Functional Anatomy for Coaches and Trainers

The language of anatomy textbooks is a million miles from coaching, which leaves us with a conundrum… 

Anatomy and physiology are something that we are all familiar with. As trainers and coaches, we go beyond the basic level, to understand better how the body functions as a unit. I always found this part quite disjointed in my journey as a coach and continue to do so.

What is functional anatomy?

Functional anatomy put simply is the study of anatomy in its relation to function. In this case we’re talking about functional anatomy within sport and fitness. Learning about functional anatomy and how muscles work when we move can increase your understanding of the human body, and ultimately make you perform better in your exercises, or ensure your clients are performing the correct exercises for their goals. 

Functional anatomy of strength and conditioning

Having a better, deeper knowledge of functional anatomy of strength and conditioning is undoubtedly a desirable thing – understanding movement efficiency and how to assess it competently, taking the text and theory to readily apply it to performance and coaching.

I admit to really struggling to absorb the technical talk and the way in which it was taught and communicated – in a language a million miles from my coaching environment.

The process of learning and applying the knowledge seemed very lonely and isolated and I then had the struggle of trying to communicate some of my ideas and programming justification to athletes and support teams who weren’t speaking that same language (physio’s aside).

I learned about anatomy with a scalpel, in which each organ, muscle, and bone is carefully separated and segmented – far from reality where the body is an entwined mass of a collection of organs and tissues, all interlinked, much like one building with lots of connected compartments.

Doing a Sports massage therapy qualification helped me, at a basic level to locate and find bones and muscles and to palpate and experience what different muscle tone felt like. I also learned a great deal from studying in a group environment when learning anatomy, as I personally feel social learning is more powerful when trying to absorb this content more quickly.

Being able to gain other perspectives, bounce ideas off a group, and catch up and confer when consolidating learning was invaluable for me. I only wish that a course had been available where I could learn in a group environment from someone working in high-performance sport, where the end goal went further than getting someone on their feet again!

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