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Train your body for life - Functional strength and finding optimal muscle balance

Written by Bodyneed on August 12th, 2015.      0 comments

Functional strength and optimal muscle balance is essential
in order to tackle and dominate life without injury.

At Bodyneed, ensuring our clients are functionally strong and have optimal balance is the core of everything we do.

Put simply, functional strength is the “practical strength” and muscle balance you need to ensure your load-bearing joints are protected during the demands of life – as you take part in normal everyday activities or follow your fitness passions.  These activities can be as simple as lifting your kid or mopping the floor, or, if you are an athlete, they may extend to pounding the harbour bridge or swimming to Rangitoto.

Baring athletes, most of the injuries we see in our clinic are the result of normal daily activities. And it is functional strength and optimal muscle balance that is the key to preventing both these everyday injuries and many of the injuries sustained by athletes.

So what does it look like?

It’s not just about having “strong” muscles. It’s about making sure the right muscles are strong and that they “switch” on for the right activity. Everyday activities like pushing, pulling, and even running, need a combo of muscles to fire together correctly to protect against injury. One muscle over compensating for another can lead to injury - so it really is all about balance.  

Surely, life just naturally equips you with functional strength?

You’d think so, wouldn’t you? However, today’s sedentary lifestyle really undermines this. Long days in front of computers, on phones and sitting on long commutes all add up against you. Even if you are working in a very physically demanding job, bad habits can undermine your posture, load your joints and disrupt your muscle balance.

I’m pretty strong – I go to the gym everyday and can lift my own weight – so this doesn’t apply to me right?

You could pump iron everyday or do a 100 pushups but that does not necessarily mean you are functionally strong. Yes, you’d have lovely muscles that would look great, flex on demand, and aid fuel burning BUT you may not have achieved optimal muscle balance. Remember, muscles do not work in isolation from one another, functional strength is all about how they work together.
Training one set of muscles without considering how they work with other muscles
can leave you unbalanced, unstable and potentially prone to injury.

I’m an athlete – I am constantly working my body through a full range of motion – therefore I must have functional strength right?

The same goes for athletes.  If functional strengthening is already part of your programme- fantastic, if not it can be a great way to enhance your performance. When we talk about building functional strength for athletes, especially runners, it’s all about balance and  endurance. It’s about identifying any weak muscles and making sure the correct muscles fire together during actions to protect and stabilise your joints, particularly your pelvis.

As a runner you’ll have probably been told at some stage that you need stronger glutes. Strong and supple glutes and leg muscles that fire together in sequence during your stride will help to stabilise the pelvis and control your stride length for the most efficient running pattern.  Helping you go further for longer.

Right, so I’m not sure I’m functionally strong…What can I do about it?

Our advice is to look for programmes or training centres which offer intelligent exercise based on sound biomechanical principles that will both complement your training programme and are targeted to your needs. Look for physios, personal trainers and pilates trainers with a breadth of experience and a focus on functional movement and full body balance. (E.g. avoid muscle bulkers, fitness fads and especially exercise with a weight loss focus). 

At Bodyneed, our core focus is on building this functional strength – so we take an integrative approach, combining massage, physio and pilates in one place to allows us to meet our clients needs. Our full programme of matt classes, equipment classes and now Total Barre are particularly designed to work on developing this functional strength and optimal muscle balance. As we like to say, so you can go further, for longer and get the most out of life!


  • Group Fitness Classes
  • Four and Six Week Challenges
  • Muscle Mass Challenge
  • Health & Nutrition Checkins
  • Nutrition Consultation

Grey Lynn, Auckland

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Opening hours: Monday – Friday: 7am – 4pm