Functional fitness is a phrase tossed around the health and fitness industry often and not always with explanation (or used correctly). It’s my belief that every fitness program should be three things: progressive, functional, and have a purpose. I wrote about the importance of progressive overload and how to program it last week and this week, I want to expand upon the idea of functional fitness.
What is Functional Fitness?
Functional fitness trains the body for everyday movements. The goal is to help you live a healthier and longer life. Movements in your fitness routine should improve your overall quality of life. Think about the squat. Sure, it’s really cool that you can squat a big number. But do you realize how many times you “squat” while going about your daily routine? Probably not. Drop something? You squat to pick it up. Lifting boxes at work? You’re probably squatting (you should be, anyway). Even the act of sitting down in a chair and standing back up is a squat.
Movements like squatting, pushing, pulling, and reaching are all part of daily life. You pull when you open a door. You reach when you take a box of cereal out of the pantry. You push when you’re navigating a cart around the grocery store. You even “deadlift” when you pick up your favorite toddler.
Our bodies are designed to move. They aren’t meant to sit still, despite the fact that many of our lifestyles require long hours of sitting. Unfortunately, those sedentary lifestyles can cause our bodies to develop some not great habits. Don’t believe me? Check out this study on what those desk jobs can do to us.
How do we combat this?
By programming for function.
Benefits of Functional Fitness
We’ve already talked a bit above the benefits of functional fitness above, but let’s dive a little deeper into them.
Improves Daily Life
As stated above, programming for function helps improve your body’s overall function by boosting strength and industry and developing stability which in turn helps you complete daily tasks with greater ease. There is also the component of exercise serving as excellent stress relief that contributes to overall improvement in quality of life.
Functional fitness helps improve balance, coordination, flexibility, muscle strength, and agility. By improving these components, you improve your body’s ability to move through daily life as well as perform exercises more effectively.
Improved Balance & Posture
Functional fitness trains the body’s muscles to work together correctly, improving overall strength and balance. Improved balance can help decrease the risk of injury from falls, particularly in the elderly community, and an improved posture can help alleviate low back aches and other ailments caused or aggravated by poor posture.
Reduced Risk of Injury
As functional fitness mimics movements done in day-to-day life, the body becomes not only physically more fit but better able to withstand stressors. As a person develops strength and balance, they move through their routines more easily, decreasing their risk of injury.
Examples of Functional Fitness
What kind of exercises would one do if following functional programming?
Here are just a few ideas:
- Box Step up
- DB Seated Press
- Goblet Squat
- Farmers Carry
- Air Squat
- Kettlebell Deadlift
- Bear Crawl
There are so many ways to program for function and you find nearly all of them in my Strong By Sarah program and in 1:1 Coaching with me. If coaching with me isn’t the right fit for you, you can find functional fitness programmed at your local CrossFit box (it’s a cornerstone of the CrossFit philosophy!) You can also find other gyms/programs that program functional fitness movements.
My belief is that you train for health. No matter what your goal is, at the end of the day, training for health is the outcome we’re all going for. Incorporating functional fitness will improve your overall health and your ability to navigate daily life with ease.