Have you ever looked at someone with huge muscles and thought, I wonder how useful it is to be able to be that strong? Well, you don’t need to have huge muscles to make your everyday life easier. Functional fitness is the idea that what you do in the gym makes your life easier. Who on earth doesn’t want an easier life – I know I sure do!
I remember before I started training in the gym, I’d actually find it an effort and painful to bend down and pick something up. This was slightly exceptional because I had a bad back which had been brought on by a squash game injury. However, I know full well I didn’t fully recover (until training in the gym) because I never strengthened the supporting muscles.
Nowadays I notice on a daily basis how I find things a lot easier than friends and colleagues. Even climbing the stairs at work - I find it easy (as you should as a healthy person) but so many of my colleagues end up completely puffed out and complain their legs ache!
This got me thinking about how I managed to improve my functional fitness, without specifically aiming to improve my functional fitness. I’ve come up with 5 top functional fitness exercises you should include in ANY gym programme, whatever your goal.
This, for me, is the best functional fitness exercise. It makes you stronger in so many ways. It improves your ability to stand up and sit down, it improves your ability to pick things up from the floor and it improves your grip strength for holding bags and other things. Deadlifts is also one of the main lifts, so it’s a great one to incorporate into any exercise regime. It uses so many different muscles in the legs, back and arms.
This one is going to make walking up those stairs easier. It’s also going to make getting up off the sofa easier and getting in and out of the car. Things you do all day every day, so why not make it easier! Once again this is one of the main lifts, uses some of the biggest muscles in the body and so belongs in any workout routine.
3) Press up
Press ups are great because they incorporate bodyweight lifts. It is better for functional fitness than simply doing bench press because it engages your core as well as improving your balance. It also engages the stabilising muscles. Don’t get me wrong, absolutely include bench press in your routine, but for functional fitness also include press ups! I put these in my full-body home workout. Doing press-ups will make push movements easier. Opening and closing doors, closing cupboards, draws etc. It also helps things like stabilising yourself on the bus/train when standing and holding on.
4) Pull ups
Pull ups are amazing (and the one everyone uses to show off, right!). They are also great for improving functional strength. They work a whole range of movements in the back and arms, and they also make you engage your core and improve stability. Doing these will make everyday things easier, like putting items on shelves, closing curtains, stabilising yourself when getting in and out of the shower and using the overhead rails on the bus and trains.
5) Russian Twists
This is one I love to do during my full-body workout. Its great for the abs, but not only that, it’s a great rotational movement. Rotational movements are often one of the most neglected movements for people who go to the gym. You rarely rotate your spine at the gym, but you do it all the time during everyday life. If someone asks you to pass something to them, you will likely rotate your spine. If someone talks to you, the polite thing to do is look at them right, well this will likely involve rotating your spine too! Now think of the exercises you do, a lot of them are one directional, and hardly any of them do rotational movements. Doing Russian twists regularly will make passing objects to someone easier, moving things from one place to another, even just turning around when doing daily activities like cooking!