After 22 years in the British Army 12 years with the Special Forces and 10 years with The Royal Army Physical Training Corp, it soon became apparent to me as a senior physical training instructor that a British Solider needed to be extremely fit for active duty.
After competing many fitness courses and conducting uncountable PT lessons I soon noticed that most of a soldier’s fitness training was Functional Fitness? Maybe climbing and scaling obstacles or jumping out of a functional airplane (excuse the pun) and hitting the ground without getting a sore back on landing. By being in good physical condition enables us to do life’s activities is what Functional Fitness is all about.
Statistics change and can be misleading. Nonetheless, I want to throw a few at you to set the tone. One third of Americans fall each year, Americans who are overweight are fifteen times more likely to get injured, while obese Americans are forty eight times more likely to get injured. Eighty percent of Americans claim to have had lower back pain in their lifetime.
These statistics are used to illustrate the dangers we face as we age, but you will see how Functional Fitness is your best weapon to combat aches, pains, and injuries as well as controlling our weight and giving us a healthier lifestyle.
I would just like to set the tone; it may appear that I’m putting body building and weight lifting at odds with Functional Fitness, and saying that Functional Fitness is superior to the others. That is not the case; people who perform muscle-isolating exercises to build and shape their bodies for their chosen sport of bodybuilding are training properly. On a different note, people who are preparing for a strongman competition or people trying to reach a high level of intense strength in general are again focusing on sport specific goals. Therefore, performing Olympic lifts to achieve massive strength is appropriate for them.
However, there are millions of people out there, whose general goal is to achieve a balanced, total-body, overall level of fitness for a health lifestyle, but all they have been taught are bench presses, bicep curls, tricep pull-downs for example. They also may have been taught to have a bicep and tricep day, followed maybe by a chest and back day, etc. These people are the people I am speaking to when I compare the benefits of Functional Fitness as opposed to bodybuilding and weight lifting.
What is functional fitness training?
Functional fitness exercises trains your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by simulating common movements you might do at home, at work or in sports. While using various muscles in the upper and lower body at the same time, functional fitness exercises also emphasize core stability.
For example, a squat is a functional exercise because it trains the muscles used when you rise up and down from a chair or pick up low objects. By training your muscles to work the way they do in everyday tasks, you prepare your body to perform well in a variety of common situations.
Functional fitness exercises can be done at home or at the gym. Gyms may offer functional fitness classes or incorporate functional fitness into boot camps or other types of classes. Exercise tools, such as fitness balls, kettle bells and weights, are often used in functional fitness workouts.
What are the benefits of functional fitness training?
Functional exercises tend to be multi joint, multi muscle exercises. Instead of only moving the elbows, for example, a functional exercise might involve the elbows, shoulders, spine, hips, knees and ankles. This type of training, properly applied, can make everyday activities easier, reduce your risk of injury and improve your quality of life. Functional exercise training may be especially beneficial as part of a comprehensive program for older adults to improve balance, agility and muscle strength, and reduce the risk of falls.
How To Incorporate Functional Fitness Training Into Your Life
In simple terms functional fitness training is fitness training for everyday life. During work and almost any recreational activities you are engaged in you use your muscles, joints etc. in a specific manner. Athletes in different sports perform different actions during their sport and therefore must train their muscles in a different way. This is where functional training comes into play.
Another good example is a construction worker. They are lifting different shaped objects of varying weights all day long. And they often have to lift these items with their legs, back, arms, etc. at the same time. If they are exercising in the gym and just concentrating on flat bench press their gains won’t necessarily transfer over to their everyday life. This is where functional fitness training comes in – using the types of fitness training that will benefit them the most.
The benefits of functional fitness training are endless. Unfortunately most people don’t use it properly. An even bigger problem is most gyms and the trainers who work in them don’t have a clue about these types of fitness training.
“Functional Fitness Training For Everyday Life”
Functional fitness training keeps your body in shape for your daily activities such as sports, walking, bending, lifting, or whatever your job and life entails. Functional training like most types of fitness training includes aspects of balance, stability, posture, and flexibility in addition to muscular strength.
For you to receive the true benefits of functional fitness training it’s advised to use exercises that will incorporate numerous muscle groups at the same time. This would mean avoiding the use of a lot of weight machines, as most of them only require one muscle group to do the exercise. This doesn’t mean that weight machines are useless, some of them should be incorporated now and then but to receive the greatest functional fitness training benefits they should be used very sparingly.
Weight machines can help your muscles to get stronger and more defined when used in certain types of fitness training but there’s no guarantee these gains will transfer over to your sport or everyday activities. On the other hand, functional types of fitness training using free weights, performing plyometrics etc. will force your body and multiple muscle groups to work as one thereby improving your speed, agility, quickness and muscle strength.
“How To Develop Programs For These Types Of Fitness Training”
There are literally hundreds of different exercises you can do in functional types of fitness training and many different ways of performing each of them. The key is to determine which ones will give you the best results in the shortest time. With so many options you can easily mix things up to not only avoid boredom but to force your muscles to keep adapting.
Types of fitness training like this will incorporate many more muscles and muscle fibers for each exercise than traditional types of fitness training will. One effective method of is to use a stability ball during certain exercises. You have to use many different muscles, including smaller assistor and stabilizer muscles, at the same time to perform the exercise and to keep the ball steady. This will also help to burn more calories because you are involving more muscle fibers. To maximize your sports performance you have to know what factors play a role in your performance in the first place.
Some examples are: strength, speed, agility, flexibility, cardiovascular conditioning, neuromuscular coordination, and your genetics. You will also improve your metabolism through functional fitness. Denser muscle tissue will burn more calories, even at rest. Your muscle strength will improve just as quickly with this type of fitness training as it will with other types of fitness training.
You just need to remain focused and be consistent with your fitness training programs. Functional types of fitness training programs should also focus on stabilizing and strengthening your joints and bones. There is evidence of exercise being able to halt or even reverse bone loss. Functional types of fitness training programs can duplicate the type of stress placed on your joints and bones during sports events and daily activities.
“What Equipment Is Best For Functional Fitness Training Programs”
Traditional strength and fitness training uses some of the same equipment as functional training does. However there are some differences. As mentioned earlier fitness machines aren’t recommended for functional fitness training and there is some other fitness equipment that should be included.
Here are the best equipment options for this type of fitness training:
Barbells And Weight Plates – Barbells can be used to work any part of your body very effectively. Barbells for exercises such as front squats and many other exercises will dramatically improve your strength and size.
Dumbbells – There are a couple brands of adjustable dumbbells that work great as you progress.
Your Own Body Weight – For a lot of functional types of fitness training exercises you will only have to use your own body weight. This is especially true with plyometrics.
Exercise Balls – Exercise balls are good for helping to improve stability and balance when you use them in combination with other exercises or dumbbells.
Medicine Balls – You can get medicine balls in many different weights. They are an excellent addition to any functional fitness training programs and many other types of fitness training as well.
Kettlebells – Kettlebells have been around for a very long time and have made a comeback over the last couple decades. It is a piece of weight lifting equipment that looks somewhat like an iron ball with a flat bottom and a handle on the top.
Depending on your sport, lifestyle, physical abilities, health, etc. you may not need to or want to use functional training too often. There’s nothing wrong with combining functional fitness with other types of fitness training, it just depends on what your goals are.
In my opinion you cannot bate a good old military fitness routine, that’s why I think boot camps are an excellent form of fitness training.
However, I do not like the term boot camp it sound to regimented I prefer to use Functional Fitness Training