Functional fitness is the workout you never knew you needed.

If the gym is your least favourite place, the thought of running marathons fills you with terror and yoga’s a bore, well the benefits of fitness to mental and physical health are still just too huge to ignore. Functional fitness is a style of workout which prepares your body for life, rather than a specific event or competition. This type of exercise mimics or recreates everyday movement whilst engaging various muscle groups, enhancing the way we perform daily functions such as squatting to pick something up or pushing open a door.

Steven Virtue, Fitness Experience Manager at Total Fitness talks us through it.

What is functional fitness?
This style of training works multiple muscle groups at the same time, reflecting the movements we make in everyday life. This enhances mobility and stability throughout the body, as well as improving muscle strength.

It is a training method that can be implemented in or outside of the gym, as it focuses on key functional fitness movements such as squatting, lunging, pushing, pulling, twisting, jumping, throwing, all of which contribute to a variety of sport and fitness exercises and can be performed with or without equipment.

Why is it important?
Functional fitness trains the full body, ensuring that muscles work together simultaneously as opposed to targeted muscle training. This is important for the body, as it helps to improve balance and posture, and reduces any unwanted stress which targeted training may cause. Strengthening the body in this way and applying these training methods to everyday life makes daily activities easier to perform and gives you a different type of fitness goal.

“Functional fitness is the workout you never knew you needed”

Functional fitness exercises
There are a number of different functional movements you can incorporate into your exercise routine, that can be easily adapted to meet your own fitness level and goals. You can just use your body weight, or for those who want to make the exercise more challenging, add free weights such as dumbbells or medicine balls.

Squat. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your back straight. Squat down by bending your knees, pushing back your hips as you lower and keeping your back straight. Use your heels to drive up to stand, squeezing your glutes as you get to the top.

Lunge. Start with your feet together, then take a large step forward and shift your weight to the front leg. Bend the front knee while pushing your hips backwards, with the back knee lowered and hovering just above the floor. Pause for a second, then push through your heels to stand.

Push-up. Start with your body in a high plank position, hands flat on the floor with your arms straight and shoulder-width apart. Engage your core, bending your elbows to lower yourself to the ground. Use the palms of your hands to push back up and straighten the arms.

Deadlift. Feet should be hip-width apart with a slight bend in the knees. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, choosing a weight which is suitable to your fitness level. Bend your knees, push your hips backwards and keep your back straight. Engage your core and keeping your arms straight, lower the weights until level with your shins, maintaining a slight bend in your knees. Pause, then push through your heels to stand up straight.

With any type of functional training, it’s important to assess your movement and strength beforehand, as this is fundamental to any training regime. You can then work through the exercises, focusing on your movement pattern and working at an appropriate intensity. This is the best way to see the benefits of functional training as you are working to a regime that suits your health and lifestyle.

With thanks to Steven Virtue, Fitness Experience Manager at Total Fitness.