Functional exercises: What are they and why you should do them

If you pay attention to current workout trends or have been to a physiotherapist recently, you may have heard the term function exercises or functional movements. When they refer to “functional,” that means a movement that you would naturally perform in your daily life outside of the gym. The move toward functional exercises is due to so many people getting injured performing exercises that are not functional. Functional exercises or movements can vary from person to person. If you are an athlete then your functional exercises will be designed with different goals than those of a 65 year old looking to get in better shape.

Functional exercises are aimed at reducing your risk of injury and improving your ability to function in real world scenarios. They often use multiple muscles and body parts to complete the exercise as you would in real life. For instance, squatting is a very functional exercise for both the athlete and the 65 year old. You perform the squatting motion when you get up from a chair, get out of your car, or when you lift a heavy box off of the floor.  And the athlete performs it whenever he or she jumps, changes direction, or goes to tackle or explodes off into a run. Functional exercises teach your body to work together to get a task done. This differs from traditional exercises that we are used to doing at the gym that isolate one muscle at a time. There are very few things we do in life that we isolate or only need one muscle to function, so why train your body that way?

What are functional exercises?

Here are 3 exercises that you can do that will work most muscles in the body and be functional.


Man performing squat

1. Squat

As mentioned above, whether you are an athlete or a stay at home parent, a squat is something that is functional no matter what you do. It requires strength of most every muscle in your legs, hips, and back.

2. Overhead Pressworkout posture Overhead Press

This simulates lifting something to a high shelf, or putting your baggage in an overhead bin on an airplane. It requires strength of your shoulders and arms. You can even use a medicine ball or kettle bell to make it even more functional.

3. Push up

This is something that can help older populations get up off the floor after a fall, or help someone younger who needs to push items at work. It uses a lot of shoulder, arm, and chest strength, but it also requires you to use and active your core (something that performing a bench press will not do).

push up

If you need further instruction on what functional exercises that will help you or how to perform these exercises correctly then stop in to one of our physiotherapy centres. We also offer Functional Movement Screens that will help identify muscle asymmetries, tightness, weakness and other risk factors for injury by examining the mobility and stability of the hips, core, shoulders, knees, spine and ankles. So whether you are a weekend warrior, stay at home mom, or a high level athlete, keep it functional and you will notice the benefits!

 

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