Strength training should do more than build lean body mass, it should make it easier to do everyday activities such as picking up a heavy object off the floor or shoveling a driveway full of snow. Working individual muscles gives those muscles more strength and muscle definition, but it won’t greatly enhance your ability to do everyday movements that require both strength and coordination. That’s where functional strength training comes in and why they’re a major component of my new Low Impact videos.
Why Functional Training is Important
Functional strength training trains muscles to work together rather than focusing on a single muscle group. When you bend over to pick something up you recruit muscles in your core, lower body and upper body to do the work. Functional strength exercises teach these muscles to work as a coordinated unit to make everyday movements that require strength and coordination easier. Isolation exercises such as biceps curls strengthen individual muscles, but they don’t train muscles to work functionally together.
Not only will functional training make it easier to throw a trash bag over your shoulder and carry it down a flight of stairs, but it’ll also reduce your risk of injury when you do everyday activities. That’s why it’s important to add functional strength training to your fitness routine even if your main focus is to get lean and defined. Weight training should do more than make you look hot in a swimsuit.
If you participate in sports, functional strength training takes on even greater importance since it helps to reduce the risk of injury on the field or on the track by improving muscle balance. It can also make you a better athlete.
How to Get the Benefits of Functional Strength Training
The key to getting the benefits of functional training is to focus on compound exercises where you’re using multiple muscle groups at once. Examples are push-ups, pull-ups, deadlifts, lunges, overhead presses, squats and bench press. Other ways to do functional strength training is to combine two exercises into a single one. For example, do lower-body lunges while doing biceps curls or push-ups with hip extensions.
You can make an isolation strength exercise functional by doing it on an unstable surface. Instead of doing biceps curls while seated, stand on a Bosu ball instead. Performing an exercise on an unstable surface recruits more muscle fibers. This increases the calorie burn too.
As you might have guessed, functional strength training isn’t best for building mass, but it does help you build “practical strength” and coordination that can make your life easier when you’re cleaning the house, gardening or washing the car. Functional training also improves flexibility and balance. It’s a good way to add diversity to your exercise routine and improve your overall fitness and is why we have included so many functional training exercises in my new Low Impact series. Make it a part of your exercise routine.
ACE Fitness. “What is Functional Strength Training?”