3 Things You Should Know About Functional Fitness and How To Get Started
Functional fitness is one of the biggest buzz words in the fitness world today. Yet most people have no idea what it actually means or why they should care. But you should care because training for functional fitness helps provide strength, stability and mobility needed to excel in both everyday activities, work productivity and sports.
Here are 3 things you should know and how you can get started with functional fitness.
“No citizen has a right to be an amateur in the mater of physical training…what a disgrace it is to grow old without ever seeing the beauty and strength of which his/her body is capable.” – Socrates
#1: Movement Continuum
Functional fitness, is best thought of in terms of a movement continuum. That continuum revolves around the basic movement patterns – push, pull, squat, lunge, jump, etc – within the 3 movement planes – sagital, frontal and transverse.
This continuum doesn’t always have to be put into neat little boxes either. Functional fitness allows the user, that’s you, to blend different movement patterns and plans together. But that’s more for another post, for now let’s keep it simple.
#2: Exercise Selection
The second thing that needs to be understood is that training for functionality, versus pure aesthetics, is all about selecting exercises based on that continuum while adjusting different variables of stress such as external resistance, intensity and volume in order to improve the ability to perform given tasks with more ease and less risk of injury.
#3: Multiple Muscle Groups
Functional fitness aims to improve the coordinated efforts of multiple muscle groups, energy systems and neuromuscular connectivity – your brain to muscle connection – in order to achieve certain tasks under certain conditions. This includes everything from being able to hold a deep squat while pulling weeds to a firefighter being able to drag a heavy load under stressful conditions.
How To Get Started
It’s easy to understand now, that functional fitness is important to everyone from athletes to grandparents. But how does one get started.
The obvious solution would be to seek out a coach or a workout group that focuses on functional training aspects and methods – Hi, I’m Coach Joe and I teach functional fitness! But if you’re wanting to trek down the yellow brick road solo, here are some things to consider when building your workouts.
This is one of the first things to consider when building workouts and is simply done by prioritizing the movement patterns you want to strengthen. Take the squatting gardener for example, being able to squat and pull safely would be their top priority.
Like mentioned above, neuromuscular connectivity to motion is just as important to strengthening movement patterns as training the muscles themselves. Think whole motions, not isolated muscle groups. For instance, lunges vs leg extensions or push ups vs chest flyes.
The Transfer Effect
Another thing to consider is what we call “the transfer effect”. This is the amount the exercise transfers into your daily activities or sport of choice. For example, a bicep curl has a low transfer effect since it isolates specific muscles around the elbow. The deadlift on the other hand, has a higher transfer effect since it strengthens the entire posterior chain and reinforces the movement of picking up objects from the floor.
The best way to gauge the transfer effect of an exercise is to consider different aspects. The movement pattern it strengthens, range of motion, coordination and muscle group recruitment to name a few. Don’t throw out this low-ranked exercises yet though. They can play a big role in strengthening “weak links” in the bigger movement patterns.
The last thing to think about is the variables of which you need to train for. Some of those variables include the intensity, duration and the external resistance. Directly matching the variables is not always necessary either. In fact having higher external resistance while training can be beneficial. This is because your body will adapt to a load that surpasses the normal amount of resistance faced in your activity or sport.
Before you go
One last thing I need to mention before you go, functional fitness is not the end-all-be-all. Instead, consider this as another method to be added your arsenal. When in doubt, reach out to a certified coach who can help you apply functional fitness to your workouts.
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