One of the top current fitness trends is the increased use of functional training in fitness programs. Over the years, we have observed a shift toward making training more functional.
This concept was originally used by physical therapists in the rehabilitation of patients where exercises were developed to mimic what patients did at home or work in order to return to their lives or jobs after an injury or surgery.
What is Functional Training?
Functional training simply means training our bodies to better perform the types of movements we use for everyday life such as lifting grocery bags, picking things up from the floor, climbing up a flight of stairs, or carrying a baby while talking on the phone. The time spent developing dynamic strength, flexibility and agility carries over into your daily activities, making life a little bit easier.
Fitness programs which are centered on functional training mainly consists of weight bearing activities and activities which may not even consist of weights but just pure movement just to re-educate the client in what optimal movement is. Both are targeted at core muscles of the abdomen and lower back, as these muscles are crucial to proper posture in life.
Benefits of Functional Training
- Better muscular balance and joint stability
- Decrease the number of injuries sustained in an individual's performance in a sport
- Improves the body's natural ability to move in six degrees of freedom.
Functional Training Exercises
1) TRX® Suspension Training®
Developed to train US Navy Seals, you can now benefit from the same body-changing results that the elite military forces derive from this revolutionary method of leveraged bodyweight exercise.
The adjustable Y-shaped straps of the TRX® Suspension Trainer offer a total-body workout that builds power, strength, balance, flexibility and mobility. By suspending either your arms or legs via the loops, you harness your own body weight to create resistance as you train – no additional weights required. A simple plank exercise, for instance, becomes more than a core-building workout as it is known for. By suspending your legs off the ground while you maintain complete body tension, you engage more muscles and also heighten the intensity of your workout in the process.
At True Fitness, the TRX® Suspension Trainer is introduced as a complementary training system to traditional weight training. Ask our Personal Trainers about TRX® Suspension Training® today.
2) Medicine ball squat with overhead lift
Even though you lift your kids and groceries with your arms, your legs and back are also key players. This exercise strengthens your legs, glutes, lower back, arms and shoulders.
Stand with your feet wide, holding a light medicine ball in front of you in both hands.
Squat down, moving your rear back and keeping your knees over your ankles, and lower the medicine ball to the floor, keeping your head up and back straight (don't hunch).
Return to a start position and lift the medicine ball over your head. Repeat the squat and lower ball to the ground. Perform three sets of 10 repetitions. Increase the weight of the ball as you get stronger.
Lunges are a functional weight training exercise that can improve your posture by strengthening the back, shoulders and arms along with improving lower body strength and flexibility. Lunges have several variations and can be weighted with a dumbbell, kettlebell or barbell.
For a walking lunge, step one foot forward and keep the front foot flat on the floor as you lower your hips until the front knee is over the ankle.
Keep the back knee at a 90-degree angle and push up slowly with the front foot to the starting position.
Continue with another step with the opposite foot and repeat for a total of 10 to 15 steps with each leg, performing two to three sets.
As you improve and get stronger, you can even get plyometric with the lunges by increasing the intensity of your lunges. Instead of a walking motion, why not try jumping alternating lunges? They are even better for you at improving your core stability, hip stability, balance, power and strength
Dos and Don’ts
- DO train your whole body in a session - You don’t have to always split your training for different muscle groups. Exercises like squats and presses, deadlifts, variations on the battling ropes, medicine balls etc, train the whole body in one go and have a wide range of benefits. The body is designed to work as a system, so to perform better it should be trained as a system, not a collection of individual parts.
- DO use free weights. In the case of functional training, using dumbbells or bands may prove more effective as it forces your body to support itself, which is much more functional.
- DON’T copy, seek advice. There are many exercises and equipment out there that go under the name of functional fitness training. Many of the different tools and equipment can be found in the gym. But often, equipment is used incorrectly or by people who are not physically ready for that specific equipment. It is common for people to just copy what they see others doing in the gym. That doesn’t necessarily mean the person who you were watching was doing it right, and even if they were, it might not be the right exercise for you. Seek advice from a fitness trainer on how to use equipment and for movement assessments to find your level and what is right for you.