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Why Functional Training Matters

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We all know we need to train “functionally.”  It’s been a trend in the fitness industry for the past decade and to be quite honest, “functional training” is a sexy word to throw around.  The thing is, everyone talks about “functional training,” but ask a group of personal trainers why functional training is important and a large majority of them will not be able to give you a proper answer.

Let’s break down the actual importance of functional training so that you can be among the elite who know why we need to train functionally and how to better use it in our programming.  It all starts with gravity...


Gravity is the force of attraction between an object and the center of the Earth. It is the fundamental force of nature that keeps one grounded and must be overcome with every step an individual makes.

The lower extremity musculoskeletal system is designed with large bones and muscles, producing forces that enable one to compensate for gravity. The way these muscles work against gravity is slightly different from what is classically taught. Instead of one muscle flexing a joint and the other extending it, the same muscle is responsible for both actions. The muscles work in conjunction with other muscles in the kinetic chain eccentrically to control the bending caused by gravity and concentrically to overcome it. Since the lower extremities function primarily against closed chain forces, they need to be exercised in a manner that duplicates these forces and therefore improves their functional strength. As one ages the maintenance of this closed chain functional strength is a key to preserving our quality of life.

At the other end of the body, the shoulder joint is anatomically unstable in an open chain. Even though humanity has evolved from using the upper extremities as legs, they are not designed to function solely in an open chain. They are designed to utilize the compressive forces of gravity to assist with joint stabilization. The shoulder has a cuff of musculature (the rotator cuff) to assist in this stabilization. When the compressive forces provided by gravity are utilized in closed chain exercise there is less need for the rotator cuff musculature to stabilize the shoulder joint. On the other hand, motion in an open chain, especially with load, places a great deal of stress on this rotator cuff musculature. Over time the rotator cuff wears out. As a result of this disruption the rotator cuff is a major cause of pain and disability in modern life.

Training the upper extremity musculature in a functional closed chain manner also helps to keep the joints of the upper extremity properly positioned. Most machines and barbell-based forms of exercise require the user to lie or sit on a bench. When this happens the motion of the shoulder blade is limited and even greater stress is placed on the rotator cuff, as the cuff has to stabilize the shoulder joint that is being asked to do too much. The shoulder joint is forced to increase its contribution to the overall motion of the shoulder girdle because the shoulder blade is less able to contribute due to its fixed position. Over time injury to the rotator cuff often occurs.

Training functionally improves strength and, like other forms of resistance training, causes muscle hypertrophy. However, functional training provides superior protection from injury, has a greater metabolic cost due to the multi-joint nature of most of the exercises, and thus tends to be more effective.

The importance of functional training cannot be overstated. Even when training for sport most do not train all the components of muscular performance. For example, athletes at most levels emphasize strength training in their programs but fail to train their neurological conduction speed. Neurological conduction speed is the rate at which one’s body can send a signal via the nervous system that in turn causes a muscle to contract. Neurological conduction speed is critical in power development and should be trained by using functional movement sequences. Power is the result of the marriage of strength and neurological conduction speed. Training that ignores this means athletes are not doing everything they can do to improve their performance. Power development is integral in the functional training provided by the Luedeka Body Weight Training System.

Functional training will elevate your fitness level as long as you understand the why behind the movements you choose.  As we have discussed, functional training has 5 major benefits:

  •  Improves natural strength
  •  Provides superior protection from injury
  • Increases one’s metabolism due to the multi-joint nature of the exercises
  •  Develops neurological conduction speed and coordination
  •  Preserves our natural quality of life by keeping our musculature intact as functionally designed

Be an expert.  Don’t just train functionally because you have been told to or because it is the trendy thing to do. Train functionally because you understand its importance and the impact it can have on joint integrity, metabolic function and overall wellness. 




[About David Luedeka, DPT, CSCS, the guy behind CKC Fitness System]:


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 Wednesday, 17 January 2018

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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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