Improve Your Physical Literacy With Functional Training

If you ran, jumped, climbed, rolled – played – a lot as a child, though it didn’t look like a studious endeavour, you were in fact improving your literacy, your physical literacy that is.  Individuals who are physically literate move with competence and confidence in a wide variety of physical activities in multiple environments.  Literacy is a fitting term because it denotes a level of competency and, similar to reading, once these physical skills are developed, to a certain extent, they tend to stay with you, think of riding a bike for example.

You can think of your movement patterns as the vocabulary of your physical library, while we all learned the basics in our early years – squat, walk, run, jump – to improve our physical literacy as adults it is necessary to expand our vocabulary once the basics have been mastered. The benefits of improving your physical literacy include: the ability to understand, communicate, apply, and analyze different forms of movement (ex. coaches and trainers), the ability to demonstrate a variety of movements confidently, competently, creatively and strategically across a wide range of health-related physical activities (ex. athletes at any level), and the ability to make healthy, active choices that are both beneficial to and respectful of your whole self, others and the environment (ex. wellness enthusiasts).

But, how do you further develop your physical literacy as an adult? What kind of activities or exercises help? That’s where functional training enters the picture.  Functional training trains movement, not muscles, it is in effect purposeful training, training for sports and for life.  Through exercises such as single-leg split squats, kettlebell swings, pull-ups, medicine ball throws, and agility ladder drills, it is possible to expand the vocabulary of your physical library.

In New Functional Training for Sports, author Michael Boyle provides the recipe for an effective functional training program.  As an expert in strength and conditioning, functional training and general fitness with years of experience working with athletes at all levels, including professional athletes and Olympians, Michael provides key insights for those seeking to strengthen the foundation of their physical literacy.

Already fancy yourself a pro? Take our quiz below to test your knowledge of the most and least functional exercises frequently found in training programs.


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Boyle, Michael. New Functional Training for Sports. Human Kinetics, 2016.

International Physical Literacy Association.

Physical and Health Education Canada. "What is Physical Literacy?"

Active for Life. "An Introduction to Physical Literacy"