Functional fitness is about exactly what it says ‘function.’
It’s not enough to train your muscles just to look good. A complete fitness and weight training program should focus on the esthetic you want to achieve along with the goal of making you practically, usefully strong in all the athletic movements that life requires.
This is part of not only strength training, but essential to preparing and conditioning your body for lifelong health, not just temporary appearance.
Of course, if you’re spending the time in the gym, you want to look good too. So the suggestion here is not to change your entire routine around, but to incorporate some key functional fitness oriented exercises into your regimen. This way you
Much of the physical appearance of modern body builders is achieved through heavy emphasis on isolating particular muscle groups. However, in the real world, rarely are your muscles called on by any kind of danger or unexpected situation to lift a specific amount of weight in a controlled fashion.
You might be able to leg press 200 pounds, but if a 200-pound boulder were rolling at your Ferrari, could you stop it?
However, functional strength is not just about extreme situations either, it’s about preventing injury and keeping you in the fight. If you’ve been training your arms like a madman and have excellent striation and huge peaks on your biceps, it’s not going to help you when you slip on ice, if you haven’t been working your core.
Functional fitness trains your body to produce an athletic response to unexpected situations that require one. Meanwhile, this training also makes everyday bodily movements like lifting boxes or carrying a child easier, and reduces your risk of unexpected injury.
The following exercises are geared around the ultimate goals of functional strength training, which are: work multiple muscle groups and joints to develop endurance, full body strength, coordination, balance, and athleticism.
This one shouldn’t come as a shocker. The whole “life with your knees,” adage is illustrated perfectly through the deadlift. The real-life application is of course, pretty much everything big or heavy you’ll ever pick up. Also, if you need better instruction check out how to deadlift.
Remember to keep your chest tall, stick, out your butt and focus your eyes on the ground about 7 ft in front of you. a weighted kettlebell swing can replace the deadlift, and add the above the weight part of the movement to get the best shoulder workout.
The deadlift is always to be approached with respect, especially when you’re new to the move. Always begin by warming up with just the bar and working the motion until your muscle memory is engaged. While the stability built by a strong deadlift can be highly preventative of other injuries, slacking on your deadlift form can be highly destructive.
#2 Power Clean
The power clean is another excellent, core strength oriented move, the real world application of which is jumping and getting up, but most importantly, the explosive upward motion. Remember to focus on the exploding of the weight upward and catching it across your upper chest, forming a soft landing with your upturned palms. Allow a slight bend in your knees as you catch weight with a soft landing. You can easily replace this with a squat jump if weights aren’t available to you.
Remember to focus on the exploding of the weight upward and catching it across your upper chest, forming a soft landing with your upturned palms. Allow a slight bend in your knees as you catch weight with a soft landing. You can easily replace this with a squat jump if weights aren’t available to you. If you want to check out an online video check out how to power clean.
#3 Overhead Dumbbell Press
Building strength above your head can improve your ability in some unbalanced situations—think action movie, hero holds up collapsing mine cavern while others escape. The reason we suggest using dumbbells is for the additional strain on your stabilizer muscles involved in balancing the individual weights. Having stability while you are applying force upward above the shoulders requires a strong foundation.
For isolating the shoulders, a seated press might be suitable, but for developing a solid core, you can benefit from the added stabilization required to perform the movement standing. Remember that you’ll need to begin each set by cleaning the weight up to your shoulders, but be sure to maintain that slight bend in your knees for the duration of the lift. If you need to use a bit of an additional pop to complete a repetition,
If you need to use a bit of an additional pop to complete a repetition, keep a tight core, knees just slightly bent, and use the elasticity in your muscles. Dip slightly into the bend of your knees and explode upward.
#4 Front Squat
Much of the argument favoring front squat over back squat for its functional application is related to athletics, where weight or force would generally applied to the front of the body. The back squat is a perfectly suitable exercise for developing strong squatting technique. Both will produce increases in strength and balance while your body is in a low, contracted center of gravity at the bottom of the squat position, and power through the upward motion.
The Front Squat will also assist you in gaining more muscular legs .
A key tip to building strength and proper form is spending a few minutes warming up your body by sitting down deep into your squat. Use a bar or post to stabilize yourself as needed so that you can open up your hips as much as possible and sway side to side, loosening up and understanding your balance in this position, and where it changes as you ascend, keeping your chest tall, knees out. Developing flexibility in the bottom of this move will payoff dividends in strength gains through the whole motion.
Developing flexibility in the bottom of this move will pay off dividends in strength gains through the whole motion.
#5 Pull up
The pull up’s useful real world application can best be illustrated by those scenes in movies where the hero is hanging by one arm off the side of a building and pulls himself up. It turns out this is actually pretty tough in real life.
While you may not be getting ready to meet the physical demands facing today’s action hero, being able to pull and control your body weight with the strength of your back and upper arms is a critical element to overall strength.
If you’re not ready to complete a pull-up or chin-up, use negative hangs until failure until you can complete a repetition. Even if you can only perform a single repetition, step up and do one single rep until you can’t.
One excellent and challenging substitution for the pull up, is finding a rock climbing gym. This may not be an option for some readers, but there are major physical varying demands of rock climbing presented in the closed environment of a rock gym.
By incorporating functional fitness movements into your existing fitness and strength training program, you are getting more out of your training. You are incorporating a concern for your overall useful strength and preparing your body for all the rigors of daily life.
This is key to injury prevention and to building a complete body that is strong both in appearance and in practice. Try adding some of these moves to your existing routines, or if they’re already a part of your workouts, focus extra time and energy on developing strength in these areas.
Remember, the gym is not just about getting huge, it’s about extending your athletic years as long as possible, preventing injury, building overall strength, balance and a healthy body, both inside and out. When you incorporate function and esthetic, you can enjoy the confidence of looking and feeling healthy, and be prepared for all the curve balls that life might throw your way.
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