Tag Archives: strength

The Importance of Functional Strength Training

Walking into a gym can be very intimidating.  You might see big confusing machines, a rack of free weights, or nothing more than pull-up bars and weight plates, and have no idea what you just walked in on.  While each of these environments can be help you reach your fitness goals, your best bet is to steer clear of those machines and focus on functional training, or functional exercises.

The benefits of functional fitness include better joint mobility, balance, endurance, flexibility and body composition.  When you do functional exercises correctly, you are increasing the range of motion in your joints, making them more stable and more efficient.  Functional exercises also allow your joints, bones and muscles to move in more than one plane, while machines lock you in one position and only allow for motion in one direction.  Moving in only one plane is very unrealistic and something we don’t frequently do in our daily lives.

Since we are almost always moving in more than one plane, there’s not a whole lot of reason to practice it.  Functional exercises mirror things we do every day, and those big machines don’t even come close.  While you can push, pull, and lift on a machine, you are working only one muscle group at a time, one plane.  Different types of functional movement and exercises are based on regular activities, like twisting, jogging, lifting, pushing, pulling, climbing, and jumping.  If you are sitting in a chair with a bar over your legs, only your biceps are going to work to curl the weights up, but if you’re standing with a pair of dumbbells in your hands, your legs are working to keep you standing, your core is working to maintain your balance and your shoulders are stabilizing your arms in the proper position so you can focus on the bicep curl you want to do.  This makes is easy to see how practicing these movements in the gym will not only make your targeted muscle group stronger and more powerful, but will improve coordination between your muscles and nervous system.

The best types of functional training include the use of free weights, like barbells, dumbbells and kettle bells, as well as cable systems, resistance bands, sand bags, balance disks and medicine balls.  Using any of these fitness tools, you can use functional strength training to improve your overall fitness as well as use it to help improve your sport specific skills.

Want a functional training routine?  Have questions about the equipment in the gym you use?  Ask us, we’re here to help you reach all of your fitness goals!  Info@FitNicePT.com

Strength Training Basics

The key to any strength training program is knowing what your goals are.  Strength training uses a variety of resistance techniques to achieve any number of goals, and your routine will vary greatly based on what your goals happen to be.  Weight training is a great way to burn fat and gain muscle no matter what your age, but it becomes especially important as we get older.

Muscles burn twice as many calories as fats do, so building muscle is a great way to enhance your metabolism and burn more calories every day.  When setting out to gain muscle and lose fat, it’s important to have a basic idea of what kind of routine you need to use to reach your specific goals.  There are lots of options for strength training equipment available, and you might be surprised how much you can do with just your own body weight.  Resistance bands, machines, free weights, and medicine balls are all other good choices for building muscles.  Picking a method for your training regimen has to be based on what your ultimate goal is.

If your goal is to ‘tone up’, you want to decrease body fat while simultaneously increasing muscle definition without busting out of your t-shirt.  In contract, those who want to buy bigger t-shirts for their biceps are trying to ‘bulk up’.  The average person is not interested in bulking up, lifting very heavy weights for a few reps every day, coupled with the strict diet required for reaching body building goals can really get in the way of day to day life.  That being said, everyone should lift heavy weights.

That may sound like a contradiction, but what you and I think of as heavy is a walk in the park to someone who body builds, just check out the Olympic records!  When your muscle becomes fatigued, it tears a little bit.  The body’s effort to repair these tears is what makes you sore and helps those muscle burn calories that take those unwanted pounds off.  Lifting light weights will get you results, if you have the time to do enough repetitions to fatigue your muscle.  You might have to do 100 reps with a 5lb weight to feel a little burn, but only 12 with a fifteen pound dumbbell.  Our time is valuable, so cutting down the reps by increasing the weight you lift will keep your workout moving along.

Whether we like it or not, muscle mass decreases with age.  It’s important to replace that muscle as we age regardless of what type of weight you’re lifting or how much time you spend doing it, as long as the muscles get tired.  Strength training of any type is also going to help keep bones dense, making them less likely to break and aiding in the prevention of osteoporosis.  Building muscle can also help with balance, making dangerous falls less likely to occur.

Now you have an idea of what you’re getting with a strength training routine, so go get started!  Have questions?  Want help?  Ask us!  Info@FitNicePT.com.