What is Functional Fitness Training?
Most everyone knows and agrees that exercise is an important part of physical fitness. Where people start to disagree is when the discussion turns to the kind of exercise and fitness you should be using.
Many people unfortunately think of expensive gyms, countless reps, and endless hours logged on the treadmill. Unfortunately, this style of exercise can still leave you unprepared for real life (while leaving you tired and financially challenged at the same time).
Functional fitness training, on the other hand, engages the entire body and provides for a much more intense and satisfying workout, typically in a fraction of the time.
Just What Is Functional Fitness Training?
The Emergence of Functional Fitness Training
The New York Times ran an article describing the purpose of functional fitness training, describing it as “training for real life.” Jarrod Jordan, a fitness trainer, describes it as “training for life, not events,” in the article.
Experts from Web MD, Fitness Magazine, and other industry publications believe that functional fitness training is the direction and focus of the future. The funny part, of however, is that this is not a new method of exercise. Instead, it’s a reemergence of an old form.
Most people stayed fit over the course of history through functional fitness training: the activities that they performed throughout the day. Tending farms, chopping wood, and chasing after food tended to give the types of workouts we’re designed to thrive on.
It was only after work started shifting to work-force labor that functional fitness training began to decrease. At that point, gyms, treadmills, and other similar exercise equipment options became normal solutions for the growing bulge.
The Basics of Functional Fitness Training
Functional fitness training involves any kind of activities or motions that you might use in day to day life. The Mayo Clinic describes these exercises as being “multijoint” and “multimuscle” exercises.
Traditional gym workouts often isolate key muscle groups to focus on building the muscle. While some results may be seen, they come at an increased risk of injury. Your body is intended to function as a unified whole. You should not be isolating entire muscle sets. Instead, you should be working with your entire body, gaining strength throughout.
In simple terms, functional fitness training is using your body to accomplish things that have a degree of real-life function, as opposed to curling a small piece of iron 100 times.
Classic Tools for Functional Fitness Training
Certain basic workout moves like the squat and burpee (one of the best functional exercises ever), which mimic picking something up from the floor, or pushups fit well into functional fitness training. The dreaded rope climb and stair run also form a key role. Most people, however, don’t have the body strength they need to climb up a rope or a wall, and the times when you find yourself needing that sort of skill are not the times you want to realize that you don’t have the strength.
Kettle bells (the kettelbell swing is great) and fitness balls (wall-ball throws) can be used to drastically increase the muscles worked as well. Treadmills and ellipticals can be used so long as you do not focus only on cardio, and don’t use them for endless amounts of time. Make sure that you include plenty of muscle building sessions as well.
Balance and focus also form a key role in functional fitness training. Balance isn’t something that most people work on. Unfortunately, constantly sitting in a slumped position will wreck both your posture and your balance, giving you an uneven gait and unsightly bulges.
The Benefits of Functional Fitness Training
The biggest benefits that functional fitness training offer all revolve around your ability to thrive in the life you have. It’s embarrassing to be breathless when you run up a flight of stairs, and you don’t want to throw out your back because you don’t know how to lift a heavy object.
Functional fitness training also makes sure that your body remains in sync with itself. It helps you increase your posture and promotes better circulation. It also helps to reduce your risk of energy.
The Mayo Clinic discusses the increased synergy that your body will experience when you work out your entire body rather than isolating the muscles, stating that it increases your overall safety as well as potential strength.
Allison Kyle Leopold, “Fitness: Functional Fitness Means Training for Real Life,” New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/06/health/fitness-functional-fitness-means-training-for-your-real-life.html (2004).
Michele Borboa, “Top 10 Functional Exercises for Full Body Fitness,” She Knows, http://www.sheknows.com/health-and-wellness/articles/806681/top-functional-exercises-for-fullbody-fitness (2013).
“Functional Fitness Training,” Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/functional-fitness/MY01378 (2012).