The Functional Continuum

by Dr. Rob Orr |   Date Released : 17 Oct 1999
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Dr. Rob Orr

About the author: Dr. Rob Orr

Dr. Rob Orr joined the Australian Army in 1989 as an infantry soldier before transferring to the Defence Force Physical Training Instructor (PTI) stream. Serving for 10 years in this stream, Rob designed, developed, instructed and audited physical training programs and physical education courses for military personnel and fellow PTIs from both Australian and foreign defence forces. Rob subsequently transferred to the physiotherapy stream where his role included the clinical rehabilitation of defense members and project management of physical conditioning optimisation reviews. Serving as the Human Performance Officer for Special Operations before joining the team at Bond University in 2012, Rob continues to serve in the Army Reserve as a Human Performance Officer and as a sessional lecturer and consultant. Rob is also the co-chair of Tactical Strength and Conditioning (TSAC) – Australia.

Rob’s fields of research include physical conditioning and injury prevention for military and protective services from the initial trainee to the elite warrior. Generally focussing on the tactical population, Rob is actively involved in research with the Australian and foreign defense forces, several police departments (both national and international), and firefighters.

The results of Rob’s work and academic research have been published in newspapers, magazines and peer-reviewed journals and led to several health and safety awards. In addition, Dr. Orr serves as the section editor for the Australian Strength and Conditioning Journal – TSAC Section and the shadow editor for the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) TSAC Technical Report. Rob is regularly invited to deliver training workshops and present at conferences both nationally and internationally.

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Comments (5)

Sejwal, Himanshu | 31 May 2011, 14:18 PM

I would agree with Rob. It depends on the subject you are working on. Functional activity will play a major role in recovering from an injury. As rob has given an example of a person who went through shoulder surgery, making him do good functional exercises, which generally focus on ROM of his shoulder joint with muscular strength, endurance and other important elements of the same, would be of great help.

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Orr, Dr. Rob | 21 Jul 2010, 15:32 PM

Unfortunately Mark I cannot disagree more. When looking at the term functional it must be seen in its correct context. For example, for a client returning from shoulder surgery or injury, functional can be simply lifting an object overhead or putting on a shirt (work with clients following a shoulder injury and they will tell you how hard it is to do basic functional movements like brushing their hair or putting on a shirt). For a sports athlete it can be performing a specific skill (a movement functional for their activity). Likewise functional can also be counter functional. For the everyday client this can be countering the effects of everyday function, like sitting and Yanda’s Lower/Upper Cross Syndromes, and for an athlete countering the thousands of skills practice repetitions which can lead to postural imbalances. I agree that often the term is taken out of context and ‘hyped’ – thus the most important question must be ‘functional for what’? Is standing on a bosu ball doing a bent over row functional. For the everyday client – No. For a helicopter load master or deep sea fisherman – Yes. I disagree that the most functional exercises are compound as no daily functional movement is truly compound – they are kinetic link complex movements and combine open and closed kinetic chain movements. Seldom do we Squat - we stand and our arms move or support (alters segmental force transfer, joint position and centre of gravity) or we pick something up off the ground, this involves several compound movements joining together to perform an action – ie linking compound movements = kinetic link or complex movements. Finally, of concern, you state that clients should … use compound exercises to put the maximum amount of muscle on the biggest muscle groups in order to facilitate daily activities…There are several flaws with this concept. Firstly, the more muscles involved the higher the neural drive and hormonal stress this means more muscle building potential. Look at a sprinter or gymnast – very few perform compound exercises most perform sports specific movements (which are kinetic link – complex / plyometric) or movement specific conditioning (again kinetic link – complex / plyometric). Finally, only training the biggest muscles of the global muscle system, fails to condition the more lifestyle and exercise important local or segmental control muscles (Why big strong body builders damage their lower backs doing very simple movements with light weights). Furthermore, over training these global muscles also often leads to injury and it is the local muscle systems that stabilize and protect joints that need conditioning to protect form the dynamic forces created by the bigger global muscles moving heavy weights. Not only will local muscle activation protect joints and provide an important injury prevention tool, but by improving local muscles, the ability of global muscles to fully activate is increased…after all you cannot fire a cannon from a rowing boat. Fun In Training, Rob

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Sikorski, Mark | 08 Jun 2010, 00:27 AM

The concept of functional training as it relates to daily activities or sports is erroneous. It is much more beneficial to use compound exercises to put the maximum amount of muscle on the biggest muscle groups in order to facilitate daily activities. This concept of "functional training" is just an overhyped training method. Next time you're at the gym, watch a trainer get a client to balance with 1 leg on a bosu ball while trying to catch a medicin ball. It is ridiculous. The most functional exercises are compound, simple, and hit the biggest muscle groups.

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Teh Song Hua, Garrett | 07 May 2010, 06:22 AM

Very True.... Could not agree more... 5 Stars ;-)

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Hammers, Jason | 23 Sep 2009, 09:23 AM

there seem to be some missing text under the "Stabalization" header in the section "PUTTING FUNCTION TO WORK".

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