Functional fitness is a common buzzword in the fitness industry at the moment, and in Dudley there are a number of sessions available across the borough at either the healthy hubs or the leisure centres. But what does it mean? How could it benefit you? How do you know if you are doing it right?
Before we tackle the buzz word think about your body, it was built for movement. When we train, most people will make reference to the muscles you are using and not the movement itself. Do you consider the movement needed to perform everyday tasks and apply that to your gym workout? If not then start to because if you improve a movement in the body then you will become much fitter, healthier, less prone to injuries, quicker and more efficient in performing everyday tasks such as squatting down or twisting your body to pick something up.
The first consideration is how do you know you are performing an exercise right or wrong? Normally the set of cues would be pain, swelling – loss of range of movement of the joint. The problem with these indicators is that they normally manifest themselves a long time after the damage is done.
These injuries occur after millions ‘yes millions’ of repetitions. Every time you bend, twist or perform a simple squat to pick something up in a compromised position, you are eating up these repetitions and putting undue stress onto the body’s joints and muscle tissue. Our body is an amazing machine that will adapt its position and be pounded for millions of cycles before it finally gives way in the form of an injury. It’s very much like a light bulb which has been designed for thousands of cycles. So moving the way the body was designed to move will save those cycles and allow you to be free from injuries and better placed to get fitter and stronger.
So what is functional fitness? It’s about training your body to move correctly which normally involves multi joint and large muscle recruitment. These muscles work as a team to perform a movement/task (no isolation of an area). Functional Fitness incorporates the use of strength, agility, balance and endurance along with other fundamental fitness and movement principals to create fun, challenging and very effective all over body workouts.
It also means performing exercises on your feet as humans were not built to sit on a machine and allow it to support the movement for us – that’s called compensating and whilst it has a place for injury rehab it should otherwise be avoided.
Let us consider an example of a functional exercise. The squat. Think about how many times you sit down and stand up in a day. Poor movement of this coupled with missing range of motion (can’t quite get down so you use your back) can cause back, hip, knee and ankle pain. Correct this movement and these pains go away. You would be astounded with the amount of individuals who have back ache because they can’t squat correctly. Remember the body adapts to poor movement if it needs to but the outcome of that is pain.
Some other examples of functional moves are: lunges, push ups, pull ups. Learn to perform these well and you are stripping away any dysfunctions that the body may be storing and instantly improving your wellbeing.
So finally, functional fitness is about training movement patterns that we do in everyday life and using your body (not the machines) to stabilise you. If you are interested in attending functional fitness sessions, please take a look at the healthy hub or leisure centre pages to see when and where there are sessions taking place near to you.