Functional Fitness: Just a fad?
Fitness trends change almost as fast as a Forever 21 storefront window and the last few years the use of the phrase “functional fitness” has rivaled the popularity of skinny jeans. However, unlike skinny jeans, (I’d much rather wear these bell bottoms even if they are high waisted) functional fitness is here to stay like the little black dress. Why? It’s how humans were designed to move, unencumbered, in different planes of motion.
So what is functional fitness? In a nutshell, functional fitness is working out in a way that resembles normal everyday activities. You train in such in a way that makes cleaning out the garage, moving boxes, unloading groceries, and sprinting after a toddler easier.
Unfortunately, the machines that take up the majority of your average gym floor just don’t do the same. Unlike traditional weight training (training body parts separately), functional training doesn’t isolate body movements and trains the body as a whole. Isolated movements like hamstring curls don’t often mimic real life situations. Most strength training machines isolate muscles in a controlled way using seats and back rests to stabilize and support. Have you have had muscular assistance in the form of a back rest or seat when wrangling a tantrum throwing toddler? Or how often do you “curl” that heavy bag of dog food you just bought at Costco up into the car? If you do please make sure to kiss your bicep and wink for me. ;-) Hopefully, you are squatting down or “dead lifting” it up into the car.
Functional training most often involves standing on your feet while supporting and stabalizing all your body weight on your own without the help of a machine. (Strong “core” anyone?) Functional training works the body as a whole and as a result balance, coordination, flexibility, power, agility, and strength improve. That way when it’s time to hoist that heavy carry on bag (that you didn’t want to pay to check in) into the overhead bin on an airplane you won’t throw out your back.
For fun, I put together a series of photos that show some real life activities I’ve encountered over the last few months and a functional training exercise similar to the real life movement.
Battling a rug.
Battling a rope.
Lifting a paint can off the floor.
(This is when I actually came up with the idea for this post as I was
almost falling on my face lifting the can I thought, “hey I’m doing a single leg dead lift”.)
Contralateral Single Leg Deadlift with Kettlebell
Stepping Up a Ladder with a Paint Can
Steps Ups with A Kettlebell
Squatting to Open a Paint Can
Carrying a heavy filing cabinet.
Double Kettlebell Rack Walk
Putting Away a Very Heavy Camera Case
Shaking a Paint Can
Kettlebell Hot Potato
Certainly, kettlebells are NOT the only functional fitness tool around.
There are many but they just happen to be my favorite.
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