Functional Range Conditioning, or FRC for short, is an approach to improving the function of the body, rehabilitating injuries, and preventing future injuries.
Whether you have a current injury or have dealt with injuries in the past, or just want to optimize how your body feels and performs, keep reading to learn about Functional Range Conditioning and how this system may be helpful for you.
We will cover:
- What is FRC?
- How Does Functional Range Conditioning Work
- 6 Benefits of Functional Range Conditioning
Let’s get started!
What is FRC®?
FRC, which is short for Functional Range Conditioning, refers to a specific scientifically-based trademarked system that is aimed at improving mobility and joint control through various targeted exercises.
FRC® was created by Dr. Andreo Spina, who is a sports specialist Chiropractor, medical Acupuncturist, and Kinesiologist.
Most runners and athletes have a general understanding of mobility, but it’s helpful to understand mobility on a deeper level.
Mobility refers to the extent to which you can move a joint of your own volition. Mobility is essentially the sum of your flexibility plus your strength and control, so it denotes the amount of usable movement that you have in any given joint.
One of the benefits of Functional Range Conditioning (FRC®) is that the system is based on evidence-based findings for the best ways to increase the active, usable ranges of motion in the body.
FRC is said to simultaneously improve joint mobility, muscle and connective tissue strength, and neurological control. This trifecta effectively helps improve the ability to control and move your body in a functional way.
How Does FRC Work?
FRC is a training system that is said to work by systematically increasing the body’s ranges of motion at each targeted joint while simultaneously conditioning the nervous system to properly control the newly acquired movement ranges.The latter component—training the nervous system to now be able to control a greater range of motion—is really how FRC training differentiates itself most notably over most other movement therapy systems aimed at increasing range of motion.
In effect, it is in this crucial integrated component of nervous system teaching that Functional Range Conditioning can often be more effective at causing actual improvements in functional/usual range of motion.
When our muscles become weaker, whether, from sarcopenia (muscle loss) due to aging or just inactivity and disuse, the muscles are not able to generate as much force across a joint. This then reduces the ability to actively control the range of motion of the joint.
In other words, your voluntary nervous system loses the ability to control movement at the end ranges of motion at a joint.
This renders these long, full ranges of motion to be only accessible to the body via passive movement (such as you or someone else using your hands to press and guide your body into the range of motion.
For example, consider the case of hip flexion range of motion. If you have a normal, healthy range of motion for hip flexion, if you are lying on your back on the floor, you can lift one leg and a fully straightened position all the way up straight into the air past 90°, and then even further towards your body with your foot starting to come down behind your head.
This would be considered full active range of motion because your muscles that control hip flexion— namely, the iliopsoas, the quadriceps, the sartorius, and the pectineus— are able to contract concentrically and lift your leg into fall hip flexion. You could also perform this same exercise standing upright.
However, if your hip flexor muscles are weak, you may not have full active control of hip range of motion. Instead, you might only be able to lift your leg partway, requiring either someone else or an external tool such as a stretching rope affixed behind your leg or your own hands pulling your leg up towards you to achieve those end ranges of motion.
Unfortunately, even if you can achieve full range of motion through passive means, passive range of motion is not a functional range of motion because you are unable to control and use that range of motion without some form of assistance.
Having non-functional movement ranges that should otherwise be functional, active ranges of motion is not just a problem that begins and ends there.
Because you are unable to access those full ranges of motions with your own muscle strength, the joint tissues lose the ability (or never develop it) to absorb loads at those end ranges of motion, leaving them vulnerable to injuries.
Therefore, the purpose of the Functional Range Conditioning training program is to employ specific, safe methods that are able to “capture” end ranges of motion that are only under passive control and convert them into usable, functional, active ranges of motion.
At the same time, as you are gaining usable range of motion through Functional Range Conditioning, in addition, you are also doing exercises and training modalities that help develop the strength of your tissues in these newly acquired ranges of motion to ensure that your tissues are resilient enough and not susceptible to injury.
6 Benefits of FRC®
There are numerous benefits of the Functional Range Conditioning training system, including the following:
#1: FRC Can Increase Mobility and Flexibility
At its core, Functional Range Conditioning is a training system designed to increase mobility.
Flexibility is defined as the amount of permissible movement available across a joint. The range of motion implicated when discussing flexibility refers to passive range of motion rather than active range of motion. Therefore, some of the range of motion may only be accessible with the help of an external force.
Even though historically, there has been a major emphasis on the importance of flexibility and including flexibility training in your workout routine, flexibility in and of itself does not necessarily encapsulate functional or usable movement.
The ranges of motion that are only under passive control are not ranges of motion that your voluntary nervous system is able to control; thus, this is not a usable movement for your body.
In contrast, mobility refers to the amount of usable movement you have across a joint “under the direct control of your central and peripheral nervous systems.” Essentially, mobility can be thought of as the degree of flexibility you are able to actually control with your nervous system.
The Functional Range Conditioning system is designed to increase your flexibility and simultaneously teach the nervous system how to control those new permissible movements, thus, satisfying the recipe to increase mobility.
#2: FRC Increases Strength and Control
The Functional Range Conditioning system goes beyond training the nervous system to just achieve the full range of motion.
The approach also helps develop the ability of the central and peripheral nervous systems to be able to generate force, power, and coordination throughout the entire range of motion.
#3: FRC Can Increase the Strength of Joint Tissues
Joints aren’t just articulations of two bones coming together.
There are also connective tissues, such as ligaments, that connect the bones together, as well as the origin and insertion points of tendons where the muscles connect to the ends of the bone. Joints are also lined with different types of articular cartilage to cushion the joint and help the bones glide more smoothly against one another for fluid motion.
The joint capsule also has nerves and blood vessels as well as fascia.
FRC aims to strengthen the tissues in the joint, particularly at the newly acquired ranges of motion to reduce the susceptibility to injury. If these tissues are not used to being stretched and or dissipating shock or absorbing loads at certain angles, the body may be vulnerable to injury.
Therefore, an important tenet of the FRC program is conditioning these tissues to be strong and robust for any potential healthy movements.
The FRC program employs progressive overload, a principle foundation of any strength training program, to strengthen every structure in the joint capsule, not just the muscles and bones.
With progressive overload, the workload that you are doing is designed to exceed the current capacity that your body is accustomed to, which then presents a stress response to the tissues that signals them to adapt and get stronger.
#4: FRC Improves Joint Health
By strengthening all of the components in the joint capsule, rather than just cherry-picking the larger structures, the FRC training program improves the entire health and function of the joints, reducing the risk of injury and premature joint degeneration.
Additionally, because joints are lubricated, and the tissues within them are nourished when the joint is moved, restoring better mobility and movement in the joints improves their nutrition, healing, and health.
#5: FRC Can Aid Rehabilitation and Injury Prevention
Functional Range Conditioning can be used in clinical physical or occupational therapy settings for injury rehabilitation and prevention.
#6: FRC Can Improve Athletic Performance
Because the FRC system enhances mobility, it can improve athletic performance and movement efficiency. Let’s return to our scenario of the person with poor hip mobility.
If this person is a runner, for instance, compromised hip mobility can reduce the length, strength, and efficiency of their running stride.
The greater your active range of motion and the greater your strength- and power-generating abilities throughout your range of motion, the more economically you can move your body.
In this way, Functional Range Conditioning can enhance agility, coordination, power, speed, and strength.
Want to try FRC yourself? Find an FRC provider here.