What is Functional Fitness?
Functional fitness is becoming a popular trend in the fitness world, especially for older adults. Functional fitness is any exercise that helps people do everyday activities, like lifting heavy things and workout out, without getting injured. Exercises like these are important because they make it easier for you to carry your suitcase when you travel.
How are your muscles use in functional fitness?
In a typical weight training or strength training workout, you on focus on one muscle. But in functional exercise workout, you can us your whole body and work different muscles together. This makes your whole body stronger and more fit.
Balance is important for everyday life. Lots of people do not think about balance because they focus on weightlifting but the balance exercise like the one-legged squat is more useful for everyday life than leg pressing 500 pounds.
That is what serves us in everyday life, like when you have to reach for something high or walking up and down stairs. Balance is a part of life that we need to balance. You can see how it is important for walking, going up the stairs, reaching for things. But it goes beyond that! Balance helps humans to see clearly when they are moving and also helps them get their direction and speed right. It also helps us with our posture, so we know how to stay steady while doing daily activities. Training your body on being balanced is good because it makes us stronger and stable as we age.
Draw Back of Strength Training
One of the limitations of typical strength training workouts is that they leave muscle groups weak. People think that lifting certain muscles, like those in the arms and shoulders, will help them. But this doesn’t work for other muscles, which create a compensation pattern. This can cause injury when you do activities with these different parts of your body together. Functional exercises teach isolated muscles to work together so you don’t have these problems when doing activities with different parts of your body together, like picking up a suitcase or picking up your child or reach for something on a high shelf you won’t tweak a weak muscle that is not properly trained.
You should do workouts that include bending, pushing, pulling, lifting, sitting, reaching and twisting. These will work the core muscles while at the same time working other muscles of the body. This will give you a “functional” state of fitness.
Components Of Functional Workouts
There are several elements to functional workouts that make them that much more effective. These need to be adapted to each individual’s goals and needs.
• The workouts should be directed toward one’s specific everyday life activities.
• Individualized programs that tailor to the specific goals and needs of an individual. For example, specific exercises that are made for someone age 60 who wants to avoid falls, any adult looking to improve their day-to-day activity performance, or an athlete training in a specific sport or someone who is in physical therapy and retraining their body. No matter the circumstance, the workouts should focus on meaningful tasks.
• The overall state of health of the individual should be considered when assessing the types of exercises to use and the overall training load.
• There should be a well-integrated program that includes power, strength, balance, and core exercises that focus on multiple movement planes.
• The training should progress with increasing difficulty.
• The training should include varying tasks.
• Functional training should be repeated regularly on an ongoing basis.
• Feedback as to progression is needed either through self-assessment or the assessment of a trainer or physical therapist.
What are some types of exercises demonstrated during functional fitness?
Any exercise that involves standing on two feet and supporting yourself while lifting any type of weight is typically a functional exercise.
• Balance Exercises – Various balance exercises without weights that teach the body to stabilize itself.
• Exercise Ball – The greatest benefit to training using ball exercises is that they target the core muscles that are vital for stability and good posture. There are many different moves with the ball.
• BOSU Ball – As opposed to the exercise ball, a BOSU has a round side and a flat side. The BOSU makes any exercise a lot more challenging because it adds an element of instability to each workout as it forces you to use the core to remain steady. BOSU workouts also work to improve strength and help muscles learn to work together that prevents injury in real life.
• Bent Over Row – works the back, shoulder and arm muscles and mimics life activities. Think about bending over to make the bed, a mechanic bending to repair a car, a carpenter bending over a saw table, bending over to plug in electronics, even bending down to get something from a low shelf and many more. Much more useful when compared to a seated row, where you are only working the chest and arms, and your body is not activating its core stabilizer muscles, and therefore, it is not learning to use those muscles together because the machine is doing the work.
• Stand On One Leg (you can start by holding onto a chair at first, then work to doing it on your own)
• One Legged Squat
• Lift Off
• Single Leg Deadlift
• Medicine Ball Squat With Overhead Lift
• Medicine Ball Reach
• Multidirectional Lunges
• Standing Bicep Curls
• Step-Ups With Weights
• Dumbbell Lunge
• Lunge With Back Row
• Overhead Press
• Front Squats
• Chin Ups and Pull Ups
• Kettlebell or Dumbbell Swing
• Many more
How to start with functional fitness:
The truth is that functional exercises, like other full body workouts are more difficult than machines. They require more from your body and may be too much for people over 40. Women who are pregnant should also consult their doctor before beginning an exercise program. When starting a new exercise program, try to begin with simple exercises like pushups and squats instead of using weights. Remember that you can always add weights as long as you’re getting fit enough for them!
Those who are experienced fitness buffs can certainly engage in intermediate and advanced level moves in functional training. These types of exercises can be added into a regular workout routine.
It’s important to note that many functional moves have other benefits and target other fitness goals, such as, strength training, fat burning and heart health, so choosing a specific functional exercise in lieu of say using a weight machine kills two birds with one stone.
It is important to learn how to do exercises, but there are lots of resources online that can help. A personal trainer is another good way to get started. They will show you the proper form for exercising and also create a workout plan based on your needs and lifestyle.