One of my “strengths” I wrote on my CV when applying to my current job was functional training, and one of my interview questions were, how would you describe functional fitness, or how do you train “functional”. Obviously I knew what it was and that I loved to train my clients in a functional way. But it made me think. She didn’t ask me that because she didn’t know, but because it means something different to every person. So here is what functional fitness means to me.
The term functional fitness has become very popular lately, and as more and more people that are normally not into fitness are recognizing that they are not able to do the things they want in their everyday life. It has become something you need to do, not what you want to do.
Functional fitness means to me that you are strengthening and preparing the body to performing everyday tasks easier, at the same time reducing the risk of injury. So this means keeping the body in shape so it can do anything from moving boxes, carrying shopping up several flights of stairs, and especially for the mom’s that I train to lift and move their little ones as they get heavier and heavier by the minute, taking them out of car seats, that’s a killer movement for a woman’s back, to think that the average 2 year old weighs about 12kg? I don’t see any of us doing exercises like that with that much weight, and these are daily tasks of a mom. Or my mountain bikers and marathon runners, I always tell them if you always just train in one direction, the frontal plane, and on Sunday you go play football with your son or grandson, and you step to the side you are at the risk of injury because you have no stability in that direction, so when you come to me we will train in all planes of movement and that to me is functional.
These exercises used are generally multi-joint, multi muscle (compound) exercises, with some single joint exercises (isometric), that mimic the types of movement you might do during your day. These exercise are usually practiced (but not always) with equipment such as dumbbells, resistance bands or just body weight.
The idea of functional fitness was probably to encourage people who might not normally be very active, to strengthen their bodies and keep them mobile so that they can do all the things they want to be able to do with ease. Functional fitness exercise will help you build and maintain strength, agility and mobility. So for that reason they are fantastic for older people who might wish to improve balance, muscle strength, agility and to reduce their risk of falls. That being said, this is way I love training functional, training my clients that have these goals, and always keeping their daily lives into consideration. Even just bettering the muscle imbalances most moms have from carrying their little ones on one hip. I love these challenges and helping people of all ages improve their strength, balance and agility.
How do YOU train functional?
All my love