Functional Fitness Training

Paula Reece

Think of the activities and movements that you do every day.  These movements include things such as getting into and out of your car, reaching for an item on the top shelf at the grocery store, or bending down to pick up a child.  Most of time, we don’t even think about these movements . . . until we can’t do them with ease.  This is where functional fitness exercises can help by training your muscles to do these everyday activities efficiently and safely.

            The idea of functional fitness training has become popular in training regimens.  Personal trainers are including this type of training into their client’s work-outs.  These types of exercises train your muscles to work together to simulate common movements in your everyday life.  This is different from conventional strength training where you work on an isolated muscle group.   Combining a variety of muscle groups such as your upper and lower body working at the same time may be the same movement you make while lifting something off the floor. The exercise that can be performed for this movement would include a squat and then a bicep curl. 

            Functional fitness exercises concentrate not only on the upper and lower muscle groups, but also on the core muscles.  The core muscles are all the muscles in your middle from your chest to your pelvic bone.  By strengthening these core muscles you gain flexibility and stability of your body.

            Other functional exercises may include sit-ups with a medicine ball that your move from side to side.  Try a lunge where you step back instead of forward with hand weights.  There are many props you can use such as weights, kettle balls, fitness balls and aerobic steps.  If you are beginning, you can use the resistance of your body weight for training.

            These multi-joint and multi-muscle exercises are also used by athletes.  Sports specific training can benefit from functional training as well.  Personal Trainers often use a Bosu® (both sides utililized) ball.  This ball is a half circle on one side and the other side is flat.  You can stand on the flat side of the ball where your core must be engaged to balance yourself.  Holding a medicine ball that is weighted and moving it from one side of your body to the other while standing on the ball simulates the movement in a golf swing.    This can be used for many other sports as well, such as basketball and hockey. 

            The benefits of functional fitness training are numerous.  Think of it as “life training.”  It prepares you for your daily real-life situations.  Try adding these exercises to your own workout.