Why Functional Fitness Matters
Admittedly, most of us want to work out to look great. However, beyond aesthetics, another benefit of regular exercise is the ability to stay strong and independent well into our golden years.
This is what we refer to as “functional fitness” — the ability to perform daily activities without injury.
Below, we explore the benefits of functional fitness training, plus the foundational exercises that can help you move with greater ease!
Functional fitness 101
It’s no secret that our bodies becomes more susceptible to injury and degenerative disease as we age. Daily activities like carrying groceries, bending over and even walking can become a struggle. A functional fitness plan extends your mobility and independence so you can live your best life.
Functional fitness exercises are based on the seven primal movement patterns of the human body: Pull, Push, Squat, Lunge, Hinge, Rotation and Gait. These movements are what the body was designed to do in order to safely navigate life.
Each of these are compound movements, which means they involve several muscle groups. Isolation exercises, such as bicep curls, don’t necessarily simulate real-life movement. These are often intended to add more definition to a specific body part or rehabilitate an injury or imbalance. However, before fancy workout equipment or even gyms existed, ancient humans didn’t train in isolation. Instead, their daily lives revolved around multiplanar movements.
So, what sets functional fitness training apart from traditional strength training is the focus on larger body movements that increase the body’s ability to carry out everyday activities.
Here are just a few of the benefits of functional fitness:
- Reduces risk of injury of falls
- Slows bone and muscle degeneration
- Enhances balance and strength
- Improves mobility and flexibility
- Increases coordination
- Aids good posture
- Greater muscle memory
- Reduces joint pain
- Increases range-of-motion (ROM)
- Improves your body awareness
3 foundational functional fitness exercises
The exercises below are designed to mirror the movements of day-to-day living activities. Remember, functional training focuses on patterns of motion with a real-world objective. The more functional moves added into your workout, the bigger the payoff in your ability to continue to perform these moves in “real life.”
When we’re toddlers, squatting is easy. Our bodies are flexible and we’re close to the ground. As we age, however, it’s a different story! Our joints begin to lose mobility and our bodies become far too comfortable sitting on the couch.
Adding regular squats to your fitness routine is a great way to strengthen the hamstrings, glutes, quads, lower back and core. If you’re a beginner, it’s best to start with supported squats. Firmly hold a suspension trainer or a stable piece of furniture as you practice your squat motion. It may take a while, but just keep practicing your descent…we promise it will get easier!
Lunges are a rockstar movement that build balance and muscle in the quads and glutes. They are essentially an exaggerated walking pattern. Practicing lunges regularly helps you develop balance, stability and strength. Because you’re using several muscle groups at once, they also improve your coordination.
The beauty of lunges is that there’s endless variations. Beyond the traditional forward lunge, there’s side lunges, reverse lunges, walking lunges, static lunges, box lunges and TRX reverse lunges.
Deadlifts might seem intimidating, but they’re an incredibly functional movement. We perform variations of this movement all the time, whether it’s grabbing a box or a grandchild. Performing deadlifts with proper form in the gym helps you to bend down and pick something up with greater strength and balance.
As a full-body movement, it’s a compound exercise that works the biggest muscle groups in the body, including the quads, hamstrings, low back, mid-back, calves, glutes, abs and traps. Deadlifts also target the gluteus maximus (hello, buns of steel!). Strong glues protect your back from pain and injury.
Plus, because deadlifts improve your posture by strengthening your posterior chain (the muscles that run from your neck to your heels).
To learn how to deadlift with proper form, check out our recent blog post.
Improve your functional fitness with CA
CA’s personal trainers are passionate about creating functional fitness plans, tailored to your individual needs. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or a total beginner, our trainers would be honored to play a role in your fitness journey. Learn more about our personal training programs here!