There’s a new kind of strength training in town and everyone should be doing it. It’s called Functional Strength Training. The goal of functional strength training is to build not only strength, but also balance and coordination so that your body is ably to perform daily activities with easy and without risk of injury.
What is Functional Strength Training?
Functional strength training is especially important as we age. Without it, we end up with sore backs, achy knees, and a general feeling of instability. When you’re 20, getting on a step stool may seem like nothing, but when you are 50+ (especially without continued training) you’re likely to feel a bit wobbly and unsure of yourself.
Many people find they build balance and coordination, and feel more stable and sure in daily activities when they follow a functional fitness plan. What’s different about functional fitness exercises is that they focus on multiple directions of movement. Not only front to back, or side to side, but diagonally and twisting as well. We want to workout our bodies similar to the way it needs to move each day.
When we practice functional strength training, it’s for activities like:
- Carrying groceries
- Picking up small children
- Walking over uneven terrain
- Cleaning the house
10 Functional Strength Training Exercises Everyone Should Do
The muscles you use doing a squat are responsible for almost every move you make. These include your glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors, hip flexors, and calves.
2. Farmers walk
This exercise is as basic as it gets. It tests how long you can carry heavy, awkward objects around without dropping them. How often do we need to do this in real life? How about carrying out the garbage or walking with grocery bags?
3. Overhead Press
This exercise is helpful when you need to lift something heavy above your head. Because no one wants to drop something on your head, right?
Don’t let the name fool you, this exercise won’t kill you. Moving furniture, grabbing bags of potting soil, and lifting a sleeping child are all forms of the deadlift. When add the deadlift into your life, all these movements become both easier and safer.
Deadlifting can seem a little intimidating at first. Start slow and listen to your body. This video shows you the technique without using any weights. This way, you can practice form before adding resistance.
5. Reverse lunge
Lunges train your body to do single-leg movements. When you change your foot with each rep, you’ll improve your balance and stability more than doing exercises on both feet. You’re also working your glutes, quads, and core. A is typically easier to control and puts less stress on your knees than forward lunges.
Push-ups are the simplest way to train the push or press movement. While the move seems simple, it’s definitely not easy. I typically do push-ups on my knees. It’s much better to modify instead of trying to do a full push-up if you are not ready. You can even start your push-ups on a chair. This video shows a variety of options and instructions on using excellent form.
7. Wood chop
As I mentioned in the beginning, our bodies don’t only move front to back or up and down. It’s important to get comfortable with rotational movements as well. You want to be able to twist your spine in a safe way. I’m not sure why, but this is one of my favorite exercises.
8. Glute bridge
The glute bridge helps mobilize the hip joint while strengthening the glutes. Many of us sit far too much so our glutes are often neglected. The glute muscles are actually an important part of the “core” muscles that actually run from our chest to our buns.
9. Bent over row
A row works you “pulling” muscles especially those in the upper back. This on helps me play tug with my dog without her pulling my arm out of my socket. It’s also a great one for building good posture.
10 Step Ups
We all have to deal with steps in our lives. Life doesn’t always provide us with elevators and that’s a good thing. Even walking up an uneven hill requires the same muscle groups. While this video uses gym equipment, you can use a bench, sturdy chair or even the lowest step on a staircase to do this exercise.
So, there you have it. I think these functional strength training exercises should be part everyone’s fitness plans. How about you? Have you ever tried functional training?