Okay, so you’re doing great at the gym, bench pressing enough weight to turn the girls’ heads, and running the mile on the indoor track without even getting winded. Sounds pretty good so far, right? That is until you try to pick up a loaded suitcase and end up throwing your back out, or climbing a set of stairs and ending up winded. How did that happen? Is your athletic and fitness prowess only confined to the gym setting?
The Functional Fitness Model
Functional fitness is one of the latest innovations in exercise and fitness circles. It is an exercise program designed to build a body capable of handling everyday stress as opposed to very controlled circumstances within the gym environment. After all, we all have to deal with real life, but far fewer of us will be weight lifting bodybuilder superstar types.
Most weight training programs do a very good job at isolating and working on muscle groups, but are less successful when it comes to teaching the muscle groups how to properly interact with each other. Providing for them to work together allows the user to be able to better integrate his training into everyday activities.
So what is a functional exercise? It is basically any exercise that is designed to emulate and accentuate an activity that you perform as a par tof your daily routine. A bent-over row that you would normally do on a seated machine is different from a functional bent-over row. The idea is to get the muscles of the back, shoulders, and arms to properly exercise the whole body. This would benefit nurses who bend over patients, auto mechanics bending over to access a car engine, or a carpenter bending over the wood he is working on.
Most seated row exercises involve the pulling of two levers, which may strengthen back muscles, but do little for other areas. Functional fitness techniques often involve standing on your own two feet and supporting your own weight when lifting, as oppose to the use of chest pads or other resistance pieces. In fact, many functional fitness exercises forego weights completely at first.
The Functional Fitness Benefit
The first step is to get the body to control its own weight, starting with simple movements like a one legged squat and switching off sides from time to time. Once you learn to balance and control the weight of your body, you can progress to more advanced routines, working with added weights and other elements designed to boost control and stamina.
Of course functional fitness doesn’t mean that you completely abandon the gym projects, because sometimes the isolation of certain muscle groups can prove beneficial, specifically if one is weak and needs to be targeted for a period of time. Making sure all the groups are sufficiently strong allows them to work together in unison, which allows you to be better able to function efficiently in everyday situations.