The Benefits of Functional Training
Do you get tired of switching between the same ten machines during your workout? Are you getting bored or not seeing results from your current strength training exercises? Try incorporating functional training exercises into your workout routine.
Functional training is a form of strength training which mimics movements you are already doing in everyday life – movements with which you may be starting to struggle, such as walking up stairs or getting up out of a chair.
For example, if you are struggling to walk up stairs, try doing step ups to help build the leg strength, as well as improve your balance. If you are having difficulties getting out of a chair or off a couch, place a bench behind you to mimic a seat and do repetitions of standing up and sitting down. You can also try using a TRX strap to help you balance while doing bodyweight squats in order to gain the leg strength needed to stand up from these seated positions. How’s your balance? If this is a troublesome area, exercise standing up and focus on balance, compensating for the added weight of a specific exercise. Try balancing on one leg during an exercise for added difficulty.
When doing functional exercises, you are not only working the primary muscle required for each movement, but also the muscles it takes to stabilize and balance weight. Weight machines stabilize the weight for you. As an added bonus, you’ll burn more calories due to the increased recruitment of muscles. Functional exercises get you up on your feet, whereas most other machines keep you seated. Because you are upright, you have the ability to work upper and lower body at the same time, burning more calories and being more efficient with time.
Functional exercises allow you to move the weight through your body’s natural movement pattern, compared to a machine which may put you in an uncomfortable or compromising position that may not be specific to your body. In a 2009 study which compared functional exercises to fixed training machines, it was found that the functional users received a 58 percent strength increase, a 196 percent balance improvement and a 30 percent decrease in joint pain compared to individuals who only used fixed training machines. The following are a few tips to help guide you when adding functional exercises into your strength training routine:
- Do exercises that require you to support yourself, when possible. This means doing exercises that require you to stand or not depend on another object to support yourself. This will help you mimic most real life exercises where you are not seated and will require you to balance and stabilize your body.
- Do compound, multi-joint exercises. As I mentioned earlier, this will help to mimic real life exercises that require more than just one muscle group and will help you burn more calories in the process.
- Use free weights as much as possible. This includes dumbbells, medicine balls, kettlebells, cables, etc. These items will help you to gain strength while also requiring you to stabilize and balance weight on your own.
If you have any questions or want to learn about a functional exercise to help you with a specific movement during your daily life, please contact one of the Fitness Professionals at Innovative Health & Fitness.