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5 Ways to Add Functional Fitness Techniques to Your Workout Routine

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Functional training is more than just a buzzword or a passing fad in fitness. The term “functional training” can conjure up a laundry list of ideas but the truth is, the exercises are simply full-body movements in multiple planes of motion that mirror the activities you do everyday. This can include such movements as:

  • Squatting
  • Lunging
  • Pushing
  • Pulling
  • Twisting

These everyday movements are replicated in the gym, with or without added weight, with a focus on functional strength and neuromuscular coordination. Incorporating functional exercises into your standard routine allows the entire body to work together to produce optimal movements. The added benefits of adding functional training exercises to your workouts include better balance, improved posture, better coordination, increased functional strength, increased sports performance, more ease with everyday activities, and a decreased chance of injury.

Functional training can be as extensive as one-legged squats or as simple as standing up from a seated position for reps. Whatever your skill level in fitness, incorporating functional exercises makes good sense. Here are a few ways you can start adding functional fitness into your regimen today.

1. Squats

Using your bodyweight alone for a standard squat works the major muscle groups of the lower body including the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves. A bodyweight squat mimics the same type of motion you would use to sit down in a chair or on a bench. Incorporate squats into your warm-up or add them into your leg routine as a stand-alone exercise or between a weighted exercise (like a leg press).

2. Lunges

Like squats, lunges work the lower chain of muscle including the major leg and butt muscles. The lunge becomes functional when you imagine it as an exaggeration of a walking gait. Walking lunges are one of the most widely used form of functional training. This involves using the lunge technique and putting it in motion as you walk across the floor from one end of the room to another.

From a standing position, one foot comes forward, the knees are bent deeply to lower. Raise the weight of the body, bringing feet back together before switching legs. Lunges can be done on their own or incorporated in between exercises as a working set.  

3. Push Ups

The push-up is the most well-known and widely used versions of functional training. It is incorporated into most strength tests from school sports to firemen to fighters. The classic push up trains the chest, arms, and core and the goal is usually to complete high reps rather than using heavy weight. You don’t need to aim for maximal speed while doing push ups unless you’re power training. It’s actually just as effective to perform slow, controlled push ups as long as the time duration is the same. The push up can be progressed in difficulty: some start on their knees and work their strength up until they conquer the classic push-up and then move on by increasing the incline of the feet.

4. Pull Ups

Pulling movements are just as important as pushing movements in functional training exercise. The pull-up is another movement used in standardized testing because of the way it incorporates the upper body and core. Pull-ups replicate the function of pulling yourself up and over a wall or even out of a swimming pool. Try incorporating pull-ups with a bar as part of your back or shoulder workout.  

5. Rotations

You may not realize it, but you rotate at the waist numerous times throughout the day. If your back is weak and rounded, or your core doesn’t offer the right support, a simple misfired twist can cause injury. This is why rotational movements should be a priority in functional training. You can utilize your cable machine at the gym or a resistance band to simulate the movement of a simple twist. Standing with one side of your body facing out, double grip the cable with both hands and rotate in a slow and controlled manner, keeping the core contracted at all times to support your spine. Switch sides and repeat.

Start by adding in functional exercises to your routine one-by-one. As your skill increases and you can control and balance your own body weight, then you can start working with added weights.

If you are unsure of a particular exercise, or have questions, you can ask a personal trainer for guidance.

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