Think about the movements you make every day: getting in and out of your car, reaching for a top-shelf item at the grocery store, or bending over to pick up a child. Most of the time, we don’t even think about these moves, until we can’t do them easily.
This is where functional fitness exercises can help by training your muscles to safely and effectively handle everyday activities.
Functional physical training has become popular in training programs. Personal trainers include this type of training in their clients’ workouts. These types of exercises train your muscles to work together to simulate common movements. This is different from conventional bodybuilding and working on isolated muscle groups.
Working a combination of muscle groups — upper and lower body, for example — at the same time could mimic the movement you do when lifting something off the ground. The exercise that could be performed for this movement would include a squat and then a bicep curl.
The body can perform seven basic movements: gait, hinge, lunge, pull, push, squat, and spin. All exercises are variations on these movements. By performing these movements, you will exercise all the major muscle groups in your body.
Functional fitness exercises not only focus on the upper and lower muscle groups, but also the core muscles in your middle, from your chest to your pelvic bone. By strengthening the core muscles, you gain flexibility and stability. As your core strengthens, your balance and posture improve. Strong core muscles reduce injury, promote stability and improve overall health.
Functional fitness exercises are low impact and can be done by almost anyone, from beginners to athletes. Step-ups and lunges focus on balance. Try a lunge where you move backwards instead of forwards with dumbbells. Build core strength by performing sit-ups with a medicine ball that you move from side to side.
Use props such as weights, kettle bells, fitness balls, and aerobic steps. Many exercises, however, can be performed without equipment, using only the resistance of your body weight.
Athletes often use these multi-joint and multi-muscle exercises are also used by athletes. Sport-specific training can also benefit from functional training.
Personal trainers often use a Bosu ball – both sides used – which is rounded on one side and flat on the other. If you stand on the flat side, you need to engage your core to maintain balance. Moving a weighted medicine ball from side to side of your body while standing on the ball simulates the motion of a golf swing. It can also be used for many other sports, such as basketball and hockey.
Functional physical training offers many benefits. Think of it as a lifetime workout that balances your muscles and prepares you for your real daily activities.