Your workout should benefit your entire life, not just your gym life.
Here’s why functional fitness could be better for you than traditional exercise.
Have you ever stopped to think about how fitness affects your daily life?
We don’t mean how it fits into your schedule, but how physical fitness can improve your ability to carry groceries in from the car or give your kids a piggy back ride.
For many people, going to the gym is a way to either a) look better in a swimsuit or b) make going to the gym easier (“Wow, I was only able to lift 30 lbs. when I first started working out…now I can lift 90!”). But if you’ve been judging your physical fitness by how easy it is to complete your workout routine, you’re missing a vital piece of the puzzle.
Instead, there’s a LOT to be gained through functional fitness.
What Is Functional Fitness?
Why do you go to the gym?
Is it to build muscle? Lose weight? Lower your cholesterol? Perhaps you enjoy the rush of endorphins you get after a long run or the caloric burn that allows you to have a few cookies after dinner. Maybe you don’t go to the gym at all, claiming that you don’t have time, you’re healthy enough, and you don’t need to lose weight anyway, so what’s the point?
But we’re willing to bet there’s a part of your body that’s not as strong or as flexible as you’d like it to be.
Your back aches after a few minutes of playing with your kids. There’s a twinge in your elbow when you lift the groceries out of the car. You get winded walking up to your 4th floor apartment.
That’s where functional fitness can help.
What Exercises Should I Do?
Functional fitness refers to any exercise that prepares you for your everyday life. As such, it focuses on whole body movements rather than one specific area.
Not to say that some exercises cannot be considered a “functional” exercise. For example, squats can prepare you for lifting your kids or carrying heavy boxes. Downward Facing Dog (for you yogis out there!) helps prepare you for bending over and getting up during your daily routines. You can even add some small hand weights to increase your endurance during these movements.
It’s less about following a specific string of exercises and more about how you want your body to feel. That’s why it’s so hard to find an effective functional fitness workout routine online; everyone’s goals are different.
It’s Not Just For “Rookies”
In addition to strengthening your muscles, it can help prevent injuries as well as improve joint flexibility, balance, and posture.
You might be thinking to yourself, “I can deadlift hundreds of pounds. I’m fine.” But it’s not that simple. Being able to lift a heavy weight on a machine is not the same as being able to move that same amount of weight with ease in a three-dimensional space.
In other words, just because you can bench press 100 lbs. doesn’t mean you can twist a duffel bag over your shoulder without throwing your back out. If you’ve been training in functional fitness, you’ll have been using all those joints and muscles, so they won’t sprain as easily.
“Well, I practice yoga. Flexibility is the whole point. I can even do a lotus in a tripod headstand!” Great, but are you using any type of resistance your yoga routines? If the answer is “no,” functional fitness can definitely help so that you don’t pull a muscle when picking up your kids or when the dog yanks the leash.
This type of fitness is low impact as well so even if you’ve got sore joints (after direction from your doctor) functional exercises can help improve that!
Think of it this way, humans were actually made for functional fitness. Think of our ancient ancestors running around killing mammoths and picking berries. Their bodies were adapted for survival; yours is, too! Functional fitness is how your body reaches its optimal level of performance.
How Do I Start?
As with all types of fitness, functional training is something you’ll need to ease into. If your body isn’t accustomed to a certain exercise, it will take time to build up enough strength so that you don’t injure yourself.
Like we mentioned earlier, it is difficult to recommend a specific workout routine without understanding your unique lifestyle and your goals. In general, however, we recommend free weights and body weight exercises over machines.
Weight machines force your body to only move on a certain path. As a result, your muscles only get better at moving in that specific direction. Free weights allow your body to move more freely.
If you’d like to get started, here’s a list of exercises that will benefit just about anyone. And if you’ve already been going to the gym for months or years? Great! You’ve got the foundation in place. But you may need a personal trainer to point you towards the movements that can bridge the gap between your current fitness level and your goals.
As always, please check with your doctor before starting any physical fitness routine.
The goal of functional fitness is to train your body—not for the gym or the beach—but for the life you’re already living. As the name suggests, it makes it easier for your body to function.
At Ludus, our focus is to help you obtain your goals by keeping a positive outlook and winning mindset. If you’re not as fit as you’d like to be, don’t fret. We are a “no-judgment” zone. We want you to feel your best and will celebrate your triumphs and help you through the plateaus.
Whether your goal is to lower the risk of injuries (back strain, neck issues, shoulders, etc.), improve flexibility, or just make housework a little easier, contact Ludus Actius to start your functional fitness journey.