Strength & Conditioning vs “Functional Fitness”

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With so many avenues of training your body, no wonder why so many people bounce around and try different methodologies in hopes of finding the one that sticks and gets them. When we see functional training, we tend to think it’s all encompassing. Which in theory, isn’t wrong. However, so many organizations and companies use the jargon to attract new customers without really knowing what it is they are marketing. So let’s discuss what the differences are between Strength and Conditioning and “Functional Fitness”.

Strength and Conditioning (S&C) is defined as using evidence-based practices and protocols to improve sport and movement quality. S&C develops these with practical protocols and applies them to training programs, whether that is injury prevention, power, speed, strength, endurance, and other physical and physiological metrics. S&C isn’t only for sport. It can also be utilized for the general population, youth, geriatric, and even those with disabilities. S&C practitioners are also held to a very high standard. Majority have completed higher-education courses in the field of exercise and sport science, passed rigorous certification processes, and are always looking for ways to improve their craft. But also, they practice what they preach. This isn’t just a hobby for them, this is their career, their passion.

Functional Fitness (FF) is a classification of training that prepares the body for “real-life” movements and activities. These include strength, balance/coordination, power, range of motion, and mobility. You may see this term used in conjunction with high intensity Interval Training (HIIT), obstacle course training, “ninja warrior” training, and other fitness methodologies. Practitioners in this discipline may or may not have a higher education in exercise and sport science, usually a weekend certificate that may not require rigorous test procedures, and usually is a part-time hobby.

Both methods of training do possess some similar qualities and functions, but when looking at the core of each methodology, it is important to distinguish the following; S&C is FF, but FF may or may not be S&C. FF stemmed from S&C practices, and made a few changes to become something in its own entirety. S&C has stood the test of time through scientific research and practice. Both are ever evolving and constantly undergoing changes to pertain to the demands of their practitioners and subjects. But, my hope now is you now understand the difference between the two when it comes to human performance potential.

Brandon Bailey

MS, CSCS, USAW, USATF, CFL1, AIT

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