WHAT IS FUNCTIONAL FITNESS TRAINING?
Functional fitness training can be described as any program that includes exercises designed to mimic and/or help you to perform daily tasks or activities safely and efficiently. Examples of these types of tasks or activities include loading and unloading furniture from a truck, or picking your kid up and carrying them up the stairs.
Functional exercises are generally multi-joint movements that involve using both upper and lower body muscle groups simultaneously while engaging the core.
For example, while an exercise like a dumbbell curl ONLY works the bicep and is performed in most cases for aesthetic purposes, an exercise like a dumbbell farmer’s walk trains the body to lift heavy objects properly off the ground, engaging the core, driving through the heels, then moving those heavy objects from point A to point B. Muscles worked: glutes, quads, hamstrings, upper traps, forearms, and core. In addition, it’s not a bad high intensity cardio workout either. In a real world scenario, an exercise such as this is much more likely to transfer over to a common task such as carrying two heavy grocery bags from the store to your car.
SHOULD YOU BE INCORPORATING FUNCTIONAL MOVEMENTS IN YOUR EXERCISE PROGRAM?
Everyone can benefit from performing functional movements. Don’t wait until you slip a disc in your back trying to pick up that 50 pound bag of dog food before you decide it’s time to learn how to deadlift properly. Lower back injuries are the most common, nagging, reoccurring injuries in our society today. In fact, 31 million Americans experience low-back pain at any given time[ref]Jensen M, Brant-Zawadzki M, Obuchowski N, et al. Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Lumbar Spine in People Without Back Pain. N Engl J Med 1994; 331: 69-116.[/ref]. Experts estimate that as many as 80% of the American population will experience a back injury at some point in their lives[ref]Vallfors B. Acute, Subacute and Chronic Low Back Pain: Clinical Symptoms, Absenteeism and Working Environment. Scan J Rehab Med Suppl 1985; 11: 1-98.[/ref]. Knowing the reasons why people experience these injuries and training your body in ways that will help you to avoid them is something everyone can and should do.
If you’re a bodybuilder, does it make sense to perform only functional movements in your routine? No. You’ll most likely be going with a split routine of some sort. However, for most everyone else, whether you’re a stay at home Mom with two kids, or the owner of a refurbished vintage furniture store (had to throw some of my real life client examples in here), you need to know how to properly squat down and pick up your kids or your furniture, then properly lift them up and carry or load them off somewhere.
The answer for 99% of us is yes, at the very least, the two foundational functional movements, the squat and the deadlift, should be incorporated in your program somewhere.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF FUNCTIONAL FITNESS TRAINING?
- Reduced risk of injury.
- Improved ease of daily tasks.
- Safe, efficient and effective performance of common activities.
- Improved balance, agility, and strength.
- Improved quality of life.
EXAMPLES OF FUNCTIONAL EXERCISES
- Squat, deadlift, lunge (all variations)
- Push-up, pull-up, dip
- Kettlebell swing
- Dumbbell carry
- Medicine ball slam
- Box jumps
- Sled push
- Battle rope
- Core rotation exercises
Yours In Health,
Coach Brian Donovan