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Functional training: The only fitness regime you’ll ever need

Functional training aims to incorporate "everyday" movements into your workout and is brilliant for your strength, stamina, coordination and overall health. ISTOCK

Functional training: The only fitness regime you’ll ever need

If running for the bus, lifting a suitcase or bending over leaves you short of breath then you need functional training. Here's everything you need to know about the most comprehensive type of exercise out there.

Functional training: The only fitness regime you’ll ever need

Functional training: It pretty much does what it says on the tin.

It’s meant to be, you guessed it, functional.

In other words, it’s designed to be relevant to everyday life and give your exercise routine more “purpose”.

Functional training is designed to give your exercise more "purpose" than traditional gym workouts. ISTOCK

Functional training gives your exercise more “purpose” than traditional gym workouts. ISTOCK

Functional training incorporates the types of movements you use day-to-day and is nothing like traditional machine-based gym workouts.

So think squats, deadlifts and lunges rather than leg presses, bicep curls or pulldown machines.

But don’t for one second think that a functional training programme will go easy on you. If you want it to, it’ll push you to your limits.

And if you’re looking for help incorporating exercise into your daily routine, here are seven handy tips.

So what is functional training?

You may have noticed the word “functional” pop up in descriptions for group fitness classes at your local gym.

It’s even in the name of one of the biggest fitness trends out there: that “F” in “F45” stands for “functional”.

Drop and gimme 20! Using your own bodyweight is a big part of functional training, and push-ups feature prominently. ISTOCK

Drop and gimme 20! Using your own bodyweight is a big part of functional training, and push-ups feature prominently. ISTOCK

The movements involved tend to get the whole body moving as opposed to isolating particular muscles.

They are designed to imitate everyday movement patterns with compound exercises – such as squatting, pushing, pulling and rotating – but it’s done to a level and a structure that will ensure you get a serious sweat on.

Tara Teakle head of F45 at a gym in Brooklyn told Self.com, “For example, think of the leg extension machine,” she says. “You’re never going to just use your quads. [Functional training] works with the glutes, hamstrings, and core.”

Planks and holds are another great way to increase your core strength and stability. ISTOCK

Planks and holds are another great way to increase your core strength and stability. ISTOCK

The types of exercise you can expect to follow as part of a functional training programme are squats, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, push-ups, burpees and various types of lunges.

Lunges can be done without any equipment, but throwing in some dumbbells can be a great way of pushing your strength, stability and coordination even further. ISTOCK

Lunges can be done without any equipment, but throwing in some dumbbells can be a great way of pushing your strength, stability and coordination even further. ISTOCK

Depending on the workout, they can be incorporated into a high-intensity interval training (HIT) workout, which will push you to your physical and mental limits like F45, or they can form part of a lighter, scaled-back workout.

How can I try functional training?

Your local gym will almost certainly have a group class that has functional training as its primary goal.

However, there are countless exercise routines you can find online to try on your own or with friends.

Note that some routines will require a small range of equipment such as free weights, kettlebells or Swiss balls.

If you do include some weight and resistance training in your workout, here’s why your heart will really thank you for it.

However, there are plenty of workouts that don’t require any equipment at all – just you and your own bodyweight – meaning you can get “functionally” ship-shape at home or in the park.

If you think the cold is preventing you from exercising, here are our nine top reasons for getting out there and moving this week.

Why should I give functional training a try?

Functional training can really improve your fitness, coordination, focus core strength and stability.

Not to mention other benefits such as good heart health and lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.

It engages different muscle groups all at once so, without fail, you’re giving yourself a full-body workout.

Functional training also improves your “kinesthetic” awareness – awareness of how your body moves as one unit – and can also be a great fat-burning regime.

More than anything, remember that it’s designed to be “functional” for your everyday life.

So if you feel that running for the bus, lifting a heavy suitcase or bending over to pick something up leaves you out of breath or in pain, then functional training will really help you.

And finally, the “I’ve got no time for the gym” excuse is no longer valid:

You can smash a worthwhile functional training workout in as little as 20 minutes, so there’s no reason not to give it a go.

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