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Functional Fitness Training for Everyday Health

What is functional training?


If you’re looking for the best type of workout to benefit your everyday activities, and to keep you active and agile for years to come, you may want to give functional fitness training a try. Here’s the what, why, and how to get started.

What is functional fitness training?

Functional fitness refers to exercises that mimic everyday actions—for example, lifting a child out of a car seat or squatting down to pick something up off the floor. Typically, functional fitness workouts emphasize core stability and may incorporate balance, strength, multi-directional movements, and plyometrics. Many functional fitness movements rely solely on bodyweight, while others include dumbbells, kettlebells, medicine balls, and other gear.


Why should I try functional fitness training?

Think about everything you do that requires some combination of strength, flexibility, and coordination. Things like getting out of bed, walking up flights of stairs, carrying heavy grocery bags, and reaching for items on a high shelf. Or perhaps pushing open a heavy door or lunging to tie your shoe.

Whether you realize it or not, your everyday activities involve all sorts of compound movements—movements that utilize multiple muscle groups. Functional fitness training is a way to target these types of compound movements to help make your everyday activities easier, safer, and more efficient. With a focus on functional fitness, you’ll become stronger in your day-to-day activities, and in turn, you’ll be less likely to suffer injuries like sprains and strains. This type of training will serve you well now and help keep you fit, active, and independent later in life.


How can I incorporate functional fitness into my training routine?


You’re probably already familiar with many functional fitness movements. These are compound exercises like squats, lunges, and push-ups (in comparison to isolation exercises like leg extensions and biceps curls). Squats, for example, primarily target the quadriceps, but they also recruit the hamstrings, glutes, calves, and core muscles.


It’s easy to understand how these compound exercises are the most similar to our everyday activities. Isolation exercises have their place, but our normal movements nearly always rely on multiple muscle groups. For similar reasons, functional fitness exercises are generally performed with body weight, free weights, cables/cords, or other props instead of on weight machines that isolate individual muscles.


You can incorporate functional fitness into your workout in any way you like. Mix up your gym time with a combination of compound and isolation exercises, or do a HIIT circuit focused on functional movements and cardio. Chances are, you may already be training with some functional movements. Here are several of the most common:


  • Glute Bridge

  • Squat

  • Goblet Squat

  • Front Squat

  • Split Squat

  • Lunge

  • Lateral Lunge

  • Reverse Lunge

  • Reverse Lunge with Rotation

  • Low Planks

  • High Plank

  • Side Plank

  • Woodchop

  • Renegade Row

  • Single-Leg Dumbbell Row

  • Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

  • Burpee

  • Pushup


Now that you understand what functional fitness is and why it’s important, you can ensure it becomes a part of your regular fitness routine. And if you’re already doing plenty of functional fitness movements, you’ll have a better understanding of why they’re critical and the ways in which they benefit your everyday life.

Here’s to staying fit and feeling good, both in and out of the gym!

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