Let me just take a second to explain why I am even talking about functional fitness. If you look around you, you may or may not notice that the world is slowly deteriorating. People in their 50’s physically act like they are in their 80’s. People in their 20’s physically act like they are in their 50’s and we are seeing a huge epidemic of childhood obesity.
We as a people have stopped moving. We don’t walk anymore – we drive. We don’t go outside to play anymore – we sit and watch TV. We don’t even do physical labor anymore – we sit at a computer! If you want to look good, feel good, and excel, get out and move your body! Run, walk, squat, jump, swim, play! You will find that the old saying of “use it or lose it” applies.
Merriam-Webster’s definition of “functional” is as follows: performing or able to perform a regular function. So what is regular? Well, we all have to get out of bed. Most of us walk places. Every so often, we actually move something – say on moving day or doing yard work. You get the idea. Regular varies depending on who you are. Hopefully we can agree that there are some things we all do or have to do in everyday life. Pick something up off the ground, or put it in an overhead compartment and I think most of us use a toilet. If not, you may squat in the bushes . . . Pop a squat anyone? The point is if you move you are performing a functional movement.
I am a believer that we were built to run and play. Now, I know the first thing you thought of was a playground. That could be it, but I mean something a bit different. Playing can be running, rock climbing, going for a bike ride, playing with your dog or kids, tennis, softball, soccer, volleyball, badminton, ping pong, or whatever it is that floats your boat.
What do you like to do? Don’t you want enjoy it and not worry about your body breaking down while you do it? If you look at the way the body moves when we were children you can see that we have range of motion and muscle elasticity. This is coupled with great weight to strength ratios. What did we do as children? We played! We moved through range of motion. We ran, jumped and flat out moved in ways that made our body strong and nimble. Why should we stop? Functional fitness is just another way of playing that can and will prepare you to play in all of the other ways you that want to.
So from a workout perspective, what does it mean if you start to incorporate more functional movement into your current workout program? The first benefit is that you will have to spend a lot less time working to achieve the same result. If you’re spending hours in the gym then you are wasting a lot of time. When isolating muscle groups and trying to strengthen them individually, it takes a lot of time to focus on each individual area.
Let’s use your legs as an example. If I want to focus on each part, I have to do exercises for my calves, quads (front of the leg) and hamstrings (back of the legs), not to mention glutes (butt). Or I could simply do squats. A wonderful functional movement when done properly works all of those body parts as well as your core. If you don’t believe me that squatting does all of that and more watch the Olympic weightlifters. They do a lot of squatting and not only are they strong, but they’re RIPPED!
Now if you’re not sold on the idea of just doing functional movement for workouts, that is fine. I would recommend adding some to your current routine and see how it goes. If nothing else, you will get more variety to your current program. Try this on your legs or lower body day – after each set of what ever you are doing try doing 10 squats with no weight as fast as you can. If you are not sure about your form you can see a video demonstration here.
If you are sold on the idea and want to give it a shot here are a few workouts for you to try (Note: These are workouts you can do anywhere with limited or no equipment).*
1. Complete four rounds of:
Run 400 (once around a track)
2. Every minute, on the minute for 20 minutes:
10 Sit ups
3. Complete seven rounds of:
5 Handstand Pushups – Proper form and scaling video http://vimeo.com/10166567
15 Box Jumps – You can jump on a chair, step or bed if you can’t find a box.
4. Complete six rounds of:
Run 400 meters as fast as you can.
Rest as long as it took you to run
But here is a warning! If you have not done this style of training before, this stuff is tough. Think about scaling the workouts to less reps or rounds. If you find it to be easy, you can always add more later. Remember these workouts are meant to be done as fast as you can but your form should be maintained. If you lose form, slow down or stop to regain it.
So even if you have something specific you are training for, functional movement will help you to attain your goal.
What do you think about functional fitness? Are going to give it a try? Leave a comment below!
Judd is a Level 2 Certified Crossfit trainer, USAW Level 1 Sports Performance Coach, World Kettlebell Club Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach, Certified FMS Professional, Level 1, and is certified in Trigger Point and Myofacial Release Therapy. He has years of experience in a multitude of sports including wrestling, football, and soccer. Judd has found CrossFit to be the overall fitness solution that he had always been looking for. He has been in the fitness industry training and studying for over 15 years. Judd is the co-owner of Fitness EFX
Look for great interviews and information from Judd and some of the best fitness and nutrition experts at www.fitwhat.com.