Exercise Functional Training vs Isolation Training

functional training

Functional Training

One will build joint stability and flexibility in their wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles with functional training. This is first done with body weight training. Technique is a crucial aspect and must be mastered before any weight is added. Its possible to get an injury, if not due to incorrect technique, then insufficient flexibility.

Core is an important component of any exercise regime. Functional training works the core dynamically and throughly. Without a strong core, one loses mechanical efficiency when doing endurance and resistance training.

When functional training is paired with plyometric exercises you will see a difference in speed and strength. When doing box jumps, one will notice functional training will make them able to jump higher. While performing functional movements, the body can be loaded with weight in positions that further increase vertical jump height.

The start of a sprint can be done quicker and more force will be generated in each stride; therefore, resulting in faster sprinting times.

Upper body plyometric work can also be done. This will advance ones’ functional ability. For example, medicine ball throws help to improve coordination. Repeating the throw numerous times will increase synchronicity. The whole body will work better together and result in greater force generation. This paired with the strength gained in the legs, back and shoulders and a person will be able to throw a medicine ball higher and further.

Isolation training

When performing an isolated movement the functionality component is removed. Training for maintenance or prevention of aging is very rarely done in an isolated fashion.

If your goal is increased strength, a common mistake is to shorten the range of movement to increase the amount of weight lifted. Shortening of a muscle or joint range can be hazardous to an individual when moving dynamically.

Many components need to be considered when conditions are not as controlled as they are in a gym environment. For them to translate into enhancing movements preformed in everyday life, they must be functional. If the muscles are only trained in a limited range, an injury would be a highly probable outcome when preformed in uncontrolled conditions. This is why it is essential to train a muscle through its full range. Even if stretching is incorporated, no amount can compensate for poor training methodology.

Muscle impact

Another forthcoming of isolation training is, even if an individual is weak and inflexible, most isolated movements can still be preformed. Little to none initial conditioning needs to be undertaken, which could be seen as favourable. However, if work leading up to exercise should be done, it must not be avoided. Not addressing these problems and performing isolated movements could lead to tightening and further impact tight muscles, making them tighter. Overly tight muscles lead to postural problems. Carrying these problems on a day to day basis cause a problem to progress much quicker. This can lead to a loss of proper mobility and less functional ability.

The theory behind working muscles in an isolated fashion is that they can be singled out and concentrated on. Isolation training may have its benefits when trying to rehabilitate a particular area that an individual is having trouble with.

In the bigger picture though, this type of training should not be seen as the sole provider for development. Strengthening one particular muscle group may help to make initial progress through a stagnated patch. However, trying to strengthen each individual part of the body separately and expecting them to work together as a whole does not work in practise. The body and muscles must be trained to coordinate movements if they are going to be mastered and progressed to a higher level of functionality. Each muscle must be worked alongside its antagonists to ensure proper coordination of a movement.

Joint stability

Functional training

Joints and levers must become conditioned to functional training exercises. During this conditioning phase, if done gradually and correctly, the body adapts and becomes more stable. The core will gain advantages and bone density will increase more than with general resistance training. Each joint in the body will become conditioned to handle forces that are far greater than any experienced in normal training. This is useful to someone seeking to avoid bone and joint degeneration.


When performing isolation exercises, joint stability will increase. However, if it is not functional it will not translate to being a method of injury prevention in common day to day movements. Each muscle group needs to be trained in various planes in order to achieve a similar result found from one multi-jointed, functional movement.

The endocrine system

The endocrine system is responsible for distributing certain amounts of growth hormone, testosterone and adrenaline into the body. This system will distribute certain amounts of each substance depending on the demands that each person puts on their body. Genetics play a role in the base line measurement that an individual will have each of these substances at rest. Beyond this, stress and activity level a person puts their body through will determine the response from the endocrine system. For an individual to get a certain result from training, a certain amount and type of workload must be done to achieve the specific goal.

Functional training

For this article, I will consider an individual who wants to increase their strength, metabolic rate and body shape. Functional training triggers a response from the endocrine and central nervous system that helps achieve these goals. The main contributing factor is, all functional lifts fall under the multi-joint exercise category. This triggers a higher neurological response from an individual as muscles need to be coordinated to work together in order to perform a specific functional exercise.

Joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments must all do their job correctly in order to cope with the demands functional movements put on the body. The demand, combined with multiple muscles working together, stimulates the endocrine system. Extra amounts of each substance will release to cope with the movements and get you through each training session free of injuries.

When preforming most functional exercises, the largest muscle groups in the body are trained. Training predominately leg, back and core muscles will produce the fastest results.

Isolation training

Functional training movements are almost always multi-joint exercises. Isolation exercises rarely fall in that category. The less levers or joints that an individual uses while performing a certain movement, the fewer muscles and connective tissue will be activated. The response of the endocrine system will reduce. The less hormone response, the harder and longer it will take to make progress with any body goal you are looking to achieve.

Looking to increase your metabolism? You will need to create a lean mass building environment. To achieve this, your body needs to respond to the type of training you are putting it through. Isolation exercises fall short in stimulation and activation of the endocrine system.


Both types of exercise have their place in a well rounded training program. The best type of training for anyone looking to maximize and increase their results, in the minimum amount of time possible, would be something that incorporates the entire body. This is always being done when training functionally. The entire body needs to coordinate together to get into different functional positions. This increases strength, speed, flexibility, joint stability, the endocrine system and core.

Isolation exercises can help to increase certain areas of the body that may be lacking or are out of proportion. To increase ones posture, isolation exercises would be ideal. Body builders use this type of training to keep their bodies in symmetrical proportion.

The fact is, the entire body needs to be working together to perform a certain movement better than it did before.

Functional training checks all of the boxes

Functional training is the most effective way for someone seeking to gain strength while increasing flexibility. The combination of muscles and multi-joint movements preformed while training functionally maximally increases the metabolism. It requires the body to work as a single unit, in the correct sequence. This improves coordination and proprioception. Moving into functional positions requires maximum range of motion which aids and maintains mobility, essentially helping the body to age slower. As apposed to isolation training, functional training works muscles and joints dynamically to produce more strength with less risk of injury because they are worked through their full range of movement.

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