Maybe you’ve seen a gal who can knock-out 100 crunches in less than 5 minutes. Or, the guy who pumps out hundreds of bicep curls every workout. Those gym devotees look fit. But what about exercises that incorporate functional movements? Aren't those types of exercises more practical for every day life?
For example, what happens when the habitual cruncher or curler is walking the dog and has to bolt in a flash to catch Fido? Can those gym-goers zig-zag around potholes and hurdle blooming azaleas to save their pooch? Sure, isolated movements build muscles. But, done exclusively, are they the most functional movements to develop total strength and agility? Probably not.
Functional movements are fitness foundations that enhance posture, alignment, muscular response, and strength. This means the exercises enhance and might mimic the way you use your body during day-to-day activities.
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According to the American Council on Exercise, the best functional exercises involve “compound movements” that engage several key muscle groups and get your body moving in more than one plane of direction. Performed over time, functional movements render better core stability, injury prevention, joint range of motion, muscular endurance and movement efficiency.
Try These 3 Functional Movements to Build a Basic Functional Exercise Routine:
Benefits: Adding dynamic hand-walking to a plank strengthens all major muscles in the upper body and core and enhances coordination.
1) Plank-up Progression
- Basic Plank – Place forearms on the ground. Plant the balls of your feet on the ground and align your shoulders, hips, and heels. Hold plank 1 min.
- Plank-Ups – Place your right palm on the ground under your shoulder, then your left palm, so you are in a hand-supported plank. Place your right forearm on the ground, then left your left. Perform 10 reps. Repeat leading left.
- Push-ups – From the Plank do 30!
2) LungesBenefits: Trains leg joints and muscles to find proper alignment during dynamic movement.
- Basic Lunge – Start with your right foot pointing forward. Step your left foot back and lift your left heel. Drop straight down and bend your knee to a 90-degree angle with your knee over your ankle.10 reps each leg.
- With Weights – Add a bicep curl, trap raise or overhead press.16 reps of each.
- Walking Lunges with Trunk Rotation – Rest weights on shoulders and walk while alternating lunges. As you drop into a lunge, turn your trunk toward the wall near your bending knee. Perform 30 reps each leg.
3) Toss and FetchBenefits: A way to ward off balance and strength losses due to aging is simply getting up without using your hands. Add to this a forward and backward hustle, and you’ll reap total body strength and coordination that can reduce your risk of injury.
Hold a Medicine Ball at your chest. Sit down. Toss the ball. Stand up without using your hands. Run forward to get the ball. Run backward to your start space. Sit down without using your hands. See how many fetches you can complete in 3 minutes.
NOTE: To get the most out of functional exercises add additional weight to the movement once you’ve mastered form and flow.