Functional fitness is one of the biggest buzz words trending within the fitness industry. For those who are unfamiliar with this term, the concept boils down to two central ideas which hinge around amplifying your body’s adaptability and being able to apply you fitness regime to improve your performance in real life activities. While it is impressive that you are able to perform numerous pull-ups and sit-ups without breaking a sweat and can dead-lift staggering amounts of weight- what can you actually do with your skills when you’re faced with the world outside the gym!
It is easy to fall into complacency inside a repetitive indoor setting where your workout is predictable, safe and slowly travelling towards just plain boring. You know that every time you step into the gym, your routine will be the same. You train hard and clock your regular 1 hour 30, but you still seem to be falling into a rut, unable to push the envelope harder. You can’t go beyond 100 push ups. Your weight remains the same on the scale. Why is this?
It’s not just physical, but mental. When was the last time you came to the gym nervous and excited about learning something new? The more stimulated your mind is before a workout the greater will be your ability to push yourself to higher levels. Boredom is one of the biggest reasons people begin to plateau on their fitness journey and find their levels of endurance stagnating. Transfer-ability of fitness from the gym to the real world isn’t as simple or easy as we would like to think. After all, it should be logical that a person who can lift twice their weight would be able to spring to the top of a tree branch or climb a hill effortlessly, right? However, this is not the case. Pull-ups will strengthen only your back, laterals and biceps. Since you’re only working out these three areas, other areas in your body are being neglected and you won’t be able to translate your proficiency to be a quick runner or pack a strong punch.
Events and challenges in the real world do not occur in a single plane of motion. Rather, they are dynamic and ever changing. Picking up your children from school, running out to do groceries and moving around furniture isn’t as easy as a barbell deadlift! You will find yourself encountering awkward angles, uncertain weights, uneven ground and you won’t always be able to maintain the perfect lumbar curve or even straight arms while lifting outside the gym! Can you pick up a bag that weighs sixty kilos without thinking twice or injuring your back? Life constantly presents us with situations that can require technically improper form or, at minimum, slight compromises.
Conventional weight training isolates muscle groups, but it doesn’t teach the muscle groups you’re isolating to work with others The key to functional exercise is integration. It teaches one to use all their muscles rather than isolating them to work independently
Functional exercises incorporates multiple joints and a combination of muscles. Instead of only moving just the knees, for example, a functional exercise might involve the knees, thighs, spine, hips and ankles. This type of training, properly applied, can make everyday activities easier, reduce your risk of injury and improve your quality of movement It is for this reason that Functional exercise training may be especially beneficial as part of a comprehensive program for older adults to improve balance, agility and muscle strength, and reduce the risk of falls.
Remember, your bodies are designed for activity and should not sit slumped over a computer all day. Functional training focuses on training movement patterns rather than isolating individual muscles. If you spend most of your working day sat down in the office, sitting on the chest press machine at the gym is probably counterproductive. You require the integrative approach of Functional Fitness to truly get into shape and activate the full potential of your body.
In doing so you will not only strengthen your muscles but correct bad posture and other muscular imbalances that are created by your stressful job and hectic lifestyle. In addition to a fantastic rate of fat burning, you’re increasing your overall endurance levels and boosting metabolic rates, developing a lean, ripped body in the process like gymnasts at the Olympics. These athletes are constantly training fluid movement patterns and lifting their own bodyweight to achieve their form and fitness- they are not stuck doing bicep curls on a daily basis!
Every session of Functional Fitness should aim to improve your flexibility, mobility and core stability. Balance and strength principles will be included in your regime in order to keep your body strong, vibrant and most importantly- adaptable. It is an essential for of training especially for sport specific conditioning as it enhances the relationship between the nervous and musculoskeletal system to provide quick and powerful movement patterns and reflexes in your chosen sport.
Last but not least, every exercise in Functional Fitness involves heavy duty core activation, teaching the core to stabilise the spine against external forces through a variety of movements and positions. This mimics the demand placed on the core and spine in everyday activities that simply doing 100 stomach crunches will not provide you!