Functional Movement Training for Endurance Athletes

How to Incorporate FMT into your Training Regimen
By Jon Heidemann, Elite level USA Cycling Coach, Talent Identification & Development Specialist

As mentioned in my first article for 303Cycling, muscle flexibility, strength and neural coordination are the very basic characteristics of moving in humans. Effective training involves aspects rooted in all three characteristics. This 2nd article offers realistic suggestions on improving those characteristics through increasing your physical awareness, finding gyms or personal trainers to help you quantify and monitor progress, how to integrate Functional Movement Training (FMT) into your training program, and lastly the tools that are likely involved.


Most cyclists definitely know if they have a flexibility, strength or coordination issues. Chronic soreness as fatigue sets in during or from a workout are big indicators. Simply stretching afterward will give you important feedback about your movement limitations. Many athletes accept these limitations altering how they sit, pedal, or adjust hand position to manage discomfort. Numb hands, repetitive saddle sores, sore or restricted neck movement, tight hamstrings, sore low back, chronic calf cramping, sore or painful knees, numb toes are examples of clues cyclists must note. Remember, discomfort or pain is a natural response to something being wrong. It’s NOT a natural condition that simply exists.

fmsProfessional Assessments

So you’ve inventoried several things that feel off and timing: they come and go, are fairly persistent, or always there. For issues that come and go, you may want to simply add a group class like yoga or Pilates to your active recovery training days. For issues that are fairly persistent or constant, I’d suggest locating a professional physical therapist well versed with endurance athletes (experience with cycling is definitely helpful, but not essential) asking for a functional movement screen with exercise and training suggestions. The professional will evaluate you ending with a report of muscle strength, flexibility and coordination with weaknesses and strengths noted. This will help them determine specific stretches, movements, and strength training that is applicable to your body’s specific limitations. Some might even be willing to set up an integration plan with your current training schedule.

Training Integration

Ultimately, FMT work should be integrated into your training in such a manner that it does not detract from your primary purpose or diminish the effectiveness of your training. Remember, this is strength training, essential muscle utilization, coordination and flexibility with the goal being to improve functionally so you can take your training and performance to a higher level. This means light FMT work on rest days and moderate FMT work on active recovery days. From my experience as a coach, as little as two-45 minute sessions per week will begin to offer improvement. I think the most beneficial and economically sound process to improve is to work with a professional 1 or 2 times a month with the rest being done in a group setting or on your own. The professional can help you to learn the proper movements and you can employ those movements in class or on your own, not to mention noting improvements or updating the exercises as you progress. Stretching, a component of FMT that is an excellent monitoring tool can be done virtually every day if you have the discipline to do so.

toolsFMT Tools

The tools involved with 90% of all FMT training are simple and inexpensive. Yoga mat, elastic bands and tubes, 4-10 lb medicine ball, fit ball, instability disk, a foam block and a few hand weights are all that may be needed. These can be obtained at your local sporting goods or online store. Unlike a lot of indoor training equipment, this is all fairly portable and easily storable.

As athletes, we cyclists stand to gain much in performance and ability by taking consistent inventory of how our body’s function and operate. Being aware of limitations in our movement is essential to improving our performance on the bike. Taking the time to work on those limitations is a small time investment with a much bigger pay off than most people will initially understand. If you care to learn more or have questions about your functional movement, you may contact me at or visit my website at .

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