A few sets on the leg-press machine will build muscle and boost your heart rate. But if you want to catch that train or get off of the couch without grunting, you also need to perform exercises that mimic those motions.
Functional fitness is all about improving your performance in daily life. While most people perform traditional fitness training to tone up, slim down, or improve their cardiovascular health, functional training involves more than just strength or cardio training.
Often performed with free weights, cable machines, and exercise balls, as well as in bodyweight workouts, functional exercises challenge multiple muscles and joints at once and move across all three dimensions (think: up and down, forwards and backwards, and side to side), just like you do during the course of your day. By doing so, they train you for the movements that you perform outside of the gym. However, it’s important to note that the exercises that are functional for a tennis player differ from those that are functional for a marathon runner, cyclist, or an elderly person who wants to maintain his mobility. Every functional workout should be individual and help you reach your goals both in and out of the gym.
However, while a fitter physique and lower body fat percentage aren’t goals of functional training, they are definitely among the results. Large compound movements are able to torch more calories and spur greater muscle growth than are isolation exercises—and in less time. Plus, by requiring large areas of the body, or sometimes even the entire body, to work together to perform a single move, functional exercisers work your small, stabilizer muscles. Strengthening these muscles wards off sports injuries by reducing muscular imbalances, he says.
Bonus: Functional exercises are just fun. Functional exercises, by involving more dimensional exercisers, tend to be engaging. Plus, even if you do enjoy traditional weight-lifting or cardio sessions, functional training exercises can also be a great addition to your routine, and can even help break down weight loss and strength plateaus.
Ready to up your workout’s functionality factor? Try adding these three functional movements, courtesy of Technogym’s ARKE, KINESIS, and OMNIA lines, into your exercise routine:
Reverse Lunge with Overhead Lift - ARKE Medicine Ball
This exercise opens the hips, and lengthens the hip flexors, which have the tendency to shorten when inactive and this effect will be increased by long hours of sitting with bent hips.
Hold the medicine ball in front of your pelvis with both hands, step your left foot back, and bend both knees to lower into a lunge. At the same time, raise the ball above your head, keeping your trunk straight and core engaged. Pause, then lower the ball, and press through your right heel to return to standing. That’s one rep.
Rotating Press – KINESIS Press
This exercise is unique to KINESIS, as the patented full-gravity system applies resistance against movement in all directions, including rotations, which the shoulder joint regularly performs in daily life.
Sit down on the KINESIS and grip the handles with both hands. Alternate pushing each handle forward in a continuous circular motion. To further engage your core, bring your back away from the seat and lean slightly forward.
Single-Leg Squat with Lift Band - OMNIA
Outside of the gym, we rarely put weight on both legs at the same time. When we are walking, running, or bending over, one leg is usually doing most of the work. This exercise loads one leg at a time, while challenging your balance and strengthening your stabilizer muscles.
Stand at the third line in front of the OMNIA’s lift band, resting the top of your left foot in the band. Drive your left arm forward, bend your knees, and lower your body until your hips are in line with your front knee. Your knee should not extend past your toes. Pause, then push back up to start. That’s one rep.