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The ability to do numerous bench presses is massively impressive, especially if you’re lifting a hundred pounds. However, it bears considering that even if you can bench press a hundred pounds, a bench press isn’t an everyday movement for you or for most people.
A bench press is a great exercise, but it can’t help you pick up groceries from the trunk of your car, nor can it help you squat down to pick up an object without pulling a muscle.
If lifting an object off of the floor throws your back out or reaching for an object on a tall shelf makes you pull a muscle, here’s a type of exercise that you should look into: functional fitness training. Functional fitness refers to exercises that can help your muscles become more efficient and improve your daily life.
Functional exercise isn’t a fitness trend; in fact, it’s been around for a couple of years and you’ve likely done a variety of functional fitness exercises without realizing it.
Here’s how you can incorporate functional fitness exercises into your routine.
What is Functional Fitness?
Functional fitness is a type of strength training that prepares the body for real-life movements and activities. It is also referred to as functional training or functional exercise. Often, functional fitness exercises are movements that mimic everyday activities and incorporate multiple muscle groups at the same time.
Functional training prepares you for daily life rather than something specific, like a race or a lifting competition.
What are Examples of Functional Exercises?
Some examples of functional movements include squats, push-ups, pull-ups, multi-directional lunges, and bicep curls. The hip hinge and overhead press are also examples of functional exercise. All the mentioned exercises target more than one muscle or muscle group at a time.
These movements are easily carried over to everyday life scenarios such as getting out of bed, which equals to rising in a squat. When you walk up the stairs, that involves lunges. Even simply sitting down and getting up requires a form of functional strength.
Is Functional Fitness Training Good?
Absolutely! Each one of us has our own individual needs, goals, and fitness levels, so not all exercises are for everyone. But for the most part, since functional fitness exercises focus on simulating common movements, they can help enhance a person’s balance and strength.
By training the muscles in the upper body and lower body to work the way they do in everyday activities, you’re prepared to move efficiently in various situations.
Functional Fitness Benefits
Functional fitness training teaches you to use multiple joints and muscles at once to work your whole body rather than only certain muscles. Strengthening your entire body with functional exercises has many benefits for your health.
First, and perhaps the most important benefit, functional fitness trains the same muscle movements used in everyday life. For example, doing squats with your own body weight can improve your ability to stand up from a chair. Daily tasks can get easier when you train for them.
Functional training can also help maintain and improve balance. This is because functional exercises make different parts of the body move together smoothly. When your body is balanced, coordinated, and stable, you also lower your risk of injury.
For example, let’s say your job involves lifting heavy objects at work. You can do functional training exercises that make use of lifting heavy objects in a proper form. Once your body and muscles get used to the correct form, you can avoid accidents at work.
If you’re an athlete, functional training can also help improve your athletic performance. For example, if you’re a rower, you can practice squats to train the same muscle groups that you use in the boat. If you’re a basketball player, practicing leaping from side to side can improve your agility and speed on the court.
Moreover, functional fitness can help you reach your fitness goals in an efficient manner. Aiming to lose weight? Combining functional training with a short, high-intensity, full-body workout allows you to work multiple muscle groups instead of focusing on only one, increasing the number of calories that you burn.
Is Functional Fitness the Same as Crossfit?
Many people say that functional workouts and CrossFit are the same things. Both functional fitness and CrossFit can help build muscle mass, improve balance, and strengthen the body, but the two exercises aren’t exactly the same. Instead, they’re related to each other.
We’ve mentioned that functional fitness is a training method to improve daily life. Often, functional fitness workouts aren’t high-intensity and can be done with any number of sets or reps.
On the other hand, while CrossFit is a form of strength training that is based on functional exercise, it is much more physically demanding. It also includes other exercises such as weight lifting and gym workouts.
Best Functional Fitness Exercises
Functional fitness is a type of exercise that is good for losing weight, building muscle strength, improving balance, and making your daily life injury-free. Functional workouts can be learned in a group setting via functional fitness classes or boot camps, but you can certainly learn it on your own as well.
Most of the time, you don’t need any equipment to practice functional fitness. The only thing required here is yourself. Here are five exercises to help you start your functional fitness routine.
Squatting is a similar movement to sitting in a chair, making it a must for any functional movement training program. Begin in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms down at your sides. Bend your knees and start to squat down, pushing back into your hips as if you’re about to sit in a chair. Raise your arms up in front of you as you go.
Once your thighs are parallel to the ground, pause and push through your heels. Extend your legs and return to the initial position. Complete 2 sets of 15 reps.
Getting into and holding a plank position requires a lot of mobility and balance, which is very helpful for getting up off the floor. Furthermore, this exercise recruits a lot of muscles, making it great for building strength. Start on all fours with your palms on the ground and your knees bent slightly further than 90 degrees.
Next, push up from your hands and feet, extending your arms and legs. Engage your core. Your body should form a straight line from head to toe. Hold for as long as you can and then repeat for 2 sets.
This functional exercise strengthens your quadriceps and promotes mobility in your knee joints, both of which are crucial in daily tasks.
Begin by splitting your stance so that your legs form a triangle with the ground. Next, without moving your feet, lunge forward on your leading leg. When your leg forms a 90-degree angle with the ground, return to the initial position. Repeat 2 sets of 15 reps on each side.
This exercise makes you work one leg at a time, forcing you to keep your core tight and train each side of your body separately. Stand with your feet together and your hands on your hips as your starting position.
With your weight on your left leg, hinge slightly forward at the hips as you slowly raise your right leg straight back until it reaches a 45-degree angle. Return to start. Repeat for 2 sets of 15 reps with your right leg, then switch.
This exercise strengthens the muscles that you use to climb stairs. Stand with a bench or a step in front of you. Step up onto the bench with your right foot, only tapping your left foot to the surface while keeping your weight on your right foot.
Then, step your left foot back down to the floor while you keep your right foot on the bench. Complete 2 sets of 15 reps on each leg.
While the five basic functional exercises are more than enough to get you by, here’s a bonus workout that you can do to strengthen your pull muscles. Being able to lift yourself can be helpful in many ways.
To do this exercise, you will need a pull-up bar. You don’t have to purchase one if you don’t own a bar at home. You can use a door jam. To do this, set yourself directly underneath a bar. Next, hop up or step up to the bar and dead hang. Position your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
Retract your shoulders and pull yourself up towards the bar until your chin fully clears. Keep your abs tight and your feet together. Try to hold for a couple of seconds.
Functional fitness helps you build muscle, increase your core strength, enhance balance and stability, help you lose weight, and allow you to live a better quality of life. Try out the exercise mentioned above and see the benefits of functional fitness for yourself!