Functional Training is the buzzword in fitness these days.
If you’re stuck in an exercise rut (or even if you’re not) it’s a great way to change your routine to challenge your body to improve and grow stronger, work different muscle groups and get the best overall conditioning effect.
Functional Training is exercise that involves simultaneous use of multiple muscles and joints to train the body to perform daily life activities more easily and without injuries.
You use basic functional movements like pushing, pulling, hinging, squatting, rotating, carrying and walking and running every day – think of bending down to pick up a child, carrying grocery bags, playing with the kids, washing the car etc. Functional Training helps provide you with the strength, endurance, power, stability, mobility, and flexibility that you need to thrive as you move through your life. If performed correctly, Functional Training will lead to better joint mobility and stability and more efficient movement patterns to help your body become the strongest it can be and to move in the way it was intended to.
It may sound bizarre that we even need this method of exercise to go about our daily lives. But we need this BECAUSE of our current daily lives – because we are no longer working out in the fields all day, using all of our muscles as we plant and sow and reap and harvest nor are we walking 4 miles to school or town through the sun and wind and snow (as our parents remind us they did in their day). We need this because most of us sit for most of the day, in the car, then at the office and then we go home and sit some more. (Sitting may be one of your worst enemies and contribute to not only back pain but actually increase your risk of dying prematurely.) To compensate for long hours spent sitting down, you could incorporate Functional Training exercises, powerful simple structural movements that help strengthen and realign your body posture. For those who have more active jobs, Functional Training exercises will strengthen and assist you in your daily physical tasks.
Functional Training focuses on your core. Your core is anything that connects to your pelvis, whether above or below it, this includes your hamstrings, glutes, and adductor muscles. Your body has 29 core muscles located mostly in your back, abdomen and pelvis. This group of muscles provides the foundation for movement throughout your entire body, and strengthening them can help protect and support your back, make your spine and body less prone to injury and help you gain greater balance and stability. Functional exercises train those muscles to work together through integrated chains of movement, which is how you’re structurally designed to move.
A few pointers for effective Functional Training:
- A Functional Training programme should be based on functional tasks directed toward everyday life activities. It should be individualized and tailored to your specific goals and individual state of health.
- Train in an unsupported manner as much as possible. Resistance training should be done while standing or balancing – not being supported by lying on a bench or sitting at a machine. Support has no effect on core or peripheral muscles.
- Train using primarily free weights. Free weights are unstable and don’t isolate individual muscles. Using free weights not only improves strength, but also promotes muscle balance and increases range of motion. Examples include: Kettlebells, Cable machines, Barbells, Dumbbells, Medicine balls, Physioballs/Swiss balls or exercise balls, Bodyweight training, Resistance tubes, Rocker and wobble boards, Balance disks and Sandbags.
- Do explosive training in each workout. Explosive or jump training is beneficial and can improve your overall strength and power, increase metabolism, and improve fitness, balance, range of motion, and flexibility.
- Use compound exercises (or exercises that combine more than 1 group of muscles) for building strength and burning calories.
- Additionally, you should push and pull in both vertical and horizontal planes, perform rotational movements, do knee- and hip-dominant exercises, and train both limbs together (bilaterally) and one at a time (unilaterally).
Functional Training offers a challenging, effective and fun full-body workout as you prepare your body for everyday, real-world activities.
Your fitness trainer can help to develop a Functional Training programme together with you.