Functional fitness essentially means carrying out exercises that mirror the movements we have to do every day. The aim is to make us more efficient in our everyday movements particularly when our bodies are called upon to be strong or fast, for example-carrying our shopping, climbing the stairs or even running for a bus.
People work out for many different reasons. It may well be to shift some weight, look better or feel fitter. But what about working out because it will improve your ability to perform everyday tasks better? In essence this is what functional fitness is all about, helping your body to perform those everyday functions more efficiently. By everyday functions we mean carrying heavy shopping, carrying your children, reaching up and bending down, in fact anything you need to do to complete tasks throughout the day,
The deadlift is a great example of a functional fitness exercise as it mimics so well the simple act of picking things up and putting them down. If we can also learn to do it properly then we can also reduce the injuries people often get in day to day life. The deadlift works the entire posterior chain of muscles which run from your neck right down to your hamstrings. But it’s not only a great exercise to support functional fitness it will also help you perform a range of sports, in fact any sport that requires explosive leg strength, sports like rugby or football for example.
How To Perform The Perfect Deadlift
Keeping your feet flat on the floor, bend at the knees and grab the bar with hands shoulder width apart. Keeping your back straight and your head forward lift the bar and drive upwards as explosively as you can.Pull your shoulders back at the top of the move then carefully lower the bar back to the ground. To keep good form, do remember to keep your head neutral and keep your chest up so that you don’t hunch forward. Engage your core throughout the move and try to lift explosively.
Pull ups are also a great addition to any functional fitness workout as they work a really important area, your grip. It also gets you used to experiencing what holding your own bodyweight actually feels like. So if you ever need to hold on tight to something or haul yourself over a wall this one is for you! It is also a really unique move as it is one of the few bodyweight moves that works your back and biceps.
How To Perform The Perfect Pull Up
Leap up and grip the bar with your hands shoulder width apart and your palms facing away from you. Hang, with your arms fully extended. Then pull up until your chin is above the bar. Then slowly downward until your arms are extended again. If you are completely new to this then just start by hanging, then build up to the pull up. When you get more proficient you should try and bang out 10 pull ups. Whilst performing a pull up try to remember to engage those glutes and work slowly and smoothly. Once your chin is above the bar then squeeze at the top, pausing for one second will help to recruit even more muscle fibres for greater, long term strength development.
Squats are a great functional exercise because we are constantly getting up and sitting down, so the squat helps make this stronger and smoother. Squats really do work all your leg muscles, the quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. Squats will also strengthen your stabiliser muscles and supporting ligaments, which helps make your stronger.
How To Squat Properly
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Keep your arms on your waist, in front of you or folded on your chest. Lower your legs until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your weight in your heels and come up. For a really good squat drive all weight through your heels and don’t let your knees roll in. There are many other variations to the squat including squat thrust and jump, jump squats and split squats.
This exercise is a great one for strengthening your legs, glutes, lower back arms and shoulders. This is a great one for helping you to lift your groceries and also your children. If you are comfortable with a medicine ball you can also look at diagonal reach with a medicine ball which is when your arm reaches up while the opposite leg slightly lifts to the side. This mirrors what our body does when we often have to reach up for something.
How To Perform A Squat With Overhead Lift
Stand with your feet wide apart holding a light medicine ball in front of you. Squat down, keep your knees over your ankles and lower the medicine ball to the floor, keep your head up and back straight. Return to the start position then lift the medicine ball over your head. Repeat three sets of 10 reps.As you get more proficient at this exercise you can increase the weight of the ball.
If you spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer your chest and hips can get very tight. This exercise can really help. It targets your core muscles but also strengthens arms, shoulders, back, glutes and legs.
How To Perform The Supine Bridge With Arm Extension
Sit on the floor with your hands underneath your shoulders, knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Use your legs to push your hips up towards the ceiling. Then lift one arm up towards the ceiling rotating your upper body. Repeat with your other arm
You may have stairs in your home and need to do a lot of climbing or may live in flats where the lift often breaks down. Whatever the situation stair climbing with biceps will help you improve your ability to carry things upstairs. You will also see a boost to your cardiovascular fitness.
How To Perform The Stair Climb With Dumbbell
Climb the stairs whilst holding a 5-8lb dumbbell in each hand and start performing bicep curls. Walk back down the stairs but hold the dumbbells whilst walking downstairs, don’t curl. Repeat five to ten times. You can increase the weight as you get stronger and also vary the way you climb, you could for example take two steps at a time.
In a word, yes! We have mentioned that many of the exercises benefit your ability to perform sports but they will also help you build lean muscle and potentially lose weight. You should also start to see an improvement quite soon in how you perform those daily functions whether that’s getting up easily out of the sofa or carrying the shopping home.
The benefits of a fitness activity in a gym class is that you get expert tuition form a trainer. This will ensure that you get your form and the basics right. You may also find working out in a group more motivational than working out on your own. For many it’s also fun and motivational. That said once you have the technique many of these exercises can be performed at home with no equipment. Those that do require hand weights for example you can always buy the equipment and perform at home.