The goal of functional fitness is to develop greater strength, balance, coordination and endurance through exercises that mimic everyday activities and movements you do in real life and sports.
Conventional training on weight machines often isolates muscle groups, but it doesn’t teach the muscle groups to work with others. Functional fitness is about teaching all the muscles to work together rather than isolating them to work independently. Additionally, functional exercises tend to be multi-joint, multi-muscle movements, which mean they are forcing your whole body to work out, to boost your muscular balance and whole body performance – and help you get your body results you are aiming for.
Try these three exercises and let me know how your body feels.
1. Medicine ball squat with overhead lift
Functionality: Even though you lift things with your arms like groceries, your kids, and other objects, your legs and back are also key players. This exercise strengthens your legs, glutes, lower back, arms and shoulders.
Exercise: Stand with your feet wide, holding a light medicine ball in front of you in both hands. Squat down, keeping your knees over your ankles and lower the medicine ball to the floor while keeping your head up and back straight (don't hunch). Return to a start position and lift the medicine ball up over your head. Repeat squat and lower ball to the ground. Perform three sets of 10 repetitions. Increase weight of the ball as you get stronger.
2. Push-up with hip extension
Functionality: This exercise strengthens your chest, shoulder and arm muscles (primarily triceps) as well as your core muscles and glutes.
Exercise: Get on your hands and knees, hands wider than shoulder-distance apart. Extend your right leg straight back and pull your belly button up towards your spine, tightening your core muscles. Keeping your leg lifted, lower your chest to the ground until each of your elbows is at a 90-degree angle then push up. Repeat 10 to 15 times for each leg. As you get stronger, increase the angle of your hips, increasing the distance of your knees from your hands. Eventually perform exercise with straight legs, one leg lifted, the other positioned on your toes.
3. Torso rotation with medicine ball
Functionality: Having strong obliques is key in avoiding lower back injuries. This exercise improves the strength and coordination of all of your core muscles — and will improve your tone and tighten your waist.
Exercise: Sit on the ground with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, holding a medicine ball at your chest with both hands. Lean your torso back away from your thighs, increasing the angle at your hips and pulling your belly button in towards your spine. While maintaining your hip angle, rotate your torso to the right, moving your right elbow towards the floor behind you. Return to centre and rotate to the left. Repeat 10 to 15 times for each side. As you get stronger, perform the rotations with straighter arms and/or use a heavier medicine ball. Always keep your belly button pulled in.
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