Working Out-In, Functional By Toni Miles, Fitness Instructor
Functional training is a type of fitness routine that helps focus on movements and exercises that help with performance in every day life. Functional training involves stair steps, lifting, throwing, coordination, and flexibility. It is the perfect exercise routine for anyone (especially older adults) who needs a sensible fitness routine. The key to functional exercise is integration. It is about teaching all the muscles to work together rather than isolating them to work independently.
Here are some examples of functional exercises that can be done anywhere, anytime:
- Push-ups: (Firms chest, arms, abdominals and back)
Face a wall, place hands flat on the wall with shoulder width apart. Walk back until arms are fully extended or until body is at an angle. Lean towards the wall bending arms and allowing full body weight to press on the wall, keeping feet flat. Now push back gently with arms keeping feet flat. Repeat 5-6 times. To progress – place hands on a counter or desk, instead of the wall, and go through the same movements as before. Repeat 5-6 times.
- Step-ups: (Assist with balance, stabilization and strengthens legs)
Stand in front of a step with weights in each hand, arms down to the side, palms facing body (do not lock elbows). Tighten the abdominals. Step up with right foot, then left. Now, step down with right foot then left. After repeating 8-10 times. Switch stepping up with left foot and then right. Repeat 8-10 times. This exercise will train your body to maneuver walking up and down the stairs.
- Box lifts: (Strengthens shoulder, arms, abdominals and glutes)
With abdominals and glutes tight, feet shoulder width apart, knees bent at a 75º angle, and weight on the heel of feet, stand up lifting the box off the floor to waist height, turn right, back to center and down. Repeat 6 times then repeat on left side. Do again 6 times and alternate sides (up–turn right-center-left-center-down). Remember to keep shoulders back and abdominals tight throughout the exercise
There are a variety of tools that can assist in Functional Training, such as:
- Dumbbells: Begin with 3-4 pounds and progress to 5-8 (strengthen arms for lifting and build muscles to protect bones)
- Body Weights: wrist and ankle (strengthens wrists and legs)
- Resistance Bands and Loops: (strengthens chest, back, arms, legs)
- Exercise Balls: (strengthens balance, posture, cardio)
- Medicine Balls: (strengthens shoulders, torso, abdominals)
It’s easy to customize workouts into more functional routines. Think about the activities you do on a daily basis. Remember, functional exercises require numerous muscle groups working together while maintaining core stability. Once your core is strong, exercising will become easier and you will want to continue to challenge yourself to move. Plan to see the difference!
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