These days, there’s an overwhelming number of sports and other physical activities you can choose from to improve your fitness level. Even for an apparently simple, no-equipment workout, you can do at home, there are plenty of exercises to try, each with its own purpose.
Truth be told, all workouts and physical activities will get you toward the same goal: your entire body will work better in any situation and have more energy to complete daily tasks. Of course, some people work out to look more attractive, lose weight, etc., but even if they don’t realize it, feeling healthier and more resilient is the ultimate achievement.
Keeping all of this in mind will help you make sense of the logic behind functional fitness – a concept that’s been around for a while and offers a realistic approach for a solid goal which is to help us perform our daily routine easily while improving both our health and energy levels.
What is functional fitness?
Functional fitness is a method of training that strives to build a body capable of doing real-life activities in real-life positions. Picking up a grocery bag, running to catch a bus, reaching for objects on top shelves, or even opening a jar, are day-to-day activities that often give us a hard time (whether we want to admit it or not).
This type of training is centered on the individual and on the physical moves he has to do every day. It allows us to handle our daily routine efficiently and without causing any harm to ourselves.
Functional fitness exercises are based on the idea of integration. The muscles and joints should work together, not isolated, like in most conventional workouts.
This type of training focuses on movement patterns in all three planes of motion frontal (side to side), sagittal (front to back) and transverse (rotational) and the results are optimal flexibility and strength.
And those are not the only benefits of functional fitness: you will also develop balance and stamina for your everyday activities. As I said earlier, the exercises use multiple muscles and joints so the risk of injuries in our daily routine decreases. This is also why functional fitness is safe and even helpful for seniors or people who had injuries and joint pain.
Here are some examples of functional fitness exercises so you can really see what it is all about. The beauty of these exercises is that you can perform them at home without any special equipment.
1. Multidirectional lunges
I’m sure almost everyone knows this exercise and quite a few of you tried it at some point. There is nothing complicated about lunges, and if you come to think about it, there are 3 exercises in one: First of all, stand straight. While keeping one leg in place, extend the other one forward, behind or to the side, until you have a 90 degree angle at your knee.
If you want a correct and useful exercise you should keep the standing leg straight, with the knee parallel to the ground. Repeat with both legs.
The targeted muscles are the glutes in your hips and butt, the hamstrings and the quadriceps in your thighs. Your abdominal and back muscles are the ones that help you keep balance.
2. Caterpillar walk
I love the name of this exercise. You begin by standing tall with feet shoulder-width apart and hands resting at the sides. Get into a squat position with hands in front of feet and palms on the floor. Rapidly move your hands in front of you until you reach a pushup position. Pause, and do the reverse move until you get in the starting position.
Tip: try doing the exercise on one leg. Start with only the right leg on the floor, do the caterpillar walkout , then switch the leg.
As you can see, and hopefully feel, it is a full-body warm-up exercise, and gets a lot of muscles going: the abs, shoulders, chest, hamstrings and quadriceps in your thighs.
The starting position is the traditional plank position. Next, raise your right hand and left leg at approximately 1 inch off the floor. The exercise is to quickly raise both hands and legs to the point in which they are parallel to the floor. For 30 seconds, keep your limbs moving up and down, then switch to the opposite arm and leg.
Tip: It will be better for your neck to focus your eyes on the floor while doing the exercise.
This is a challenging move that targets the upper back, chest, sides, core and glutes.
4. One leg push up
Start on your hands and knees with the distance between hands bigger than shoulder-width. Raise your right leg right back while tightening your core muscles (pull your belly button up towards your spine). With your leg lifted, lower your chest to the floor until you reach a 90-degree angle at your elbows, then push up. Repeat 10 to 15 times for each leg.
If you want to make it more difficult, as you get stronger, you can increase the angle of your hips by increasing the distance between your knees from your hands. This exercise not only strengthens your upper body, but also your core muscles and glutes.
5. Reverse plank with arm extension
Sit on the floor with your knees bent and adjust your feet so they are under your knees and your hands so they are under your shoulders.
Raise your hips until your back is parallel to the floor and your body is straight from your knees to your shoulders.
Lift your right arm up straight to the sky and rotate the upper body so that the weight shifts on the left arm, while keeping your hips lifted.
Lower your arm to start position and lower your hips a bit, but don’t let them rest on the floor. Repeat 10 to 15 times for each hand. As you get stronger, hold your arm and hips up for two seconds before slightly lowering.
This move is harder than it looks. Your legs are holding the bridge, and arms are keeping you up. It tones and strengthens your arms, shoulders, back, glutes and legs, as well as targets your core muscles. The exercise also opens up your chest and the front of your hips, muscles that get tight after long hours sitting at a desk.
6. Dynamic prone plank
Start on your hands and toes, facing the floor, with your head, back and legs in a straight line and your arms straight under your shoulders. Lift your hips to the ceiling, pulling the belly button into the spine, forming a pike and lengthening your arms and legs. The pose is like the downward dog in yoga, for those familiar with it.
Do not arch the back, be careful to keep it straight. The next step is to return to the plank position and bend your elbows against your sides, lowering your body and legs to the floor. With your lower body flat on the floor, use your arms to push your chest and head up towards the ceiling, similar to the cobra pose in yoga, stretching out the upper body. Lower down and push your body back into the plank position. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
As you get stronger increase the number of repetitions. Planks, in general and this type especially, are a full-body exercise. It engages your midsection, upper and lower body, strengthening quads, inner abs, pecs, and the muscles around the joints. Though it is quite intense, it’s a perfect exercise to end the workout.
Don’t worry if you’re not as fit as you thought. You may find this uncomfortable truth when you actually try to work out, God knows I did. The important thing is to continue and be patient. The results will come, and progress is the best motivation.