Blog Fitness Functional Fitness: What It Is And Why You Need To Practice It

Functional Fitness: What It Is And Why You Need To Practice It

Doing everyday tasks like carrying groceries or climbing stairs shouldn’t be hard. But with a busy lifestyle and many hours spent seated at a desk, these simple activities can become difficult. This is where functional fitness comes in. Functional fitness is a type of exercise that helps you improve your everyday movement patterns. It does this by working on your flexibility, strength, balance, and coordination (2). The goal of functional fitness is to make your body more efficient at performing daily tasks. While functional fitness can be beneficial for everyone, it is especially important for older adults. As we age, our bodies become less able to do the things we take for granted. This can lead to a decline in our overall health and quality of life. Curious how functional fitness can help you? Keep reading to learn more about what functional fitness is and the benefits it offers.

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What Are The Four Types Of Fitness?

There four main types of physical activity are (4):

  • Aerobic: This type of activity requires oxygen and works your heart and lungs. It’s a good way to stay fit and help reduce your risk of heart disease. Examples include walking, jogging, biking, and swimming.
  • Muscle-strengthening: This type of activity helps improve your muscle strength and help reduce your risk of falls and fractures. Activities like lifting weights, using resistance bands, and doing bodyweight exercises.
  • Balance: This type of activity helps improve your proprioception (your ability to sense where your body is in space) and reduce your risk of falls. Some of its examples are yoga, tai chi, and Pilates.
  • Flexibility: This type of activity helps improve your range of motion and reduce your risk of injuries. For example, stretching, foam rolling, and massage.

While all four types of physical activity are important for overall health, functional fitness focuses on the last three: muscle-strengthening, balance, and flexibility.

What Are The Benefits Of Functional Fitness?

There are many benefits to be gained from practicing functional fitness, including:

Improving Everyday Movement Patterns

By improving your movement patterns, you can make everyday activities easier. This is because functional fitness helps retrain your muscles to work together more efficiently (5).

See also
Powerlifting For Seniors For Added Strength: The Best Powerlifting Exercises For Seniors

For example, if you suffer from lower back pain, doing exercises that strengthen your core muscles can help improve your posture and alleviate some of the strain on your back.

functional fitness

Reducing The Risk Of Injury

Functional fitness can help reduce your risk of injury by improving your balance, flexibility, and coordination (1). This is because these exercises train your muscles to work together more effectively, which can help prevent imbalances that can lead to injuries.

Improving Sports Performance

If you’re an athlete, functional fitness can help improve your sports performance by enhancing your explosiveness, power, and agility (3). This is because functional exercises train your muscles to work together in a more coordinated way, which can translate into better athletic performance.

Read More: Can You Turn Fat Into Muscle By Lifting? Decrypting The Myths And Facts Of This Fitness Concept

What Are The Principles Of Functional Fitness?

The principles of functional fitness are:

1. Specificity

This principle states that your training should be specific to your goals. In other words, if you want to improve your running performance, you should focus on exercises that will help improve your running specifically.

2. Overload

This principle states that in order to see results from your training, you need to gradually increase the level of difficulty of your workouts. This can be done by increasing the weight you’re lifting, the number of repetitions you’re doing, or the length of time you’re working out.

3. Reversibility

This principle states that if you stop training, your results will quickly disappear. This is why it’s important to stick with your training program even when you’re seeing results to avoid losing the progress you’ve made.

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4. Individuality

This principle states that everyone is different and will respond to training differently. This means that you need to find a training program that works best for you, based on your own goals, abilities, and preferences.

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Gym Etiquette: 10 Plus Dos And Don'ts You Should Know About

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What Are The Components Of Functional Fitness?

The components of functional fitness are:

1. Cardiovascular Endurance

The ability of your heart and lungs to work together efficiently to supply oxygen to your muscles during extended periods of activity.

2. Muscular Endurance

The ability of your muscles to perform repeated contractions over an extended period without becoming fatigued.

3. Muscular Strength

The ability of your muscles to generate force in order to lift or move heavy objects.

4. Flexibility

The ability of your joints and muscles to move through their full range of motion without being restricted by stiffness or tightness.

5. Balance

The ability to maintain your center of gravity over your base of support without losing your balance.

Read More: Youth Fitness Activities And Their Benefits

functional fitness

What Is An Example Of A Functional Exercise?

An example of a functional exercise is the squat. The squat is an effective functional exercise because it trains your muscles to work together in a coordinated way, which can improve your balance, flexibility, and coordination. 

Additionally, the squat is an effective exercise for improving your cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength (6).

Perfecting this exercise can help with everyday activities such as getting in and out of a car or picking up something off the ground. 

Here is how you perform a squat:

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides.
  2. Lower your body down into a squatting position by bending at your knees and hips. Keep your back straight and your knees pointing in the same direction as your toes.
  3. Return to the starting position by straightening your legs and pushing through your heels.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
  5. Increase the difficulty of the exercise by holding a weight in your hands or wearing a weighted vest.
See also
Nordic Walking: Is This New Workout Craze Worth It? Benefits, Disadvantages And Risks

Other examples of functional exercises, and how to execute them:

functional fitness

Deadlifts

Deadlifts are a good functional exercise because they work a variety of muscle groups, including the muscles in your back, legs, and arms. Perfecting your technique can help improve your posture and prevent back pain. 

You’ll also be able to pick stuff off the ground with ease, move furniture and take your sleeping child to their bed without waking them up.

Here is how you perform a deadlift:

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides, holding a weight in front of your thighs with your palms facing your body.
  2. Bend at your knees and hips to lower your body down toward the weight, keeping your back straight and your knees pointing in the same direction as your toes.
  3. Grab the weight with both hands and lift it off the ground, standing up straight as you do so.
  4. Return to the starting position by lowering the weight back down to the ground and bending at your knees and hips.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Overhead Press

The overhead press is a functional exercise that works your shoulders, arms, and core muscles. Perfecting your technique can help improve your posture and prevent back pain. 

You’ll also be able to reach things on high shelves and open jars with ease. Other tasks like hoisting a suitcase into an overhead compartment on a plane will also be a breeze.

Here is how you perform an overhead press:

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and holding a barbell or two dumbbells in each hand.
  2. Raise the weights up to shoulder level with your palms facing forward.
  3. From here, press the weights overhead until your arms are straight.
  4. Lower the weights back down to shoulder level and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

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Compound Exercises For Weight Loss: Strength-Training For Weight Loss

functional fitness

Farmer’s Carry

This is one of the simplest, yet most effective, functional exercises. The farmer’s carry works your grip strength, arm muscles, and core muscles. It also improves your posture and can help prevent back pain. 

Carrying groceries or luggage will be a breeze after incorporating this exercise into your routine.

Here is how you perform a farmer’s carry:

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides.
  2. Bend down and grab a weight in each hand.
  3. Stand up tall and hold the weights at your sides, keeping your shoulders down and your core engaged.
  4. Walk forward for the desired distance or time, making sure to keep your shoulders down and your core engaged the entire time.
  5. Return to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

You can also increase the difficulty of this exercise by carrying heavier weights or walking uphill.

Plank

The plank is a great functional exercise for working your core muscles and improving your posture. Perfecting your technique can help prevent back pain and improve your balance

You’ll also be able to hold yourself in the proper position when performing other exercises like push-ups and pull-ups.

Here is how you perform a plank:

  1. Start by lying on your stomach with your feet shoulder-width apart and your palms flat on the ground in front of you.
  2. Raise yourself up onto your toes and forearms, keeping your body in a straight line from your head to your feet.
  3. Hold this position for the desired amount of time or until your form starts to break down.
  4. Lower yourself back down to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
  5. You can also increase the difficulty of this exercise by holding a weight in your hands or placing your feet on an unstable surface.
See also
The Best Stretching Techniques For Better Flexibility

functional fitness

Pull-Up

The pull-up is a great functional exercise for working your back, arm, and core muscles. Perfecting your technique can help improve your posture and prevent back pain. You’ll also be able to pull yourself up and over obstacles with ease.

Here is how you perform a pull-up:

  1. Start by hanging from a bar with your hands shoulder-width apart and your palms facing away from you.
  2. Use your back and arm muscles to pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar.
  3. Lower yourself back down to the starting position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
  4. You can also increase the difficulty of this exercise by adding weight to your body or using a narrower grip.

Step-Up

The step-up is a great functional exercise for working your leg muscles. Perfecting your technique can help improve your balance and coordination. You’ll also be able to climb stairs and hills with ease.

Here is how you perform a step-up:

  1. Start by standing in front of a bench or box with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Place your right foot on the bench and push yourself up with your left leg, bringing your right leg up to meet your left.
  3. Step back down with your right leg and repeat with your left leg.
  4. You can also increase the difficulty of this exercise by adding weight to your body or using a higher bench.

functional fitness

Is Functional Fitness The Same As CrossFit?

No, functional fitness is not the same as CrossFit. CrossFit is a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) program that combines functional movements with weightlifting, gymnastics, and cardio.

Functional fitness focuses on exercises that improve your ability to perform everyday activities. While both programs can improve your overall fitness, they are not the same.

Conclusion

Functional fitness is a type of training that focuses on improving your ability to perform everyday tasks with ease. Incorporating functional exercises into your routine can help improve your balance, coordination, and posture. It can also help prevent back pain and other injuries.

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DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. Effect of Functional Resistance Training on Muscular Fitness Outcomes in Young Adults (2010, sciencedirect.com)
  2. Effect of Functional Training on Physical Fitness Among Athletes: A Systematic Review (2021, frontiersin.org)
  3. Effects of Functional Training on Performance in Professional Basketball Players (2020, journalofsportsmedicine.org)
  4. Four Types of Exercise Can Improve Your Health and Physical Ability (2021, nia.nih.gov)
  5. Systematic review of functional training on muscle strength, physical functioning, and activities of daily living in older adults (2014, biomedcentral.com)
  6. The Muscles Used in Squats – Squat Biomechanics Explained (n.d., blog.nasm.org)
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