Benefits of Functional Movement

Function:

the kind of action or activity proper to a person, thing, or institution; the purpose for which something is designed or exists; role (source).

...what were you designed to do? While I could get into the deeper significance of purpose and direct the conversation that way (I LOVE dialoguing about things like that!), I'm going to keep the conversation fitness-related. So with that in mind, let me ask again,
What were you designed to do? How were you designed to move?

At our core, our "primal," primary human movements include squatting, twisting, flexing and extending from your hips. We also move in vertical and horizontal pushing and pulling movements.   So it makes sense that we train intentionally to make these basic movements stronger and easier for us to preform. That's why today we're discussing the benefits of functional fitness: including these essential movements as part of your fitness routine.

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Some the benefits to working out in a functional way include significantly improving your muscular strength, endurance, joint health and flexibility. This leads to a much more versatile, powerful and efficient body with more ability to perform a wide range of activities that are physically challenging, demanding and strenuous (Shin O'Take, How to Get in Great Shape for Any Activity).

Not only does movement like this, when combined with shorter, higher intensity workouts burn more fat and create lean muscle, but it challenges your body in a way that is directly translatable to every day life. While it might build good hamstring muscles, using a machine and doing hamstring curls with one leg isn't very functional (when was the last time you did that movement with one leg in real life?).

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I don't want to get too down on machines as they certainly serve a purpose. They're great for beginners who don't have the knowledge of how to use free weights as well for those whose form might not be strong enough to do some movements with just body weight or free weights. However, the more true-to-life your movements can be, the more your daily life will be affected for the better as you gain strength, improve balance, and see improvements.

What would I suggest workout-wise then? Compound muscle movements are where it's at, in my opinion. While biceps curls will get you bigger biceps, doing a squat + curl + press will torch more calories during the move and mimic real life more (think: squatting down to pick up a box, "curling" it up, then putting it above your head on a shelf).

Another example of a compound muscle move that will really get your heart rate going is a burpee to a pull up. Truth be told, even the burpee alone is engaging most major muscle groups in your body; the pull up adds some heat to the move!

Most of my workouts (like the ones on my YouTube channel and the ones posted on the blog) follow suit with compound, functional movements interspersed with jumping and mountain climbers and stair runs in order to get and keep my heart rate up! From time to time I like to work on a specific body part or area and will emphasize shoulders or core, for example, after the bulk of my more intense workout is done. As references, I turn to Shin O'Take with his Max Workouts and Craig Ballantyne of Turbulence Training who emphasize bodyweight exercises, dumbbell exercises, interval training (no traditional cardio for these guys!) and torso training (more effective than crunches!). I love it. While it might not be for everyone and certainly takes an open mind to switch from the idea of longer, steady state cardio sessions and more traditional weight training, I do believe it is the best type of movement for general health (not speaking specific training goals here like marathons or figure competitions) and for increased quality of life and functionality throughout your days.

I'm curious to know - how do you workout? Are you in favor or 3 sets of 12 reps for most body parts? Do you switch up your styles of training? What do you think of functional training and its benefits?

Whatever you do, remember that movement is better than sitting on the couch - that whatever you do, making that choice to DO is the best decision you can make. Plank! Squat! Jump rope! Run! Row! Walk! Garden! Snow shoe! Weights! ...just do it. ;)

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Have a great Monday! Live well & be well,

Bonnie

4 Comments
  1. March 5, 2012 at 16:54
    Reply

    I would love a rut. routine. weight machines :) My body has announced loud and clear OTHERWISE.

  2. Awesome post Bonnie!! I try to incorporate some functional training into my workouts, but I don't know a ton about it. As I'm learning though, the more I do it! I enjoy it so much more than just standing and watching myself go through a movement haha.

  3. March 7, 2012 at 04:34
    Reply

    Hi Bonnie! I absolutely love H.I.I.T workouts, super sets or circuits..I always incorporate my cardio into my workouts. when I trained with a trainer (for over a yr) she had me doing the usual 3 sets of 15 reps plus cardio and then 1 hr long cardio sessions on my none lifting days. Don't get me wrong if it works for you, great but I was so bored (I'm A.D.D) and it was so time consuming.. so I stumbled onto a site called Bodyrock about a yr ago and it was great. I don't follow along anymore.. ( that's another story) but it was what I needed at the time. Now I'm hoping to get my Trainers Cert so I can start spreading the word that you don't need hrs at the gym to get into great shape..

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