So guys, 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 bobsled team.
Today, you lift a 20kg suitcase to carry it downstairs and put 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 chuck the heavy bag of rubbish at the tip?
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 range of motion 100 percent of the time, like in most commercial gyms where your program and induction shows you how to use a treadmill and sit on machines performing one in line movement.
Making Muscles Work Together
Conventional weight training machines isolate muscle groups, but it doesn’t teach the muscle groups you’re isolating to work together with others in the natural chain of movement.
The key to functional exercise is integration. It’s about teaching all the muscles to work together rather than isolating them to work independently, putting this in place with a varied training plan which uses compound movements, explosive exercises and isolation.
So what’s an example of a functional exercise? Think of a bent-over row? Both hands attached to the barbell, body correctly bent over passing the strain through the posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes and erector) into a tight flat back with shoulders pulled back stimulating the upper back, the barbell is then rowed into the body in turn utilising all of the scapular region, traps, shoulders and most importantly the core and posterior, which is holding the body and weight in position, thus using multiple groups of muscles simultaneously.
Now compare that motion of movement to a builder bending over a piece of wood, a nurse bending over a bed to move a patient, or a mechanic bending over to work on an engine. Anyone doing a bent-over row will find a carryover in things you do in normal life.