Over the years, we have witnessed a shift toward making training more functional, a concept originally used by physical therapists in rehabilitation exercises that mimic what patients did daily at home or work. This has proven to be highly beneficial so that patients can return to their lives or jobs after an injury or surgery.
Functional training simply means training our bodies to increase performance in the types of movements we use for everyday life that could be as simple as lifting shopping bags and picking up items from the floor or climbing a flight of stairs. The time spent developing functional strength, flexibility and agility carries over into your daily activities, making life that much easier.
This practical form of exercise consists of weight bearing activities, which may not even consist of weights, just movements to re-educate the body in what optimal movement is. Core muscles of the abdomen and lower back are targeted, as these muscles are crucial to proper posture we require in everyday life.
Better muscular balance and joint stability is one key goal, which also decreases the number of injuries sustained in an individual’s performance in a sport and improves the body’s natural ability to move the way it should.
Even though you lift your kids and groceries with your arms, your legs and back are also key players. Try this: Stand with your feet shoulder width 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.
Return to a start position and lift the medicine ball over your head. Repeat the squat and lower the ball to the floor. Perform three sets of 10 repetitions. Increase the weight of the ball, as you get stronger.
Lunges are a functional weight training exercise that can improve your posture by strengthening your back, shoulders and arms along with improving lower body strength and flexibility. Lunges have several variations and can be weighted with a dumbbell or barbell.
For a walking lunge, step one foot forward and keep the front foot flat on the floor as you lower your hips until the front knee is over the ankle.Keep the back knee at a 90-degree angle and push up slowly with the front foot to the starting position. Continue with another step with the opposite foot and repeat for a total of 10 to 15 steps with each leg, performing two to three sets.
As you improve and get stronger, you can even get plyometric with the lunges by increasing the intensity of your lunges. Instead of a walking motion try jumping alternating lunges. They are even better for you at improving your core stability, hip stability, balance, power and strength.
Try this: Train your whole body in one session. You don’t have to always split your training for different muscle groups. Exercises like squats and presses, deadlifts, variations on the battling ropes, medicine balls etc., train the whole body in one go and have a wide range of benefits. The body is designed to work as a system; so to perform better it should be trained as a system, not a collection of individual parts.