Is strength training all the same? An analysis of functional and traditional resistance training

Resistance training, also known as strength training, is that form of physical exercise that induces muscular contractions and builds strength, anaerobic endurance and muscle resistance.

Broadly speaking, “resistance training” encompasses all those exercises in which the body moves against a resistance. Likewise, “resistance” is any object that makes a movement harder to perform. Therefore, within the category of resistance training, one can find training categories ranging from bodyweight training and calisthenics to exercises with selectorised strength equipment, or from exercises with elastic resistance to weightlifting sessions.

Working out with an Olympic rack
Given the broad nature of resistance training, the real question one must ask is not whether to do resistance training, but rather how to do it and for what purpose. Indeed, the results that resistance training yields on the body are not the same. For example, where one user could aim to define muscle mass, another might seek muscle mass increase.
To that extent, we at Technogym, the world leader in wellness and fitness solutions, offer you an equally broad spectrum of training equipment, in order to deliver you the best training experience, regardless of the strength goal you have.

Starting with the Plate Loaded Line Pure, the gym equipment line that combines the comfort of selectorised machines with the "direct" weightlifting feeling. Nonetheless, Technogym also has a wide range of benches and racks, as well as a line of barbells and dumbbells for those users seeking the best weightlifting experience.

Functional and speed training with the Skilltools
Furthermore, the Skilltools, as part of the larger Skill Line, are the ideal solution for functional training and workouts aiming to improve all the major determinants of athletic performance. If instead you want to combine functional training with the look and feel of selectorised equipment, then the perfect solution is Kinesis Station, the station that allows you to perform more than 200 different exercises with 20 levels of resistance, so to maximize core and body stability, the bases of functional training.
If instead you want to experience different kinds of resistances and create a fully customized workout in just one machine, Biocircuit is what you need to try. Biocircuit the latest technological frontier when it comes to fitness solutions. Indeed, this comprehensive circuit of machinery all connected to each other is designed to guide the user during the workout in order to easily achieve the selected goal.

Different resistances for different goals

As previously mentioned, resistances vary greatly. If we were to attempt to categorize them, we could branch them into three groups, namely constant, variable and accommodating resistances. With constant resistances, as the name suggests, the resistance is constant and it is not affected by the change in the speed of the movement. This is the case for bodyweight and selectorised resistances, as well as weightlifting sessions.
Lunges in the dark
Conversely, variable resistances like elastic or pneumatic ones change with respect to the range of motion and the position of the body. In fact, it is easy to imagine an elastic changing its resistance depending on how stretched it is.

Lastly, accommodating resistances change as speed, torque and acceleration change. The perfect example of an accomodating resistance is water. The faster the acceleration of the movement, the harder it is to perform a movement and the stronger the resistance of the water.

Training with different resistances means seeking different objectives. Indeed, resistance training is adopted for a variety of purposes. For instance, athletes create specific workouts where they add up resistances to the gestures they normally do, so to develop either endurance or power to their movements. At the same time, bodybuilders heavily focus on weightlifting exercises, and thus on constant resistances, to build muscle mass.

The sled is an excellent workout for the whole body and strength development of the lower body
This is not to say that there is a clear-cut schedule, or that one kind of resistance is exclusively used to attain one goal. Rather, the progression in one’s own workout must be defined with the help of a fitness expert, and be changed over time.

Benefits and limitations of resistance training

Regular resistance training provides a number of benefits in the short, medium and long run on both on body and mind. First, if you start a resistance training program, you can expect your body to become stronger, leaner and fitter. However, depending on the program commenced, the degree of muscle build, body toning and muscle definition will vary greatly.

Naturally, resistance training encompasses all the benefits offered by physical activity, such as health improvement, reduction of various chronic diseases and mood improvement, though some benefits are more or less acute to specific demographics.

Chillaxing after a tiring run
Furthermore, resistance training has shown to improve also psychological health. According to the American College Health Association, small bouts of workouts results in a significant reduction in stress, depression, anxiety and dissatisfaction about physical appearance.

Nonetheless, resistance training still has some barriers, especially in certain demographics. In particular, as reported by in two studies by Kilpatrick M. et al. and by Harne AJ. et al, college-age girls associate resistance training with overly tiring workouts, muscle soreness and the fear of appearing or becoming too masculine. Furthermore, as reported by one study of Ebben W. et al., self-reported barriers preventing female demographics from approaching resistance training seem to be lack of motivation (if the goal is weight loss or body toning, why doing resistance training in lieu of cardio), a general dislike for the exercise proposed, lack of adequate knowledge and embarrassment.

Functional body weight training
This aversion toward resistance training probably stems from the general knowledge of what this kind of training stands for. Indeed, more often than not, strength training is closely associated to weightlifting.

Moreover, it is already possible to solve many of the 'barriers' reported in Ebben's study with the technology at our disposal. For example, the products included in Selection 900 Line feature the virtual coach Unity Mini, which allows guided training even on selectorised machines, so that even newcomers to "traditional" resistance training can understand the basics and carry out efficient and correct training sessions.

A classic example of resistance training with cable machines
Similarly, with Biostrength, the technology behind Biocircuit, weights are replaced in favour of an electric motor, which provides various types of resistance and training routines, customized according to the needs and physical ability of each user.

Breaking the barriers: traditional resistance training vs functional resistance training

Yet, this misconception curtails whole demographics to explore other branches of resistance training, such as functional training, or the training that aims at improving everyday life gestures, not isolating one specific muscle or muscle chain, but rather developing muscle mass in a more harmonious way.

Indeed, in a 2018 study conducted by Faro et al., a group of 34 college-age women undertook a 4-week resistance training programme, to test whether functional resistance training with respect to traditional resistance training led to higher engagement. The sample group was assigned a random circuit of both traditional and functional training exercises.

A classic example of resistance training with cable machines
The results of the study showed a marked preference for functional training, which can lead to higher rates of adoption and maintenance of resistance training at large. Interestingly, both workouts, regardless of personal preference, decreased immediate levels of anxiety and stress.

Therefore, once again the question is not if to do strength training at all, but how to do it being entertained while you seek the objective you really crave.

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