Functional Fitness: Training For Life
A recent article from the New York Times elaborated on why incorporating functional fitness into your workout routine may have advantages over traditional training. It opens up by saying, “What good is having the sexiest biceps in town if you cant scramble up subway steps with ease, run for a bus without knee pain, or lift a toddler without wrenching your back?” (New York Times, p. 1). Essentially, the article is explaining how although performing 3 sets of 10 curls on a machine may make your biceps stronger, isolating muscle groups via single-joint exercises will not help you much with everyday activities compared to performing full body, multi-joint exercises. Think about it - how often do you only use your biceps to do any type of daily movement?
Now let’s compare that to a medicine ball squat into push press on an unbalanced surface. With this exercise, there is movement through the ankle, knee, hip, shoulder, and elbow joints - not to mention the utilization of your core as well as the neuromuscular control it takes to balance on an unstable surface. Compare this to bending down to pick up a toddler on, say, a trampoline. See the similarities? In short, functional fitness training prepares you for life. Rather than isolating and training your muscles separately, functional training teaches your muscles to work in an integrated way. Your body is meant to be in synergy, working collectively as a team - so why not train it as such?
You may be wondering, what exactly does functional fitness entail? Essentially, any exercise that involves free weights or body weight, uses a multi-joint approach, and somewhat resembles a typical daily activity can be considered a functional exercise. Compared to using machines that isolate single muscle groups, body weight or free weights are often used as a method of forcing your body’s synergist and stabilizing muscles to fire while performing the given movement; the more muscles that are activated throughout the workout, the more strength you build and calories you burn. Therefore, functional fitness not only teaches you how to move, but can also be conducive to both weight loss and significant strength gains.
Lastly, because there are hundreds of different exercises as well as hundreds of different ways to design these types of workouts, functional training can be less methodical and more stimulating in nature. This helps to mitigate the boredom that is often associated with workout routines. And, perhaps most importantly, it’s simply more fun.
To view the full article by the New York Times, click on the link below!
Stephanie Spoto, Personal Trainer