Functional fitness has been a bit of a buzz word in the fitness industry but for me it is something we should all be focusing on. At the most basic level it refers to exercises that will improve our day to day life. It is not about training for events or even a specific goal. It’s about training for function, making daily activities easier. Think bending down to pick up things, reaching overhead, loading shopping into the car or even just getting out of your car. For me I always wanted to be able to lift my bag easily into overhead lockers on a plane, or be able to get my heavy case of the carousel. Maybe not something I do everyday, but I used to travel a lot by myself and this helped me feel more confident when I was.
It is easy to switch your workout routines to include more function based exercise. There are a number of different areas you can focus on. For example our balance and coordination are constantly challenged in every day life. So exercises that challenge your balance are a great way to improve your daily life. Think single leg balances, lunges and step ups. Also as humans we are designed to move backwards, forwards, up and down, side to side. So it’s important to exercise in different planes of motion. For example with a lunge, you can do forward lunges, reverse lunges and even side lunges.
Strength is also a big factor when training functionally, however we need to move away from isolating muscle groups. In daily life we use our bodies as a whole and so functional exercise should reflect that. You want to challenge your upper and lower body in one hit, squat presses are a good one or lunges with overhead reach. These type of exercises are also great for improving our range of motion. Which can often be a hinderence for people. Going into a deep squat for example will help the range of motion in your hips, as long as you have no injuries of course.
It can be hard to switch your focus away from aesthetics, losing weight or gaining muscle. But surely improving your day to day life is another if not better reason to exercise. And a side benefit is likely to be muscle building and weight loss anyway. If you can add some more functional exercises into your training you’ll definitely start to see improvements in your everyday life.