Functional fitness workouts are the key to long-term fitness, weight loss, and wellness. These carefully designed sessions won't leave you sweaty and breathless, but they can help you to burn more calories and stay active throughout the day. So how do you take advantage of functional training? First, it's important to understand why the training program works.
What Is a Functional Fitness Workout?
Functional workouts help to improve your balance, posture, muscular endurance and flexibility. During a functional fitness workout, you might use bodyweight, dumbbells or other resistance equipment to strengthen your muscles. But this type of training is different than a traditional weightlifting program.
During each functional training exercise, you must focus very closely on the movement to stay balanced and maintain good posture. For many exercisers, functional training is a workout for the muscles and the mind. Functional training improves the way that your brain talks to your muscles so that your body works better.
There are different ways to incorporate functional training into your regular workout routine. You can add a few posture and balance exercises into your weekly strength routine, or you can work with a qualified trainer to build a more comprehensive program to improve the way your body looks and feels.
Why Functional Training Is Beneficial
Functional training helps your body to move more comfortable. And, of course, bodies that move comfortably are more likely to burn more calories without exercise. But functional training can also make your other workouts more effective. And this benefit is key for people who are trying to lose weight.
“Before you start any exercise program, it's important to identify areas of weakness or limitations in range of motion which could affect your performance, says Jason Corrie. Jason is a certified personal trainer who specializes in helping clients around the world get leaner, stronger bodies. He explains why every weight loss client should start their exercise program with a functional assessment.
“Functional training can have a massive impact when you're trying to lose weight." He explains that when your body is working properly it becomes more efficient at burning calories. When your body burns more calories during exercise and burns more calories through activities of daily living, you lose weight faster.
Tips for Starting a Functional Fitness Workout Program
The best way to start a functional fitness workout program is to find a qualified professional. Personal trainers who practice functional training start by doing a complete evaluation of your movement patterns. They may identify past injuries and physical habits that have changed the way your body functions. Then they work together with you to retrain and rebuild basic movements so that the body moves more comfortably and efficiently throughout the day.
Not all trainers are qualified to do this form of assessment and program design. Jason recommends that you research a trainer’s background, ask questions and ask for referrals. “A good trainer will always be happy to provide testimonials and success stories from previous clients. Look for any testimonials which describe clients with past injuries or posture problems and ask to contact those clients directly.”
You can also find a trainer by searching online. The American Council on Exercise provides a searchable database to help find a trainer in your area. And the American College of Sports Medicine has an online service to find qualified trainers as well.
You can also join a gym that provides functional fitness equipment and classes. Planet Fitness, for example, provides PF360 and the Life Fitness S3 (TRX) equipment to help members take advantage of the newest functional training technology.
Functional Training Exercises to Try
If you simply want to incorporate a few functional training exercises into your routine, you can start with a few simple routines that can help to improve balance and coordination. When you do any functional fitness routine, it is essential that you focus on doing the movements correctly, rather than doing them with more weight or doing more repetitions.
Functional fitness workouts need to be done on a regular basis to provide results. But you'll notice a real change in the way your body looks and feels if you do them consistently. Try to do your functional routine 2-3 times per week. As you become stronger and more coordinated, add new exercises that challenge the lower body and exercises that build strength and coordination through your trunk and core.
Regular exercise is an important part of getting in shape and living a healthy lifestyle. However, finding the best exercises that work for your body and daily routine can feel overwhelming. This is especially true for novice exercisers, but it can also be a challenge for people who exercise several times per week.
Although there’s a variety of workout programs available, building an exercise foundation through bodyweight exercises is a great place to start. It’s always a good idea to perform an exercise using the weight of your own body before progressing to more advanced levels.
There are many workout programs—like TRX suspension training—that use bodyweight to build strength and stability, as well as high-intensity interval training (HIIT) programs that use bodyweight exercises in most routines.
According to an article published by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), bodyweight exercises should be incorporated into an exercise program to address performance gaps, improve movement quality, and maintain/accelerate progress.
ACSM recommends building entire training days exclusively for bodyweight exercises. Some of the benefits include:
Day 1: Prisoner Squat Jumps
Targets: This plyometric move builds strength, power, and stability in legs, glutes, and hips. Your core and back are also activated during the movement.
Get Started: Stand with feet shoulder width apart, cradle hands behind head, look forward and keep your elbows and shoulders back. Squat back keep your core engaged, and explode upward using your lower body, fully extending your ankles, feet, and hips in one movement. Land softly returning to starting squat position with weight distributed evenly between the heels.
Modification: Keep the jump less explosive, barely coming off the ground.
Day 2 Push-Up
Targets: Chest, arms, shoulders, core
Get Started: On the floor, place hands shoulder-width apart like a plank, keep your core engaged not allowing hips to sag, back straight, and head neutral. Bend elbows and lower your body to about a 45-degree angle. Push up to starting position.
Modification: Perform exercise from the knees, using an exercise mat to support them.
Day 4: Mountain Climber
Targets: Core, quads, hamstrings, hips, chest, shoulders, arms
Get Started: For this full body exercise, start in plank position, back and body straight, core tight. Bring your right leg toward the chest and quickly switch, pulling left leg toward the chest like a plank running motion. Continue to switch back and forth, maintaining proper body mechanics.
Modification: Perform exercise at an incline instead of on the floor. Or, you can alternate a slow step back instead of running during the movement.
Day 5: Squat
Targets: Glutes, thighs, hips, quads, and hamstrings
Get Started: Stand with feet shoulder width apart, sit your butt back and keep bodyweight over heels, look straight ahead and avoid rounding your back. The body should not be shifted forward while the knees are over the toes.
Modification: Use a chair or flat bench for assistance or support.
Day 6: Plank
Targets: All core muscles, hips, back, shoulders
Get Started: Start on hands and knees on an exercise mat. Lower your forearms to the floor, hands shoulder-width apart with palms down and elbows positioned under your shoulders. Your arms should be at a 90-degree angle. Step feet back one at a time, balancing on the balls of your feet and your toes. Keep your core tight and body straight from head to toes. Hold the exercise for a determined amount of time.
Modification: Perform the plank from your knees instead of toes. Hold exercise for a shorter period.
Day 7: Bent Over Leg Lift
Targets: Glutes, hips, thighs, core
Get Started: Stand with legs shoulder-width apart, bend over slightly, keep core tight and back straight, place hands behind your back, bear your weight on the right leg, and extend left leg to the side resting on the toe. Sit back in a slight squat, lifting left leg to the side with a flexed foot in one motion. Lower left leg back to resting position. Perform the exercise for a determined number of reps. Repeat on the other side.
Modification: Perform exercise using a chair or counter for an assisted spot.
Day 8: Abdominal Crunch
Targets: The pair of ab muscles in front/sides of the body—your six-pack (rectus abdominis)
Get Started: Start on the floor, lie on your back, knees bent, and envision your navel sucked toward your spine. Place your hands gently cradled behind the head or crossed over your chest. Avoid pulling on your neck to take your chin toward chest. With eyes focused on the ceiling, tighten your core, and lift shoulder blades off the floor a few inches, exhaling as you lift. Return to start position and repeat for a determined amount of reps.
Modification: Maintain one or both hands behind head if neck feels
Day 9: Burpee
Targets: This full body move works the arms, chest, quads, glutes, hamstrings, and core.
Get Started: Start in standing position, feet shoulder-width apart. Tighten your core, move into a deep squat position with hands on the ground. Jump feet backward holding a plank position, then jump feet forward returning to squat position. From there, you'll jump upward extending through ankles, knees, and hips, and land back in squat position. Repeat move for a determined amount of reps or for time.
Modification: Advanced exercise adds a push-up after jumping back into a plank. Beginning exercise uses an incline (bench/chair) instead of the floor and/or removing the jumping portion of the exercise.
Day 10: Lower Ab Leg Raise
Targets: Hip flexors, rectus abdominis, obliques
Get Started: Start on the floor using exercise mat and lie on your back keeping low back pressed into the floor. Place hands at your sides or under your butt for support. Start with legs lifted to the ceiling, tighten core, and slowly lower legs to the floor or your comfort level. Keep core engaged and lift legs back up toward the ceiling. Repeat move for a determined amount of reps.
Modification: Avoid lowering legs all the way to the floor if it causes back discomfort. Keep the range of motion smaller and at your comfort level.
Day 11 Oblique One Arm Sweep
Targets: Core, obliques, rectus abdominis, hip flexors
Get Started: Sit on the floor using an exercise mat, with legs extended in front of you, bent knees, and resting on heels. Tighten your core, maintain a neutral spine, lean back, and sweep the right arm behind you twisting at the core in one motion. Return to start position and repeat on the other side. Perform the exercise on one side or alternate sides for a determined amount of reps.
Modification: Perform the exercise without twisting.
Day 12: Bicycle Crunch
Targets: Obliques (side abs) and rectus abdominis
Get Started: Starting on the floor, lie on your back on an exercise mat with your low back pressed into the floor, legs extended with slightly bent knees, and head and shoulders raised a few inches off the floor. Place hands lightly on sides of your head. Avoid pulling on head and neck. Tighten your core, bring one knee toward the chest and opposite elbow, twisting the body through the core in one motion. (You don’t have to touch the elbow.) Lower the leg and arm at the same time and repeat this motion on the other side. Perform exercise for a determined amount of reps.
Modification: Change the knee angle using a more bent knee for less range of motion.
Day 13: Lunge
Targets: Hips, glutes, hamstrings, quads, inner thigh, core
Get Started: Stand with feet hip-width apart and engage the core. Step forward with the right leg, weight landing on the heel first, lower body until right thigh is parallel to the floor. Knee will be at a 90-degree angle but not traveling over the toe. Maintain tight core and press back through the heel to return to start position. Repeat on the other side.
Modification: Eliminate forward motion and perform a stationary lunge. You may also consider holding a counter or chair for assistance
Day 14: Plyo Jack
Targets: Hip abductors (outer thigh), hip adductors (inner thigh), glutes, shoulders, core, calves
Get Started: Stand with feet hip-distance apart and push butt back slightly. Bend at knees, preparing your body to explode off the ground extending legs to the sides with arms up overhead and returning to start position in one motion.
Modification: Perform without extending arms overhead.
Please sure you are properly warm up, for at lest 5 minutes before workout each day and 5 minutes cool down.
Bodyweight exercises are recommended to build a strong base for proper body movement during workouts. Routines dedicated to this type of training program address performance gaps, improve movement quality, and maintain/accelerate progress.
You should consult your physician or other health care professional before starting this or any other exercise program to determine if it is right for you.
This blog is updated by Tranquillity 360 fitness personal trainers, as well as other guest bloggers.