In your everyday life, how often are you required to do something that even remotely resembles a bench press? And even though they are all the rage in the fitness world right now, how useful is a muscle-up to the average person?
This line of thinking has lead to the growth of functional fitness. This style of workout focuses on exercises that mimic, and therefore strengthen, movements that you would encounter in your daily activities. What sort of benefits come with this sort of training? Who can benefit from functional training? What sort of exercises make up a functional fitness routine?
There’s a good reason that functional fitness has gained footing so quickly: It has a plenty to offer.
Think about the classic bicep curl, for example. While some muscles such as those in your back, shoulders and abs may work to stabilize you, the vast majority of the emphasis is placed on movement across your elbow. A functional exercise, though, is a compound movement that crosses several joints. This type of activity more closely resembles what your body might go through when you’re cleaning the house or doing yard work.
A properly designed functional fitness routine can be tailored to fit specific activities in your life, as well. The idea is to pick exercises that target, not just muscles that are important to your activity, but entire motions. This means that if you’re training for basketball, for example, you may build up your jumps while holding a medicine ball or even do passing drills.
The Target Audience
While functional training has been adapted to appeal to athletes in a variety of sports, it has a particularly interesting application for more casual exercisers. Research regarding the efficacy of functional training has also focused specifically on older adults.
One study conducted by exercise scientists at the University of Wisconsin, assigned 24 volunteers aged between 58 and 78 to one of two groups. The first group would participate in a functional fitness training routine, the other would follow a more traditional exercise program. All of the subjects had some medical condition and were asked to complete a test that evaluated their strength, endurance, balance and agility in performing daily tasks.
At the end of the four week program, the groups were given the same test again. The researchers found that the group who followed the functional training routine had greater gains in all categories.
Designing Your Workout
The beauty of functional training is that it’s completely adaptable to you and your needs. As mentioned before, seek out exercises that mimic the movements of your particular sport. Even runners could benefit from incorporating balance exercises into their workout.
For a more personalized routine, do your research and consult with a fitness professional. Be sure to consider, not just the requirements of your sport, but those of your day-to-day life.
Some of the most common exercises featured in functional training include the multidirectional lunges. Practice performing the traditional lunge but also use reverse and side lunges to strengthen various parts of your legs. Although you may not realize it, you depend on similar motions when your vacuuming or even doing yard work.
A squat, immediately followed by a bicep curl is another exercise with many practical applications. The movement very closely resembles picking up a laundry basket or heavy bag from the floor.
Logically, after you pick up the weight, you’re going to need to carry it somewhere. Practice doing step-ups while holding dumbbells to simulate this final action.
Functional fitness is a highly customizable approach to fitness that could help to improve both your exercise performance and your daily life. However, you should always consult your doctor before beginning any exercise routine.
Have you used functional training? Please share your experience with us in the comments.