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What is Functional?

by in Education
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Functional training is a buzzword in the fitness world.  According to Wikipedia, the resource most people will go to for a simple definition, Functional training is “an exercise that involves training the body for the activities performed in daily life.”  This definition of “functional movement” is dangerous because it is widely open to potential misinterpretation.  Functional movement should be thought of in relation to a movement continuum.

To get even more specific, the best assessment of whether a movement is functional or not is to determine whether or not it is conducted in a closed kinetic chain (CKC). Closed kinetic chain exercises are movements performed where one extremity is fixed in space and cannot move. During a CKC exercise, or functional exercise, the extremity stays in constant contact with the immobile surface, which is often the ground or the base of a machine.  Additionally, since CKC exercises are often compound exercises (they involve more than one muscle group at a time), they are known to be more beneficial to the body.  The human body was uniquely designed to function optimally in a closed kinetic chain movement.  The exception to this is for the upper extremity, where many movements are performed in an open kinetic chain (OKC).  Unfortunately, OKC training can compromise the integrity of the rotator cuff, leading to injury and a lapse in training. To optimize the “functional training” of you upper extremity we recommend that you program and plan with CKC exercise in mind.  


Below are some examples to help get you started in thinking about ways to intentionally incorporate more CKC movement for better “functional” results: 

Examples of lower body functional / CKC exercises are:


·      Stationary Lunges

·      Walking Lunges

·      Split Squats

·      Squats

·      Single Leg Squats

·      Deadlifts

·      Single Leg Stiff Leg Deadlifts

·      Step Ups

·      Good Mornings

·      Glute Bridges


Examples of upper body functional / CKC exercises are:


·      Push Ups

·      Pull Ups

·      CKC Shoulder Press

·      CKC Inverse Rows

·      CKC Dips

·      CKC Shrugs

·      CKC One-Arm Push Ups

·      CKC One-Arm Pull Ups


These exercises are not functional:


·      DB Shoulder Press

·      Chest Flyes

·      Bicep Curls

·      Press Downs

·      Reverse Flyes

·      Bench Press

·      Clean and Press

·      Rotator Cuff Band Work


The CKC specified upper extremity exercises are movements that are typically open kinetic chain exercises (OKC) that have been taken into a closed chain environment for the movement performance.  As already mentioned, even though the upper extremity can move functionally in an open chain, it simply was not designed to bear heavy loads in an open chain.  Therefore, to maximize the training of the upper extremity, it is highly recommended to train functionally in CKC movements.  Specifically, this conversion is done through the use of the Luedeka Body Weight Trainer, which permits manipulation of angles and immobile surface points to allow what might typically be an OKC exercise to become a CKC one.  The Luedeka Body Weight Trainer essentially transfers non-functional movements into functional movements. 


It is important to train with closed chain movement in mind when training the upper extremity; this type of functional training will elevate results, preserve joint integrity, increase metabolic function and affect overall wellness.  To find out more about how to translate normally OKC exercises into CKC exercises, you can find out more about The Luedeka Body Weight Trainer at




About David Luedeka, DPT, CSCS


Dr. David Luedeka DPT, CSCS, is a practicing physical therapist and strength and conditioning specialist. David attended the University of Florida, D’youville college, and the Medical College of Virginia at VCU.  He holds B.S., M.S., and DPT degrees in physical therapy. He is also a certified strength and conditioning specialist credentialed through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.


For almost 20 years he owned and operated an outpatient physical therapy clinic in Sarasota, Florida. He helped many patients including weekend warriors and professional athletes overcome injuries and return to their sports. Many consider Dr. Luedeka an innovator in the field of physical therapy since he is always thinking “outside the box” when treating patients.  Learning about and exploring new treatment modalities make him a dynamic, problem-solving practitioner who achieves patient success in many cases that have been historically unsolvable.


Dr. Luedeka’s professional focus has recently changed highlighting this “outside of the box” thinking. Dr. Luedeka’s’ interests include the field of evolutionary medicine and specifically the “rotator cuff mismatch”.He has been involved in research and has recently published a paper regarding a new treatment theory and its associated techniques to help those with rotator cuff disease. It was in the development of this new theory that he patented a new body weight trainer and started a company CKC Fitness System. It was in the development of this new technique that Dr. Luedeka determined the need for the Luedeka Body Weight Training System approach to fitness.


Dr. Luedeka currently lives outside of Charlottesville, Virginia, and is also the Director of the Fried Center for the Advancement of Potential. The Fried Center is a non-profit organization dedicated to athletes with intellectual disabilities. The mission of the center is to help those with intellectual disabilities overcome orthopedic dysfunctions, improve their fitness levels, and encourage these athletes to reach their genetic potential.

You can learn more about CKC Fitness System and the Luedeka Body Weight Trainer at






David Luedeka DPT, CSCS, a practicing physical therapist and strength and conditioning specialist, is the founder and creator of CKC Fitness System.


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Guest Sunday, 17 December 2017

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The Luedeka Body Weight Trainer is the first functionally based all-in-one exercise trainer to incorporate the many scientific principles of progressive resisted exercise into functional closed chain training.

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