3 Key Benefits Of Functional Training With Example Exercises
Do you want to wake up every morning feeling active and energetic? You’re not alone, but the question is how? Well your energy levels have a lot to do with the state of your fitness — the fitter you are, the more energy you’ll have. There’s no debating that exercise is essential to your health but with so many different types of fitness to choose from, which regime should you follow? Should you be lifting? Maybe become a runner? Or what about functional training? It has become all the rage recently, and for good reason. Now more than ever, you can reap the benefits of a workout regime that is individualised and designed to benefit your everyday life — that is what functional training is all about!
There are countless benefits of following a functional training regime, but these 3 are arguably the most important: increased mobility, strength development and injury prevention. This blog will delve into each of them more closely.
WHAT IS FUNCTIONAL TRAINING AND HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM OTHER EXERCISE REGIMES?
Before we get into our top 3 benefits of functional training, let's clarify what functional training actually is and how it is different from other exercise programs. Functional training strengthens your body in a way that translates directly into daily activities — making everyday movement easier and safer. It is designed to improve your quality of life and can be taken up by anyone, exercise newbies to professional athletes alike. Who has never had to pick up a heavy parcel? Lifting a kettlebell, a common cross-training movement, is one example of a functional gym equipment-based movement that will optimise your body for life outside of the gym. The same goes with throwing a wall ball and playing a game of footy with your mates, there are many comparable functional training exercises that translate into real-life movements.
Functional training versus body-building
Body-building and functional training are radically different. Body-building type exercises work out a single muscle group at a time and are based on repetitions. While functional training focuses on compound exercises involving multiple muscle groups and is time-based.
Functional training versus group gym classes
Functional training is, by definition, an individualised type of workout. Everything, from the exercises chosen to the weights used, is tailored to your everyday movement needs and will change over time as you progress. While group classes may include a few functional movements, the essence of the group style is significantly different as these classes are not personalised for each individual.
3 KEY BENEFITS OF FUNCTIONAL TRAINING WITH EXAMPLE EXERCISES
1. Increase mobility with functional training
The first, and perhaps most significant benefit of functional training is increased mobility and flexibility. Designed to expand your range of motion, functional training exercises transform passive flexibility into active mobility. Balance and coordination also get a boost with the inclusion of gymnastics-inspired movements. All of these exercises have an evidence-based approach that focuses on a steady increase of range, supporting and protecting your joints — no more trying to get fit and having to stop for a month because you hurt yourself.
Functional training exercises to increase mobility — box jumps
Plyometrics box jumps are a great functional training exercise to incorporate into your workout regime. Simple and effective, they train your lower-body muscles (glutes, quads, calves and hamstrings) and challenge your sense of balance.
Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees slightly and jump onto the box. Either hop off or step back down. Repeat the jumps for a set amount of time and challenge yourself to do better each session by doing more jumps or turning the box to a higher setting to increase the difficulty.
2. Build strength with functional gym equipment
Weight training is a big part of a cross-training or functional training routine. Functional gym equipment such as dumbbells, kettlebells and barbells are incorporated in a range of compound exercises that are very effective in strengthening the muscles. In addition to building muscles, weight training also builds grit and stamina — challenging your perseverance during each workout. When you push yourself during a workout, both your mind and body get stronger.
Sled pushes for full-body strength building
A driver sled is a key functional gym equipment piece — the sled push (or prowler press) is the ultimate full-body exercise. It’s a killer move that will leave you thoroughly spent, plus it’s loaded with real-life benefits — targeting your shoulders, triceps, chest, core, hip flexors, quads and more!
First, load up the sled with weights, remembering it should be difficult to get it moving. Just like in real life, taking the first step is the hardest part. Keep your back straight and bend at the hips, engaging your core. Your arms can be bent or straight but don’t change the position. All the drive should come from your frontward foot.
3. Prevent injury with functional range training
Another great benefit of functional training is the drastic reduction in injury rate compared to other fitness regimes. Functional training exercises make your muscles, ligaments and joints stronger and healthier — paired with increased balance and control, your chances of getting hurt are drastically reduced. We’re not just talking about getting injured while exercising either. A functional fitness regime trains you to move safely in everyday life. No more throwing your back out when helping a friend move or while playing cricket on the weekend.
Bosu ball single leg step-up for injury prevention
One of the best exercises to strengthen your ankles and knees for injury prevention is a Bosu ball step-up. Next time you step on an uneven surface, your body will be prepared to quickly react and avoid twisting an ankle.
Start by placing one foot in the centre of the Bosu ball — ball side up. Focusing on that leg, slowly bring the other one up into a high-knee position while balancing and then try to lower it on the same spot on the ground. Repeat and vary by holding for longer or going faster.