functional training include challenging body balance, both statically and dynamically; performing training movements at varying speeds; and developing appropriate strength and flexibility (i.e., muscle balance) between agonist/antagonist muscle pairs.

The conceptual origin of functional movement, and therefore training, is often credited to Gary Gray, a noted physical therapist who has since conducted numerous workshops and seminars on the subject (e.g., Chain Reaction Transformation, 2006. Wynn Marketing). The scientific basis of functional training, however, is not easily discerned. Functional training concepts seem to be generalized, in part, from findings of various research studies or collections of related studies that focused on very specific topics. One example is the collective works of Richardson, et al. on spinal stabilization, low back pain, and therapeutic exercises. Among other things, this body of work determined that the transverse abdominis, a deep anterior muscle of the lumbar spine region, is the first muscle to be activated during limb movements. From this originated the concept of training this muscle along with the other muscles of the core, a term often used loosely to indicate the muscles of lumbar spine region. Core training is a major component of most functional training programs. The rational behind this is that the core must be strong and stable in order for the entire body to function effectively in daily and sports-related movements. It is believed that traditional abdominal training alone does not effectively develop the core. Another example often referenced is Basmajian and Delucas (1985) Muscles Alive: Their Functions Revealed by Electromyography (5th ed. Williams & Wilkins). This text is very comprehensive in identifying the muscles responsible for the various joint movements of the body. From this text, the multi-planar movement ability of many muscles is clear.

Much of functional training centers on selection of exercises. For example, the barbell bench press, a well recognized upper body strength pressing exercise, could be made more functional by using dumbbells instead, which requires greater neuromuscular coordination within and between the upper limbs. This movement could be made even more functional by taking this pressing motion and, by utilizing a cable machine with one cable for each limb, performing the movement in the standing position. This positioning now requires the use of the legs, hips, and trunk to stabilize the body while the other muscles perform the pressing action. This movement pattern is similar to those observed in sports in that athletes are usually in a standing position during sport skill training and competition. Another example is the use of standing rotational medicine ball throws to train the core. In many sport movements, rotation in the core (including the hips) is a transverse plane motion; therefore the core should be strength trained utilizing transverse plane motions in the standing position.

Functional training concepts appear to be logical and practical, and I believe they can be effectively incorporated into strength training programs. Just as is the case with other aspects of strength training (e.g., periodization), opinions vary on how and to what degree functional training concepts should be used. Also, caution is required in selecting proper exercises for specific training objectives while keeping in mind the physical condition and abilities of the intended subject. Finally, this is an area open to research in order to substantiate the effectiveness of functional training concepts and techniques compared to other means of strength training.

Ask the Professor: Your Inside Scoop on Tough Questions

Note: Ask the Professor is intended for informational purposes only. It is not to be taken as healthcare advice. Please do not submit questions of a personal nature (e.g. fitness programs, nutrition advice solicitation, etc.) Thanks.

Q.) Biochemistry scares me. Can you tell me if this stuff will even apply to my goal of being a sports nutritionist?  

A.) First, if you are a student of exercise physiology, you'll need to become aware of the licensure requirements of the state where you hope to practice sports nutrition. Although your training involves biochemistry and sports nutrition (in some academic programs, a lot!) many states reserve this career path for registered and licensed dietitians. In such cases your best bet is to 1.) pursue competencies and eventual licensure in nutrition and/or 2.) set up a strong referral network in which you are invaluable to practicing dietitians, and vice versa.

Having said that, both exercise physiology and dietetics students who love sports nutrition should be aware that biochemistry is truly a foundation for practice. To keep this topic manageable, here are just a few examples of where biochemistry underlies seemingly more practical scenarios:

  • A marathon runner wants to "carb load". (Biochemistry involved: the enzymes, glycogen phosphorylase and glycogen synthase as well as the hormone insulin and its cellular effects. Also worthy of note is the phenomenon of eccentric muscle damage retarding glycogen synthesis in sore muscles.)

  • A basketball player wants to gain lean weight. (Biochemistry involved: protein synthesis and breakdown, including transcription and translation of new proteins such as actin and myosin.)

  • A cyclist wants to train her aerobic systems specifically, without unnecessary draining of her bodily resources. Her coach is excited about lactate threshold training. (Biochemistry involved: the enzyme lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) as well as mitochondrial density as it relates to shuttling pyruvate into oxidative pathways. NOTE: Lactate is seriously misunderstood by many coaches as a "bad guy" or something that can be blamed on oxygen deprivation in skeletal muscle.)

  • A football lineman needs to lose 30 pounds, principally of body fat. (Biochemistry involved: the cellular "secondary messenger" cyclic AMP (cAMP) as well as the enzyme hormone sensitive lipase (HSL) and the pathways of beta-oxidation. Additionally, there are many enzymes on the "fat building side" of triacylglycerol turnover such as acetyl CoA carboxylase, glycerol 3-phosphate acyltransferase, and others.)  

  • A triathlete wants to prevent overtraining. (Biochemistry involved: tissue-specific effects of the stress hormone cortisol and pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-6 including their effects on protein breakdown in skeletal muscle. The enzyme branched chain ketoacid dehydrogenase is involved, as are glutamine and possibly alanine release from skeletal muscle tissue. Also related might be the effects of supplemental glycerol on plasma volume and bodily antioxidant enzymes such as glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase (SOD) as they relate to mitochondrial oxygen usage or leukocyte free radical production.)

The attempt here is not to confuse or overwhelm beginning students. Rather it is to show that there is indeed a "why" beneath many of the phenomena and strategies employed to improve performance - and maintain health - among athletes. Sports nutrition is key to these processes but you can clearly see that physiology strongly intertwines throughout these examples. Remember, rising above personal trainer status will require a stronger understanding of what's going on "under the hood"! You can gain competence by taking one small step at a time. Good luck!


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Sports Medicine/Exercise Physiology
Tenure-track, Assistant Professor, Fall 2007. Ph.D. required by Sept. 2007 in sports medicine, exercise physiology, kinesiology, or related area with previous teaching experience preferred. Must be committed to teaching excellence and the development of an active undergraduate research/internship program. Responsibilities include program administration, undergraduate teaching in sports medicine, and supervision of undergraduate research and internships. NSCA/ACSM certification preferred. Submit cover letter, c.v., transcripts, statement of teaching interests and philosophy, research interests, and three letters of recommendation to: Dr. Warren Fass, Sports Medicine Search Committee Chair, University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, 300 Campus Drive, Bradford, PA 16701. ( Application review will begin November 13, 2006, and continue until position is filled. Women and minorities are encouraged to apply. AA/EOE.

Exercise Biologist
The Washington State University Program in Health Sciences invites applications for a full-time (100%), 9-month, tenure-track position at the Assistant/Associate Professor level located at the WSU Spokane campus. Position is available August 16, 2007. Responsibilities include developing an extramurally-funded research program, teaching graduate/undergraduate courses in exercise biology or other related areas, and meeting service expectations. The applicant will be evaluated on his/her potential to:

Function as a successful, collaborative team member with faculty in the Clinical and Experimental Exercise Science graduate degree and the Exercise Physiology and Metabolism undergraduate degree;
Sustain a focused and externally funded research program with a cellular and/or molecular focus in an area related to exercise biology and/or disease prevention and management; Teach and develop courses for graduate and undergraduate students in the area of expertise or in related areas; Advise and direct graduate student theses or projects and contribute to the development of comprehensive graduate exams; Contribute to interdisciplinary collaborations in scientific and health-related disciplines within the university; Demonstrate a service commitment at the program, university, community, state, and national levels; and Participate fully in all aspects of program development and duties required for successful functioning of the Program in Health Sciences.

Screening begins January 11, 2007. The complete description, including qualifications requirements and application information and program information, is available at and Information about WSU is available at and Information about Spokane is available at and

WSU is an EEO/AA educator and employer.


Exercise Physiologist Part-time, 1 day/week in clinic and several hrs/1 eve/week

Orlando, FL

Nemours mission is to provide leadership, institutions, and services to restore and improve the health of children through care and programs not readily available, with one high standard of quality and distinction regardless of the recipients financial status.

Employing 445 subspecialty physicians and surgeons, Nemours cared for more than 221,000 children during nearly 887,000 patient visits in 2003, making Nemours one of the nations largest pediatric subspecialty group practices with a history dating back to 1936. This is in addition to many ongoing research and education programs conducted at Nemours.

Enjoy 100% in-network health coverage for children of full-time Nemours Associates, insurance benefits effective first day of the month after you start, work/life balance, generous paid time off, 403(b) and fully funded pension plan. EOE

The Nemours Childrens Clinic of Orlando is expanding and offering services to our patient population designed to address obesity and other conditions related to chronic illness. One of these services will include an exercise series as part of an overall program of healthcare and wellness. We are seeking an Exercise Physiologist to work in developing and implementing this new program with the guidance of our Clinical Managers and under the direction of our Director of Clinical Operations.

This position will be part-time with a schedule of one day per week in clinic and several hours one evening per week.

The ideal candidate will: be familiar with diagnostic exercise equipment, possess knowledge of computer- based programs, have an understanding of basic cardiovascular physiology, possess knowledge of pediatric pulmonary diseases; and, have experience with the pediatric and adolescent population (preferably in a diagnostic or clinical setting). Educational requirements include a degree in Exercise Physiology/Exercise Science and experience in exercise physiology.

Apply at EOE



<> Behind everything we do, is the life of a child.
Behind every treatment, discovery and cure is a legacy of care and commitment, the love of a family, the compassion of a caregiver, the dedication of support staff...the life of a child.  We are Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, an internationally recognized pediatric and perinatal facility, committed to providing an exceptional health care experience for children and expectant mothers. We invite professionals who are interested in growing their career at one of the nation's top pediatric hospitals as ranked by US News and World Report to join us in the following role:



Children's Heart Center

Working in our new outpatient Children's Heart Center, we will expect you to perform high quality, simple and complex echocardiograms of fetuses, infants, children and young adults with known suspected congenital and/or acquired heart disease in outpatient and inpatient settings. You will also supervise and perform graded exercise testing (including metabolic and stress echoes), prepare exercise prescriptions and consultations, and perform oxygen titration with pulse oximetry, at rest and during exercise.

We require candidates who are board registered with RDCS in pediatric echocardiography. We prefer 1-2 years in cardiac rehab.

As an employee of Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford, youll be part of a close-knit university community complete with a wealth of continuous educational and professional development opportunities, as well as world-class fine arts, dining, shopping and recreational facilities. In addition, you'll enjoy a substantial benefits package that includes a competitive salary, 100% company-paid medical, dental and vision for employees and dependent children, tax-deferred annuity opportunity, 403(b) Employer Matching Retirement Plan, and generous paid time off.

Candidates interested in learning more about joining our team may view Req# 7959 and apply at: We also invite you to contact Louise Laforet at EOE

Exercise Physiologist

This exciting opportunity offers a full-time, 80 hour/biweekly schedule in a cutting-edge cardiac rehabilitation program. The ideal candidate should be an experienced clinician, teacher, consultant, and researcher
and able to demonstrate knowledge in exercise prescription, exercise physiology, behavior change, risk factor assessment and management, cardiovascular emergency procedures, nutrition, and adult education.

A Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology; BLS, ACLS, defibrillation certification; ability to make independent clinical decisions; and telemetry monitor/arrhythmia interpretation skills are required.  An M.S. and 2+ years of experience in cardiopulmonary rehabilitation are preferred. Please apply online at (Online applications strongly preferred.) email:, FAX: (410) 368-3536. St. Agnes Hospital, 900 South Caton Ave., Baltimore, MD, 21229. EOE

Body Composition Analyzer
Direct/ Segmental/ Multi-Frequency
Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis

 Modern BIA Technology you can trust!
 BIOSPACE, Inc., located in Beverly Hills, California, introduces a new body   composition analyzer, the InBody320. With more advanced BIA technology, InBody320 is the first segmental body composition analyzer using multi-frequency for professional use.

Traditional BIA technology
With conventional BIA technology, bioimpedance is measured either from hand to foot (R-type) or from foot to foot (T-type). These types only partially measure bioimpedance of the body. Boimpedance of the trunk segment is not measured by most BIA technology leaving segments of the body unaccounted for in the body composition analysis. 

Direct/ Segmental/ Multi-frequency

Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis (DSMF-BIA)
InBody320 divides the body into five segments -4 limbs and a trunk- and measures impedance of each segment at multiple frequencies (5, 50 and 250 kHz) targeting the whole body as shown in Figure 3. Therefore, the DSMF-BIA method shows a high level of accuracy. The extreme accuracy makes InBody320 possible to monitor even slightest compositional changes during the process of medical treatment, rehabilitation, and exercise programs.

No Statistical Estimations
With conventional BIA, results are distorted by statistics, based on personal data input such as age, sex, body type, etc. Conventional BIA devices only partially measure body composition and the rest is statistically determined. Although it gives reasonable results for people of the norm, its accuracy is very low for children, elderly, patients and athletes. However, InBody320s DSMF-BIA technology has overcome the limitations of the conventional BIA method. For it accurately assesses intracellular water using multi-frequency and measures bioimpedance of trunk as well as the rest of the body. The InBody320 uses actual measurements to yield accurate results regardless of empirical estimation.   

LifeStyle Management, located in Minneapolis, MN, has a full-time position available for an experienced and degreed professional in exercise physiology and/or athletic training. This position would require travel to alternate LifeStyle managed sites. LifeStyle Management is a progressive medically based company with multiple private/corporate sites. Excellent technical, customer service, organizational, and computer skills are a must. Applicants must have a minimum of 2 years experience in personal training and a certification by ASEP, ACSM, NSCA, NATA, or NASM. This position offers potential for
advancement based upon performance. Interested professionals should contact Patrick Ayres at 612-332-2292 x440 for more information or forward resume to 



Come discover why Forsyth Medical Center has been recognized for making the life/work balance easier for its employees. Our location of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, offers a unique blend of history, culture, and outdoor beauty. We are seeking an EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGIST to join our Preventative Cardiology Department.

The selected candidate will be responsible developing and implementing exercise prescriptions under the direction of the Medical Director. Duties include providing instructional assistance in accordance with proper exercise techniques, the individual exercise prescription, and the medical diagnosis.

Bachelor's in Exercise Physiology required; Masters preferred. Must have experience with exercise training programs, preferably in cardiac rehabilitation.

Forsyth Medical Center offers competitive salaries and benefits. Interested candidates, please contact Eunice Barrineau at Toll Free: 1-800-777-1876 or Email: You may also apply online at We are an equal opportunity employer committed to providing diversity in the workplace.

Exercise Physiologist - Kosciusko Community Hospital

At Kosciusko Community Hospital our goal is to provide customer service that exceeds the expectations of patients, physicians and the community. If you are committed to the same expectations then we are currently seeking you as a new team member.

Exercise Physiologist:
KCH currently has an opening in its Wellness Center for An experienced Exercise Physiologist. The successful candidates will posses a Bachelors degree in Exercise Physiology and three to six months experience preferably in a Hospital Cardiac Rehab program. ASEP certification is preferred.

KCH offers a competitive salary and benefits package. Qualified candidate may submit a resume or application to:

Kosciusko Community Hospital
2101 East DuBois Drive
Warsaw, Indiana 46580 
574-372-7624 (fax)

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