Functional Fitness; what is it and why should I be doing it?
If you’re a regular in our gym you may have heard trainers referring to areas of the gym as ‘functional areas’ reserved for performing exercises with functional equipment, but what does this mean?
Functional fitness exercises, train your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by simulating common movements you perform in everyday life at home, at work or in sports. These movements whilst using various muscles in the upper and lower body at the same time, also emphasize core stability.
For example, a squat is classed as a functional exercise because it trains the muscles used when you rise up and down from a chair or pick up low objects. By training your muscles to work the way they do in everyday tasks, you prepare your body to perform well in a variety of common situations.
Functional fitness exercises can be done at home or at the gym. For example, you can use resistance bands or dumbbells at home, or do body weight movements such as pushups, situps, planks and squats.
What are the benefits of functional fitness training?
Functional exercises tend to use multiple joints and numerous muscles. For example a lateral pull down would involve drawing the elbows down towards your hips whereas instead of only moving the elbows, a functional exercise might involve the elbows, shoulders, spine, hips, knees and ankles. This type of training, properly applied, can make everyday activities easier, help reduce your risk of injury and improve your quality of life.
Functional exercise training may be especially beneficial as part of a comprehensive program for older adults to improve balance, agility and muscle strength, and reduce the risk of falls.
Is functional fitness for everyone?
If you haven't exercised for some time or if you have health problems, it's a good idea to check with your doctor, and consult a gym trainer before starting any new exercise program. Similarly, if you're pregnant, check with your doctor and trainer. Moderate activity is generally safe during pregnancy if you're healthy, but your trainer can assess what's best for you.
It's also a good idea to start with body weight exercises. As you become fitter and ready for more of a challenge, you can add more resistance such as weights or resistance bands. But be careful not to add too much resistance to exercises that require high impact, as this places joints and soft tissues at more risk if these exercises aren't performed optimally. Performing movements in the water is a low impact way of achieving functional exercise.
The functional fitness payoff
As you add more functional exercises to your workout, you should see improvements in your strength, ability to perform your everyday activities and in your quality of life. That's quite a return on your exercise investment.
Where should I start?
If you’re fairly new to the gym, functional fitness might seem a little daunting, but as with all things in life, once you know how, it’s easy! Why not take full advantage of our one off FREE half hour PT sessions for all new members, or book yourself in for an EXR with our wonderful gym team, who will be delighted to show you the ropes.
Alternatively, if you’re looking to change up your routine, or add some functional circuits to your current training regime, make sure you check out our ‘Workout of the Week’ board located in the functional training area, for a fresh, exciting functional workout for every week of the year!