Functional fitness is about working out with movements similar to those we tend to do daily to train your muscles to work together and prepare them for doing daily tasks. Within a functional fitness workout, you’ll be using various muscles simultaneously in the upper and lower body. Functional fitness exercises also emphasize core stability.
What is functional fitness?
Functional fitness is a type of exercise and workouts that mimic the movements of everyday life but work to build strength and the muscles used during these activities. When you engage in functional fitness workouts, you’re unlikely to be trying to build bulk or be a bodybuilder, but rather you’re trying to make your body stronger.
Why is functional fitness so popular?
Functional fitness is rising in popularity and has been for many years, but why? What caused this seemingly new form of fitness to come to be and grow in popularity? The core part of functional fitness is building and strengthening the muscles you use in your everyday life. You’re not only building muscles for looks or strength but also for use in your daily life. Who wouldn’t want to build strength to avoid injury when you’re just shopping for groceries or playing with the kids at the park.
Functional fitness workouts started to rise in popularity when trainers began leaving large gyms that focus on using the equipment. They instead started creating training regimes suited to their clients. This meant that rather than using machines to build muscle and strength, trainers would help clients develop their muscles to avoid injury, make life easier, and increase mobility. As more and more people saw the benefits of functional fitness, more and more people started incorporating functional fitness workouts into their exercise regimes.
7 benefits of including functional fitness in your workouts
Besides making you more well-rounded, functional fitness has several other benefits. These include benefits for your health, everyday life, and athletic performance. Let’s take a look at seven of the significant benefits of functional fitness:
1. Improves everyday life
Everyday activities can be completed easily by improving your body’s overall function, boosting muscle strength and endurance, and developing muscle and body stability. Compared to conventional training, the benefits of functional fitness tend to outweigh everything else because it’s actually targeting the movements we are doing every day. In addition, functional fitness improves the overall quality of life due to the stress relief factor. This type of training is usually more fun than others since you are essentially training for your everyday life.
2. Greater muscle memory
By performing regular functional fitness workouts, you’re not just building muscle and core strength but actually exercising the brain, too. Effectively boosting your brain’s memory.
3. Increased mobility
Functional fitness helps to improve balance, coordination, flexibility, muscle strength, and agility. All of these components will leave you more mobile, which in turn helps with your day-to-day life.
4. Improves balance and posture
Since functional fitness is all about training the body to make the muscles work together instead of targeted training, overall strength and balance will improve. Training the muscles to manage weight properly will also reduce stress on the body. In turn, posture will be improved.
5. Reduced risk of injury
By mimicking the movements done in everyday life, the body can withstand stressors. Functional fitness training encourages muscle and ligament strength, which are the areas that are highly susceptible to injury.
6. You’ll stay more motivated.
Because the nature of functional fitness is goal-oriented, you’re more likely to stay motivated and keep going. Whether your goal is to have greater depth on your squat or be able to crawl around on the floor with your kids, you’re more likely to stick with your training. Those small, measurable victories keep you going.
7. It can be social
Like any highly interactive group fitness class, there may also be some social perks associated with functional fitness. Just think of Crossfit, which teaches a lot of functional fitness and is known for having a big community. You’ll get better results and become more engaged, compared to the typical commercial gym experience of putting on headphones, getting on a treadmill and then hitting a few exercise machines.
While this is just a consolidated list of benefits, it is easy to see that functional fitness can be highly beneficial to your well-being.
5 exercises you can include in your functional fitness workouts
Almost all exercises can be considered functional fitness depending on the context. In reality, increasing strength will inherently help you become more functional in daily life.
Increasing your overall strength will help you move better. Combining strength training with exercises that mirror the movements of daily activities to create a functional fitness workout can provide an even more effective training regimen.
Squatting is similar to sitting in a chair, so it’s a must-include in any functional fitness routine.
- Stand straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms down at your sides.
- Bend your knees and start to squat down, pushing back into your hips, almost as if you’re about to sit in a chair.
- Raise your arms up in front of you as you go.
- When your thighs are parallel to the ground, pause and push through your heels, extending your legs and returning to the starting position.
- Complete 2 sets of 15 reps.
Getting into and holding the plank position requires mobility and balance, which helps you get up off the floor.
- Start on all fours with your palms planted on the ground and your knees bent slightly further than 90 degrees.
- Push up from your hands and feet, extend your arms and legs, and keep your core tight. Your body should form a straight line from head to toe.
- Hold for as long as you can. Repeat for 2 sets.
Step-downs are like getting down off a high seat or descending a set of stairs. Step-downs are also a great way to help improve balance and stability.
- Stand to the side of your bench or step with one foot on it and one foot on the ground.
- Pushing through the heel of the foot on the bench, step up to extend your leg fully, then slowly lower back down to start.
- Complete 2 sets of 15 reps on each side.
4. Stationary lunge
In this split stance, you’ll again mimic the movement of getting up off the ground.
- Split your stance so your legs form a triangle with the ground.
- Not moving your feet, lunge forward on your leading leg. When your leg forms a 90-degree angle with the ground, return to start.
- Repeat 2 sets of 15 reps on each side.
5. Downward facing dog
This yoga move requires you to support your body weight, a handy tool for everyday life.
- Start in a high plank position, weight in your hands and feet, and your body forming a straight line from head to toe.
- Keep your hands, feet, and neck stationary and pike your hips up, so your body forms a triangle with the ground.
- Pause here for 10 seconds. Repeat 2 more times.
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