Functional training, or functional fitness, is a growing exercise trend geared toward building overall strength to make certain everyday, practical activities or movements easier.
Few movements you do throughout the day require the use of just one muscle group. Whether you’re carrying groceries, cleaning your house or riding a bike, your body activates various muscle groups to work together to complete a task. Functional training focuses on improving these multi-directional movements through exercise, rather than isolating one muscle group at a time during a workout.
Functional fitness programs are very similar to most fitness programs for older adults, which generally aim to improve mobility and strength, but people of all ages and fitness levels can benefit from functional fitness training.
Are you ready to train your body with functional fitness? Here are a few examples of exercises you can try to work multiple muscle groups at once:
Kettlebell swing: Hold a kettlebell with both hands, letting it hang vertically between your legs. Bend at the knees and hips, lowering your body into an athletic stance. Explosively straighten your hips and knees, swinging the weight to eye level. Repeat this swinging motion.
Wood chop: Using a medicine ball, kettlebell or dumbbell, stand up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the ball or weight above your head with your arms straight. Bend at the waist and swing the ball or weight down between your legs, back to center and down to the other side.
Side chop: Stand holding a medicine ball, kettlebell or dumbbell above you and to one side. As you bend forward, rotate your torso to the other side, swinging the ball or weight to the outside of your legs and back up. Similarly, you can perform this exercise starting with the ball held out in front of your torso, bending and swinging it to one side, back to center, and down to the other side.
Stair climb with bicep curl: Combining two exercises can also improve functional movement. Using a stair climber or even the stairs in your home, climb up the stairs while performing bicep curls. If you are doing this on a staircase, hold the weights at your side when going down the stairs. Do not attempt to do curls while walking down the stairs.
Uni-plank lift: Start in the traditional pushup or plank position, creating a straight line with your body from your heels to the top of your head. From this pushup/plank position, raise your right arm and left leg until they are parallel to the ground. Lower and raise for 30 seconds, then switch to the opposite arm and leg.
Plank with dumbbell row: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, get into the pushup position. Keeping your body straight, shift your weight to one side and pull the opposite arm’s dumbbell to your side, until your shoulder and elbow are parallel to your back. Repeat on the other arm.
Back row lunge: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, get into the lunge position with your feet pointing straight ahead, your left leg behind you and your right knee over your right ankle. Lower your chest toward your right thigh and keep your back flat. Straighten your right leg while squeezing your shoulder blades together into the row position. Return to start position. Repeat on your left leg.
If you’re new to functional fitness, consider making an appointment with a certified professional trainer who can teach you various functional exercises and avoid injury.