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