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Benefits Functional Fitness Training 

Functional exercises tend to be multi joint, multi muscle exercises. Instead of only moving the elbows, for example, a functional exercise might involve the elbows, shoulders, spine, hips, knees and ankles. This type of training, properly applied, can make everyday activities easier, 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.

Functional fitness may be among the latest buzzwords in gyms these days, but for good reason. It’s about training your body to handle real-life situations.

Yesterday you had a great workout at the gym. You’re bench-pressing more weight than ever before, and pulling enough weight on the seated rowing machine to try out for the Olympic sculling team.

Today, you lift a 60-pound suitcase to carry it downstairs — and throw your back out. What happened? In all likelihood, you’re not paying enough attention to your functional fitness. You might be toned, tight, and ready for the beach, but are you ready to lift your toddler out of his car seat or hoist the spring-water bottle onto the dispenser?

Functional fitness and functional exercise are the latest gym buzzwords. They focus on building a body capable of doing real-life activities in real-life positions, not just lifting a certain amount of weight in an idealized posture created by a gym machine.

Medicine ball squat with overhead lift

Functionality: Even though you lift your kids and groceries with your arms, 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 apart, holding a light medicine ball in front of you in both hands. Squat down, moving your rear back and keeping your knees over your ankles, and lower the medicine ball to the floor, keeping your head up and back straight (don’t hunch). Return to the start position, and lift the medicine ball over your head. Repeat the squat, and lower ball to the ground. Perform three sets of 10 repetitions. Increase the weight of the ball as you get stronger.

Components of a functional exercise program

To be effective, a functional exercise program should include a number of different elements which can be adapted to an individual’s needs or goals:

  • Based on functional tasks directed toward everyday life activities.
  • Individualized – a training program should be tailored to each individual. Any program must be specific to the goals of an individual, focusing on meaningful tasks. It must also be specific to the individual state of health, including presence or history of injury. An assessment should be performed to help guide exercise selection and training load.
  • Integrated – It should include a variety of exercises that work on flexibility, core, balance, strength and power, focusing on multiple movement planes.
  • Progressive – Progressive training steadily increases the difficulty of the task.
  • Per-iodized – mainly by training with distributed practice and varying the tasks.
  • Repeated frequently.
  • Use of real life object manipulation.
  • Performed in context-specific environments.
  • Feedback should be incorporated following performance (self-feedback of success is used as well as trainer/therapist feedback).