One of the current hot buzzwords in the exercise world is functional fitness – but what does this term actually mean? In essence, functional fitness Hamilton does what it says on the tin – it improves your body’s functionality by conditioning it to perform a wide range of everyday movements in a safer, more efficient way. Not only does this make it easier to perform all your everyday tasks – from carrying groceries and lifting your toddler, to playing games with the kids – but it reduces your risk of injury when executing ordinary actions that occasionally cause pain, such as lifting a heavy suitcase or reaching for something on a high shelf.
So, if you’re looking to really kick start your fitness levels heading into 2018, try some moves that challenge your functional fitness. You’ll not only feel better able to deal with day-to-day chores that require a basic level of fitness, but you could even improve your performance in any physical activity you’re currently doing.
Why is functional fitness beneficial?
Functional fitness doesn’t work muscles in isolation, as is often the case with more conventional machine-based weight training. Instead, the emphasis is on training the muscles to work together in an integrated group, with each move requiring the coordination of multiple joints and limbs. That’s not to say these exercises are difficult or complicated – rather, functional fitness simulates movements you’re likely to perform in real life, but done in a more focused, conscious manner to ensure you maintain correct form throughout.
Unlike other workouts, the focus here is not on looking buffed and toned, but rather on developing the muscles that you’ll actually use on a daily basis. This not only helps you fly through your daily tasks with ease, but can also help prevent the pain and injury that sometimes stem from muscular imbalance.
Whereas weight machines tend to work the body’s largest muscles while leaving lesser muscles undeveloped, exercises that focus on functional fitness aim to activate these smaller, stabilising muscles. As a result, not only will you build more muscle mass overall (and hence burn more calories), but you’ll increase your core strength, agility, stamina and stability, and correct the postural issues that can affect performance.
Most functional fitness revolves around bodyweight exercises, sometimes with the addition of light weights as your strength increases. There’s a strong emphasis on developing your core muscles to improve stability, which is why wobble boards, exercise balls and other tools that work your balance are popular. Similarly, Pilates, tai chi and other fitness routines that develop core strength and muscle control are very good for developing functional fitness.
Each move employs one (or sometimes several) complete muscle groups, with an emphasis on smooth, natural actions to create a workout that challenges your entire body. The idea here is to help restore the easy, effortless movement that would have come naturally to your body in childhood. Lunges, twists and squats, as well as exercises that involve pushing and pulling, are all typical.
A few functional fitness moves to try
Here are a few basic moves you can try on your own to increase your functional fitness levels:
Diagonal twist with medicine ball
This stretch-and-twist movement mimics the act of reaching for something on a high shelf, and is deceptively simple. Stand tall, holding a medicine ball in front of your chest, then lift the ball up and to the right with both hands, extending your arms while pointing your left toe to the side. Complete 10 reps on each side, thinking about extending your entire body in a long, diagonal line. Eventually you can add ankle and wrist weights to increase the difficulty.
Functional Fitness Hamilton
Dumbbell squat with overhead press
By combining these two challenging moves, you’re working several muscle groups at once and training your body to lift an object and then hoist it overhead. Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart and a light dumbbell in each hand, elbows bent so that you’re holding a weight in front of each shoulder. Lower your hips down into a squat position, being careful not to let your knees push outward beyond your toes. Slowly push through your thighs and glutes to return to standing, while simultaneously pushing the dumbbells upward so that your arms are overhead. Then return to starting position. Complete 10 to 15 reps.
Lunges are great for developing strength and muscle tone in the quads, hamstrings and glutes, and by trying a multidirectional version you’ll increase strength and flexibility in your hips and torso, too. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, then take a broad step forward with your right foot, bending both knees until they are at 90-degree angles. Push up through your right thigh and glute to return to the starting position, then repeat the movement, but instead of stepping forward, aim to land your foot 45 degrees to the right. On the next rep, step outward at a 90-degree angle to the right. Don’t forget to repeat with the other leg, or better yet – alternate legs as you go.
If you require the support to achieve your health and fitness goals then why not join us for a consultation. We will advise you on what’s required to safely achieve your goals in a friendly, private and motivational environment.
To find out more about functional fitness in Hamilton contact Core Physio on 01698 540380