Functional training is a popular term in the fitness industry, but many personal trainers and influencers misunderstand its true meaning. They often associate functional training with skill-based exercises that involve balancing on stability balls or performing complex movements. However, real functional training is about preparing your body for the challenges you face outside of the gym, such as carrying heavy objects or escaping from dangerous situations.
In this article, I will share the exercises I use to stay functionally strong and recommend to my personal training clients. These exercises are not fancy or complicated, but they will make you a more capable individual who can handle physical challenges with ease. Functional training is about improving strength and movement patterns that are relevant to your daily life. It’s not just about looking good, but also feeling strong and confident in any situation.
So, what defines a good functional strength exercise? Here are some characteristics to look for:
1. Compound or Multi-Joint Movements: Most human movements involve multiple muscles and joints working together. Isolation exercises have their value, but compound exercises that engage multiple muscle groups are more functional and effective for overall strength development.
2. Natural Movement Patterns: Choose exercises that mimic the movement patterns you encounter in your daily life. Pushing, pulling, squatting, bending, twisting, carrying, and lunging are common human movement patterns that should be incorporated into your functional training routine.
3. Core Engagement: The core muscles play a crucial role in stabilizing and supporting your body. Functional exercises should engage your core muscles, as they are the link between your upper and lower body. Avoid exercises that provide back support, as they don’t challenge your core effectively.
4. Ground-Based: Most physically challenging tasks occur when you’re on your feet. Ground-based exercises, such as squats, mimic natural movements and improve balance and stability. While there are exceptions, like pull-ups, standing exercises are generally more functional.
5. Challenging: Functional exercises should be challenging to stimulate strength and capability gains. Easy workouts won’t push your body to adapt and improve. Choose exercises that require effort and progressively increase the difficulty as you get stronger.
By incorporating these characteristics into your training routine, you can develop functional strength that translates to real-world situations. Whether it’s lifting heavy objects, climbing stairs, or overcoming obstacles, functional training will prepare your body for the demands of your lifestyle.
Remember, functional training is not just about looking good in the gym. It’s about being a physically capable individual who can handle any physical challenge that comes your way. So, focus on exercises that improve strength, movement patterns, and core engagement. Stay consistent and push yourself to reach new levels of functional fitness.