Traditional and Functional Workouts – Are They Really That Different?

As exercise  trends changed over recent years, the kinds of workouts individuals do have also changed. Trends like circuit workouts, high intensity interval training (HIIT), or most recently Crossfit have influenced the types of workouts people do because of the results each claim to give.Essentially these workouts can be put into two categories: Traditional or Functional workouts.

Traditional workouts or traditional strength workouts are those that use resistance training principles. These workouts are what typical gym-goers think of as “leg day” or “arm day”. They include isolating a specific group of muscles and lifting weights to maximize muscle strength usually including exercises like arm curls, leg presses, dip machines, etc. On the other hand, Functional workouts include a wide variety of exercises that mimic movements that the individual experiences in activities for daily living. A typical functional workout is harder to define since it is so subjective to the individual. For example, a functional workout for a softball player is going to be completely different from  a functional workout for a dancer.

Intuitively you would think that each type of workout out would produce different results. A traditional strength workout would increase a person’s strength while not really affecting other systems. While a functional workout would not increase a person’s strength as much and would increase their efficiency for activities faster. But what does the research really say?

First let’s look at how each workout affects aspects of the other. The article “The Effects of Resistance Training on Endurance Distance Running Performance Among Highly Trained Runners” looked to study how traditional strength workouts affects the functional running performance in runners. After a systematic review of articles, they found that resistance training has a positive effect on running pefromance [1]. This means that resistance training can be beneficial for functional activities. Another study looked at the adaptations of resistance circuit training compared to traditional strength training in resistance-trained men. It could be argued that circuit training is a form of functional training for this population and thus the study is looking at how a functional workout affects strength performance. The study found that the one rep max (1RM) increased equally for both training protocols and that circuit training was as effective as traditional strength training in improving weight lifting [2]. Interestingly each type of workout has positive effects on each other. A functional workout can improve strength abilities while traditional strength workouts can help with functional activities.

But what if the two workouts are compared to each other?

In “Functional vs. Strength Training in Adults” 101 middle aged subjects were divided into two groups (functional and strength training) that each performed 24 sessions of a training protocol twice a week. Each subject was assessed pre- and post-intervention using  Y-balance test and a Functional Movement Screen. The results showed that there were no differences in improvement between the training protocols, however functional training was less effective for women compared to men in the same group [3]. when looking at the anthropometric and motor effects of functional vs. traditional resistance training in the Tomlijanovic et al. study, there was no statistical difference between either of the anthropometric measures or the motor status variables after a five week training program [4]. There were only minor improvements in each training program that did not affect the overall results, this could have been due to the short amount of training time. Even when comparing the two workouts to each other in a non-exercise application a similar trend appears. In the study Christine Stutz-Doyle, a traditional strength workout and a functional workout were compared to study their effects on pain, strength, and functional mobility in elderly subjects with Knee osteoarthritis in hopes to improve the subjects quality of life. Interestingly there was no statistical difference in muscle strength, pain and stiffness between the two groups Although the functional workout group did increases gait velocity by the end of the study which could be attributed to the task specific training [5].

In conclusion, the gathered research states that there is no statistical difference between functional and traditional strength workouts. The results that you are going to experience from doing either are going to be relatively the same, which is rather interesting. So it is really up to personal preference of which workout you would prefer doing. Of course, it is incredibly difficult to standardize functional workouts across studies and even within studies it is difficult to control for the types of movements. A more expansive review of research studies might prove these results otherwise.


Further Readings:

  1. Yamamoto LM, Lopez RM, Klau JF, et al. “The Effects of Resistance Training on Endurance Distance Running Performance Among Highly Trained Runners: A Systematic Review”. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2008; 22(6): 2036-2044. DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e318185f2f0. 
  2.  Alcaraz PE, Perez-Gomez J, Chavarrias M, et al. “Similarity in Adaptations to High-Resistance Circuit vs. Traditional Strength Training in Resistance-Trained Men”. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2011; 25(9):2519-27. 
  3. Matheus Pacheco, Luis Teixeira, Emerson Franchini, et al. “Functional vs. Strength Training in Adults: Specific Needs Define the Best Intervention”. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. 2013; 8(1): 34-43. 
  4. Tomljanovic M, Spasic M, Gabrilo G, et al. “Effects of Five Weeks of Functional vs. Traditional Resistance Training on Anthropometric and Motor Performance Variables”. Kinesiology. 2011; 43(2): 145-154.
  5.  Stutz-Doyle, Christine. “The Effects of Traditional Strengthening Exercises Versus Functional Task Training on Pain, Strength, and Functional Mobility in the 45-65 Year Old Adult with Knee Osteoarthritis”. Seton Hall University Dissertations and Thesis (ETDs). Paper 98. 2011. 

Cycle Ergometers – Redesigning the Wheel


Monark Ergometer 879E [3]                                                                  Monrk Ergomedic 839E [6]


The basic principle of any ergometers is to measure the distance traveled in relation to an applied force to output the work that has taken to perform that task. This work outuput can be used to determine how much power has been produced and how much metabolic energy has been consumed [1]. Cycle ergometers are a common type of ergometers used for cardio-pulmonary exercieses and sports medicince diagnostic and performance testing which uses the task of cycling. When designing a cycle ergometer for repeated exercise usage it is improtant to think about what are the key components of the machine, the intended usage, how closely the machine can simulate road bike cyclig, storage, and the impact of that the device can have on the user and their exercice. An engineering problem in designing a cycle ergometer is determining the optimal size of key components like the wheel and thus the overall machine.

The motivation for this is that a smaller wheel allows for the machine to be more compact, lighter, and more portable allowing for greater home or clinical use

The unknown being solve for is the size of the wheel since this will give a known distance that the user has “travelled” per revolution and thus the equation for work (Work = Force*Distance) can be applied to find the unknown. The wheel is the main component of a cycle ergometer machine since it is the component that is being used to measure work output. Determining the optimized size of this wheel allows for adjecent compoenets to be appropriately designed so that the cycle ergometer is as compact as possible but still fully functional.

Question: Find the minimum diameter that the wheel can be in order to power the cycle ergometer at max applied force




Fig 1: Assumed forces acting on the wheel of the cycle ergometer

Background: Knowing what the minimum input wattage it takes to power the cycle ergometer, it is possible to use the conversion relationships for wattage and Kilojoules and Kilojoules and work to convert wattage into the minimum workout output needed to power the machine [1]. Knowing this then the equation for work can be used to determine the circumference and thus the diameter that the wheel needs to be.

Assumptions: the main wheel of the machine is a disc wheel with a mass of: 1.1Kg [2]

Based on previous cycle ergometer models the minimum power needed to power on the machine is: 156W at 60rmp [3]

The max applied force based on previous cycle ergometer models is: 12Kg [3]

The coefficient of rolling resistance (Crr) based on production bike tires at 31mph measured on rollers is: 0.005 [4]


Unknowns: kilojoules (KJ), work (Kgm), wheel circumference (D), wheel diameter (d)

Knowns: Watt = 8W, seconds = 60s, coefficient of rolling resistance (Crr) = 0.005, Normal force (N) = 1.1Kg, applied force (F) = 12Kg, x = 60 rpm, time (t) = 1min



The first step in solving this problem is converting the minimum power input from Watts into Kilojoules so that it can be converted into the units for work.

Now that the kilojoules has been determined, the minimum input power can be converted into the units for work based on the relationship for kilograms per meter (Kgm) and kilojoules (KJ).

Since we now know the minimum work it takes to power the cycle ergometer, we can apply the equation for work to determine the circumference of the wheel.

We now have obtained the circumference of the wheel, yay! The final step in determining the optimal size and the answer to the question is to convert the circumference into diameter as follows:

From the calculations the minimum the wheel can be to power the machine at max applied force is 0.423m. This result is slightly smaller than the current common road bike wheel size of 0.7m in diameter [5] but still within a resonable range. This could be due to the impact of the assumptions made. It was assumed that the wheel of the cycle ergometer is a disc wheel which tends to be ligter than normal road bike wheels. It was also assumed that the coeficient of rolling resistance (Crr) was relatively high due to the assumed contact of adjacent component, which could impact the size since a smaller wheel takes less work to overcome the same rolling resistance as a larger wheel. Some limitations to this process are that it does not take into account of other acting forces other than applied force and rolling friction while also assuming that the user can cycle a minimum of 60rpm when this typically not physiologically possible for the typical user. While the calculated diameter is relatively smaller than current commercial road bike wheel, the calculated diameter is whithin a resonable range and so it can be concluded that the minimum wheel diameter needed to power a cycle ergometer at max applied force is 0.423m.



  1. Egometer powerpoint by Dr. Robert Robergs at UNM
  2. Disc wheels at
  3.  Monark Egometer 874E Manual, Monark Exercise AB
  4.  Rolling Resistances, Wikipedia
  5.  Common Tire Sizes at
  6. Monark Ergomedic 839E Manual, Monark Sports and Medicine

Portable Rowing Machine

Patent Number: 9,005,086

Filing Date: August 28,2013

Issue Date: April 14, 2015

Inventors(s): O’Neil; John J. (Palm Harbor, FL)

Assignee: Hermann; Douglas L. (Clearwater, FL)

U.S. classification: 482/72

Claims: 16

  Fig. 1 Expanded view of the rowing machine for functional use

   Fig. 2, Collapsed view of the rowing machine

This exercise machine is a portable rowing machine which embodies a light weight frame and a more realistic rowing movement. The claims of this invention describe the overall structure and function of the machine. It claims to have a structural frame of two parallel tubular members connected to each other by three cross members and supported by floor brackets with tubular members inserted into the structural frame to allow for telescoping. A foot rest assembly locks partially to the third cross member and the frame to allow for stability of the user when in use.  Two swivel arms are pivotally attached to the first cross member which are able to be positioned parallel to the tubular member or perpendicular to the tubular member. Attached to the swivel arms are resistances that allow for comparable resistance experienced in rowing a boat. These resistances also include band brakes attached by clutch bearings for varying the frictional force. The oar arms of the rowing machine are attached to the resistance shafts and are extendable according to the user’s preference. The seat of the machine has rollers attached to the underside and is situated over the two structural tubular members. This allows for translation of the seat along the machine.

Competitive crew members, kayakers, and any rowing enthusiasts alike would be interested in using this portable rowing machine. The rowing machine changes the point of resistance from in front of the user to the side which is similar to the points of resistance experienced in a rowing boat. This can benefit competitive crew members who would like to train when they cannot train in the water, since this machine will train the same muscle groups with the same movements as those used in competition. According to the claims, the resistance between the swivel arms and oar allows for variance due to the clutch bearings so the resistance can be increased or decreased based on the preference of the user. This aspect can also be used for physical therapy to rehabilitate injured rowers. The portable rowing machine will allow for the rowing motion and an increase in resistance as the injury heals which will then increases arm-leg force production and core stabilization.

The portable rowing machine is based off of older oar-based rowing machines. The issue with these machines is that they were bulky, permanent structures that allowed for only one force of resistance. They mostly took half of a boat and attached it to a permanent structure, while this does allow for a realistic rowing motion it is not practical for most users. The current portable rowing machine combines the positive aspects of prior literature like of the off-set points of resistance with aspects that allow the machine to be portable, light weight, and suitable for a wider range of users. The novelty of the portable rowing machine is that it allows for variable resistance at off-set oar points to allow for various training conditions that maybe encountered while actually on the water.

I find this patent is interesting in that it is different from the typical rowing machines that you would find at the gym. The typical rowing machines have a bar attached to a tension cable that the user pulls on while also extending their legs. This means that the user might extend their arms and legs more than what is needed for the motion of rowing a boat. While this movement can be beneficial for the general exerciser in increasing arm-leg force production and increasing core stabilization; the movement can hinder competitive rowers who might want a more specific rowing movement. The patent moves the point of resistance from in front of the rower to perpendicular of the rower, where resistance typically occurs from the interaction of the oars with water. This provides a more natural rowing movement that a competitive rower would encounter during competitions. Another interesting aspect is that the machine is collapsible, which can reduce space taken up in a home gym or allow for easier mobility.

Learn more about this patent here.