If you have a body, anybody will do, even if you are not super confident with it right now, you should be training functional fitness.
In fact, if you’re not confident with it – be that because of injuries or niggles, chronic illness or maybe just a feeling of self-consciousness, then you’ve got even more reason to train functional fitness.
“Why is that?”, you ask. Well because functional fitness translates to any movement that contributes to your daily activity. This can range from bending over to pull the washing out of the washing machine, to picking up your kids, walking up the stairs or going for your weekly bike ride. Some more athletic people can even include training for their various sporting hobbies in this functional training as well. Functional exercises tend to use multiple muscles, across multiple joints and are usually performed in multiple planes of motion.
Here we’ve picked our top 5 reasons you should be including functional fitness into your training regime.
There tends to be 5 fundamental movement patterns, plus walking, we use to perform our daily activities: squats, pulls, hinges, pushes and lunges. Within these movements, you will also perform rotational movements that vary depending on the task or activity.
Therefore the first reason to train functional fitness is that you’re already performing these movements on a daily basis so it would be advantageous to be able to perform them in a way that will be efficient.
The old adage of “use it or lose it” comes into play here. So if you’re not practising regularly, or practising incorrectly, then you could be anywhere on the scale of being able to comfortably perform each movement pattern, to not being able to perform the movement at all.
If you understand that those 5 movement patterns make up every waking second of your life, with the addition of rotational movements and locomotion (running/walking). Then you just have to get good at them in order to do the things you love, the ones that lead to the delightful memories being made.
Whatever brings you joy; be that playing a particular sport or activity, going for a boogie, playing with the (grand)kids, gardening, DIY or even doing a puzzle or painting – functional training can help you do that.
Bending down to pick up a child requires either a hinge, squat or lunging motion (or a combination of these) accompanied by a pull. If you’re hunched over a puzzle for hours on end then you need to have the strength and mobility in the shoulders and neck to counteract all that weight pulling your neck forward, this can be achieved through specific functional movements.
The positions we tend to hold our bodies in (oftentimes keeping them very static for long periods of time) has a huge impact on the health of both our bodies and our minds. This can be demonstrated by looking at the way our shoulders tend to roll forward and up towards our ears, due to everything in our lives being so forward-facing.
In our classes, we use functional exercises to teach you how to create that mind-body connection. In turn, strengthening and engaging the muscles that pull your shoulders down and together. This mind-body connection then leads you to become more aware of how your daily habits are impeding the efficiency of your body to perform what it needs to.
In looking at the impact this plays on your mental health, let’s take a look at some of the symptoms associated with the body language of someone who has anxiety or depression. When depressed, our heads go down (much like they do whilst looking at a phone screen) and the front of the body tends to close off. An anxious person tends to hold a lot of tension in their shoulders, closing off the chest and the heart. These symptoms align with the symptoms of our “modern” deskbound lifestyle.
AgeUK lists arthritis, dementia, depression and anxiety, high blood pressure and osteoporosis among the common conditions that affect the elderly.
Keeping active with regular exercise has been proven to reduce the risk of these conditions. In particular resistance training, be it bodyweight or free weight, lowers the impact of osteoporosis. This is because when you take part in resistance training the tendons pull on the bones, which leads to the bones strengthening in response to this. The stronger and denser a bone is, the less likely it will be to break (in the event of a fall for example).
Another contributing factor to the falls that elderly people are prone to, is a reduction in proprioceptive functioning (balance and awareness). Functional training is the bedrock of any resistance training, where the nervous system fires up and that proprioceptive functioning is grooved into the body.
When training functional fitness it is of vital importance to be moving mindfully, trying to create as much of a mind-body connection as possible. By placing your awareness into the muscle groups that need to fire up you should be able to keep the movement effective and efficient. If this is done regularly then the likelihood of you becoming a burden on your peers
So if a good mind-body connection during functional training can help reduce the risk of common health conditions in the elderly, surely that should apply to the younger generation too, right?
This is certainly true and even more so when you are aware of the form with which you are performing each exercise. In our classes we get our members to perform accessory exercises that will teach them to engage specific muscles, e.g. external rotators of the hip through clamshell exercises.
With this knowledge and kinesthetic learning, they can then create external rotation while performing a squat, which will reduce their chance of getting knee pain from excessive knee caving.
The more aware you are of how you are moving your body, the easier it is to address muscle imbalances which tend to lead to many musculoskeletal injuries.
“Form follows function”Louis Sullivan (1856–1924)
If we think of our bodies as temples, then architect Louis Sullivan’s aforementioned quote translates quite beautifully and poetically to the way we train our bodies.
You may not necessarily think of your body as a temple at present but it’s the only one you’ve got to take you through life and the human experience. Does it not make sense then to train in a way that will reduce the risk of injury, allow you to build resilience into old age, complement your deskbound lifestyle and allow you to continue making the memories you’ll hold dear to your heart?
There are literally hundreds of benefits of functional exercise but these are our top 5 reasons you should be training functionally!
Functional training comes in many forms, shapes sizes and complexities. It can range from bodyweight training to using advanced equipment. Its offered by all sorts of gyms, trainers and online platforms. It can be done in the comfort of your own home or in the beautiful outdoors.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter what form of functional training you choose to do. From tai chi to CrossFit or even an RGF class, find a version you love and stick to it.
Functional training is training for life!