There’s plenty of research to support the health perks of functional strength training. Let’s look at the primary benefits.
Greater Muscle Strength
Because functional strength training involves resistance exercises, it can help you build stronger muscles. And muscle strength is beneficial for anyone, regardless of age or ability level.
For example, it can help older adults prevent or improve frailty, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A past review of 13 studies found that functional strength training is an effective approach to building muscle strength in older adults. In one of the studies in the review, frail older adults who performed a 12-week functional strength-training program saw significant improvements in leg strength (lower levels of leg strength are associated with frailty) than those who did not.
Functional strength training also benefits athletes. In a study published in August 2022 in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, young soccer players who participated in a 10-month functional strength-training program saw significant improvements in maximum strength, though not as much as players who did a traditional strength training program.
Improved Physical Ability in Older Adults
It’s common for people to lose strength and mobility as they age. Unfortunately, this can make daily activities difficult, if not impossible. And losing the ability to do the activities of daily living (ADLs), or routine tasks essential for independent living, can be unsafe and reduce your quality of life, per an article in StatPearls.
By training the movement patterns you need to perform ADLs (walking, getting out of bed, dressing), functional strength training can help you stay active and independent as you age.
In one study published in May 2023 in Life, older adults with mild cognitive impairment who participated in a 12-week high-intensity functional training program that included a strength component saw significant improvements in balance, stability, and ADLs. Meanwhile, those who received only general recommendations on the benefits of exercise saw no change.
And the same review that found functional strength training builds muscle strength showed that two to three weekly sessions lasting 45 to 60 minutes can also produce significant improvements in balance and ADL ability.
Lower Injury Risk
Fitness professionals consider resistance training essential for reducing injury risk, particularly in athletes.
A past study of 52 young soccer players found that those who incorporated two to three strength sessions into their weekly routine for 12 weeks experienced significantly fewer injuries than those who didn’t strength train. Out of 17 total injuries for the season, only four occurred in the strength group.
While the research in functional strength training and injuries is limited, it’s probably safe to assume that it has a similar effect on injury risk given that, as Wall notes, it’s about teaching the body to move better.