Are you intimidated by the endless array of exercise equipment, machines, gadgets, cables and tools in the gym? You are not alone. While many of those prove very useful to just about everyone, the more advanced equipment requires assistance from a trained professional and often works by targeting very specific muscle groups, not full-body movements.
For many of my patients, they look to fitness as a way of improving their daily lives. Hauling groceries to and from the car, shoveling snow off the walkway several times per year, raking leaves, mowing the lawn, playing with kids and grandkids – you name it. Everyone wants to be healthy enough to live the active lifestyle they have come to know and love, and my goal as a health professional is to help you maintain (and even improve) the life you love so much.
Functional fitness aims to connect your workout to an activity outside of the gym or your chosen workout space. Functional workouts focus on movement patterns that have a purpose in your life! Over all, functional training helps your body work efficiently as one unit. The goal is not to strengthen the muscle groups one at a time, rep after rep, but to build strength and coordination from head to toe.
Here are the top functional exercises to learn, repeat and rely on to improve your daily life:
- Push ups. Yes, I know, you were hoping push ups do nothing for you because, frankly, not many people enjoy them. However, push ups are wonderful for your core, shoulders, chest, arms, and even hips, back and legs. Basically, they work your whole body!
- Begin in a high plank with palms flat on the floor, shoulder width apart. Engage your core and glutes.
- Lower yourself to the floor by bending at the elbows. When first beginning, feel free to drop to your knees.
- Straighten your arms to return to the start position. That’s 1!
- Farmer carry. This exercise is very underrated because it looks really easy at first. At second glance, you will realize that this is a motion we use all the time in real life, from carrying toddlers to moving furniture or lifting your appliances up onto the kitchen counter.
- Pick up two dumbbells of relatively heavy weight (start with 12.5 lbs each and increase from there if you feel you could hold them for a long, long time without getting tired)
- With the weights at your hips, walk around in short, controlled steps for a set amount of time. Start with 30 seconds and go up to 1 minute. Lower the weights safely to the floor or back to the rack by bending at your knees.
- Bonus tip: lift the weights above your head!
- Squat to press. Think of how many times you are required to bend down, grab something, then lift it up high. Hanging Christmas lights, putting groceries on your shelf, putting away laundry — this is a motion we do over and over, often without realizing.
- Grab moderate weights (two dumbbells). Begin around 10 lbs or even lighter, then work up to more.
- Keep the weights at your hip, entering a squat by keeping your back straight, bending at the knees and moving your glutes out as if to sit on a chair. While you squat move the weights over your quads.
- Begin to stand up and at the same time, begin to lift the weights over your head in a shoulder press. Try to be as fluid as you can. Lower the weights to neutral position and repeat.
- Deadlift. When it comes to lifting safely, the deadlift form is incredibly important. So many of my patients are injured from bending and lifting incorrectly or by not using controlled movements.
- Stand with your feet hip width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand, resting in front of your quads. Choose lighter weights at first.
- Bend forward at your hips, letting your knees hinge as you push your glutes back and keep your spine flat.
- Slowly lower the weights along your shins until your torso is nearly parallel to the floor.
- Tighten your core and push through your heels to return to standing. On your way up, keep the weights close to your shins until they are up toward your quads.
- Squeeze your glutes at the top before starting your second rep.
These are just a few exercises that will prove extremely effective in building functional fitness for every individual. Functional exercises will not only help you build strength, burn fat and improve overall muscle definition, but will also help you be more aware of your body in order to prevent injuries.
Injuries occur when we make abrupt movements without our body really “catching up” to what we are trying to do, or not stabilizing in time. Because functional fitness revolves around core strength, the body is able to stay balanced and coordinated throughout everyday motions.
To learn more about movement patterns and personalizing your own, schedule a consultation with me!
Best of health,