WHAT is Functional Fitness, and WHY should you be doing it?

Functional training may seem like its on the rise in the fitness community, but it’s actually one of the oldest and most common types of training around. Functional training got its beginnings in the physical rehabilitation field and was created by physical therapists to improve patient recovery after injury or disability. Specific exercises were developed to help patients regain function and return to activities of daily living.

These days Functional fitness is a classification of training that is focused on building a body capable of doing real-life activities in real-life positions – not just lifting a certain amount of weight in an idealised posture created by a gym machine. It is essentially bodyweight training, and trains your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by simulating common movements you might do at home, at work, or in sports.

Our bodies were developed with the intention of having ALL of our muscles work together and support each other to accomplish certain movements and tasks and isolating certain muscle groups to add muscle mass and being able to “lifty heavy” was not what our bodies were naturally made for (something I have been preaching for over 15 years). There is NO point in being able to deadlift 200kg in the gym, but if you go to put a suitcase in the back of your car, you throw your back out. Or, being able to bicep curl with 20kg dumbbells with perfect form, but picking up a child makes you pull a muscle.

If this sounds like you, I would suggest it may be time to embrace a more well-rounded workout routine and incorporate some functional fitness into your regular training.

Before we can move freely in our everyday life without worrying about injury, we need to have the vital components that keep us moving, and these are the core areas of focus in Functional training –

  • Core Stability
  • Strength
  • Balance
  • Flexibility
  • Agility
  • Range of Motion
  • Mobility

There are a few things to take into consideration if you’re thinking functional fitness is right for you.

  1. Almost anyone can incorporate functional training into their fitness program, but as with all exercise, it’s important to check with your healthcare provider if you’re starting a new fitness program, or have medical issues that may impact your ability to exercise safely. It’s best to start working with an experienced Functional Fitness trainer as opposed to just any fitness instructor or personal trainer as this is one of the best ways to ensure that your routine is both safe and effective.
  2. It’s important to start at a beginner’s pace, and ease into it. I always recommend starting with exercises that use only your own body weight for resistance – as you become more fit and adjusted to this style of training, you can add more resistance. 
  3. It’s important to consider the styles/methods of Functional training that you wish to pursue. Here are some examples –
  • Suspension Training – Straps / TRX / Resistance Bands
  • Ballet Barre
  • Pilates & Yoga
  • Foam Rolling

Whatever method you end up choosing, functional fitness is sure to optimise your performance both in the gym AND in real life!