There’s a lot of talks online and off about something called “functional fitness.” However, few people understand what it is and why it may be important. Even fewer know how to actually achieve functional fitness. Understanding what it is can help you integrate it into your daily life and your weekly workout and exercise routine.
Functional fitness is an exercise that your muscles to work together in an effort to prepare them for common movements that you make during your day. For example, the basic squat is a functional movement. Each time you sit, you use the same muscles that you use when you perform a squat. Imagine your movements as you pick up a heavy box or a bag on the floor. Same muscles.
What about when you put away something in an overhead cupboard? You use your back, shoulder, and arm muscles. Functional fitness strives to improve how your muscles work together including your strength.
When people suffer from injuries, it’s because they have a weakness. For example, you pick up a heavy box off of the floor and your back spasms. Suddenly you are on the floor flat on your back with pain.
Rotator cuff injuries often happen with the most basic movements. You put a plate away on a high cupboard and suddenly you have intense shoulder pain. You’ve torn a muscle.
Adding functional fitness to your workout program can reduce your risk of these types of injuries. It improves mobility, balance, and strength and makes life just a bit more manageable. It reduces the risk of falls and strengthens joints, ligaments, and tendons too.
So how do you integrate functional fitness into your workout? Look to add movements that aren’t done in isolation. For example, a biceps curl is an isolated movement. Lunges, squats and shoulder presses are all movements that require using multiple muscle groups. You can work on different muscle groups each day.
For example, on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday you can work on lower-body functional fitness. On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday you can work on upper body functional fitness. Movements can be performed at home or at the gym. Bodyweight movements are just as effective in the beginning.
As you become stronger, you might add weight to the movement. For example, you can do an air squat right now. As your leg and core muscles become stronger you can squat with a kettlebell, hand weights or a barbell.
Functional fitness is for everyone, regardless of their athletic ability. Add it to your workout today. You’ll be taking one powerful step toward overall health and reduced risk of injury.