Guest Article: Defining Function | Modern Manual Therapy Blog

Guest Article: Defining Function

Another Guest Article By  Christopher J. Nentarz, PT, CSTS, NASM-PES, CSTI 


A good understanding of function will help shape our perspective as to what assessment and treatment techniques are relevant to our clients and athletes.  While the semantics of popular definitions vary, there are some common principles we find that define the foundation for functional rehabilitation and performance.

Figure 1
3-Planes of Motion- The National Academy of Sports Medicine states function as an, “Integrated, multi-dimensional movement that requires acceleration, deceleration and stabilization in all three planes of motion. Functional training is training that enhances one’s ability to move in all three planes of motion more efficiently, whether you’re an athlete playing in a sport or simply performing activities of daily living.”
We operate in the sagittal, frontal and transverse planes.  (Fig 1) While traditional and machine based exercises are uniplanar, our strategies should focus on utilizing all three planes.

Figure 2
Feet on the Ground- According to Strength and conditioning expert Mike Boyle, functional training is, “An exercise continuum involving balance and proprioception, performed with the feet on the ground and without machine assistance, such that strength is displayed in unstable conditions and body weight is managed in all movement planes.”
Arguing over “closed chained vs open chained” is over-simplified and can a waste of time.  As a general rule, our feet are on the ground for function.  (Fig 2) But some functional movements are open chained, so we must be careful to observe the movement or exercise before passing judgement.

Sustainability- When asked about function, renowned Sports Chiropractor Kevin Jardine states, function is “Being able to successful do the task you set out to while minimizing the stresses imposed on and within the body.”
Function should be performed in a way that minimizes strain on our tissues and nervous system, so it may be repeated over and over again.  Our system should perform and be productive over a life span.  At 81 years of age, Lew Hollander, set out and completed his 21st Ironman. (Fig 3)

Figure 3
Movement Quality- Gray Cook, well-known Physical Therapist states, “Function involves possessing the correct amount of mobility and stability, allowing for controlled and coordinated movement.”
Function involves movement, and movement should be executed with competence.  Quality movements reduce injury, and allow for freedom of expression within ones functional repertoire.

Defining global function will help us avoid “losing the sight of the forest for the trees.”  Your personal definition of function will act as a compass to point you in the direction of proper assessment and treatment techniques.


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