How Functional Fitness Change Your Life – Plus 4 Exercises to Try Today!

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If you’ve ever wondered why your workout leaves you with overly achy muscles, sprained joints, and strength in all the wrong places, then you’re not alone. Pumping iron or running for miles on the treadmill may seem like great ways to burn calories, but how helpful are those activities in our real lives?

For most of us, the true test of our strength comes in moments throughout our daily lives. We pick up heavy bags of groceries, reach for items on top shelves, dart after our kids on the playground, and climb stairs at the office. If your hours at the gym still aren’t helping you develop strength and stamina for everyday requirements, then it’s time to opt for a new functional fitness routine.

What is “functional fitness”? The idea behind this style of fitness training is that your workouts should improve your daily life. The activities mimic everyday activities (like squatting to pick up grocery bags), thus preparing your muscles to undertake tasks with increased strength and flexibility.

As Rob Kram, National Director of Fitness Education and Development at Sports Club/LA, explains:

It is important that anyone engaging in a functional training program consider the movements they incorporate in their daily lives. For example, functional training for a golfer may include medicine ball twists with a weighted ball that trains trunk rotation. This specificity with your biomechanics recreate what is happening during a golf swing helping create the neuromuscular pathways needed for improved efficiency and the resulting performance enhancement.

Benefits of functional fitness:

  • Exercises help you develop strength and stamina for everyday activities
  • Exercises engage multiple muscle groups and joints, which reduces the risk of injury
  • Workouts are safe and particularly helpful for seniors and people with a history of injuries and joint pain
  • Exercises promote balance and flexibility, along with strength

Examples of functional fitness exercises:

1. Squat to bicep curl: For help lifting your children, the laundry basket or a grocery bag

Start with your feet hip-width apart, back straight, core engaged. Holding dumbbells at your side, slowly bend your knees and lower your body until your knees reach a 90-degree angle. As you return to standing, turn your palms facing up and curl the dumbbells in toward your shoulders.

2. Stair climb with bicep curl: For strength and balance while climbing stairs (especially while carrying a load)

Start at the bottom of a staircase with a dumbbell in each hand. As you ascend the stairs, slowly curl weights in toward your shoulders. Walk or run down the stairs with dumbbells at your side (not doing curls), and repeat 5-10 times.

3. Multidirectional lunges: For strength and flexibility while vacuuming or doing yardwork

Begin standing straight. Keeping one leg in place, extend the other leg forward, to the side, or behind until your knee reaches a 90-degree angle. Your stationary leg should be fairly straight with the knee parallel to the ground. Repeat on both sides.

4. Diagonal reach with weights: For help reaching up in the cupboard or closet

You can use either hand weights or a medicine ball for this. Start in a standing position holding the medicine ball in your hands at chest level. Lift the ball above your head and to the right, extending your arms entirely. Simultaneously extend your left leg to the side. Your body should be in a diagonal line from toes to medicine ball. Return to start position and repeat 10-15 times on each side.

Perform these functional fitness activities every day or several times a week, and begin to notice your strength, balance, stamina, and flexibility increasing in your daily life!

What are your favorite functional fitness exercises? Let us know in the comments section below!

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SPortsClubLA2012This summer, Intent and Sports Club/LA are teaming up to host a worldwide fitness challenge – The July Games. By participating in the July challenge, you’ll join thousands of people around the world in setting a collective intent to get stronger and healthier this summer. The July Games include seven fitness “events” you can do to build your strength, endurance, and stamina throughout the month of July.

Read about the challenge and each event here.

If you’re unable to get to your health club, or don’t have prior fitness experience, you can still participate. Simply set your intents for each event, get support from your community on Intent.com, and update your progress throughout the month.

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