Functional fitness: Is it right for you?

Functional fitness exercises train your muscles to help you do everyday activities safely and efficiently. Find out what it can do for you.

Do you live to exercise? Unless you're an elite athlete, you probably answered no to that question. Most people, in fact, would say they exercise to improve their quality of life.

What is functional fitness training?
Functional fitness exercises train 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 dead lift is a functional exercise because it trains the muscles used when you pick up an object from the floor. By training your muscles to work the way they do in everyday tasks, you prepare your body to move efficiently 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, kettlebells and weights, are often used in functional fitness workouts.

What are the benefits of functional fitness training?
Functional exercises tend to be multijoint, multimuscle 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.

What are examples of functional fitness exercises?
Functional fitness exercises use multiple joints and muscles at once to train your whole body. Examples include:

  • Dead lift
  • Assisted lunge with press
  • Resisted squat with overhead press

Are functional fitness exercises for everyone?
If you're over age 40, haven't exercised for some time or have health problems, it's a good idea to check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program. Similarly, women who are pregnant should check with their doctors.

It's also a good idea to start with exercises that use only your own body weight for resistance. As you become more fit and are ready for more challenge, you can increase resistance by using weights or resistance tubing or performing movements in the water.

The functional fitness payoff
As you add more functional exercises to your workouts, you should see improvements in your ability to perform your everyday activities. That's quite a return on your exercise investment.