What is Functional Fitness Strength Training?
The term “strength training” is a little loaded. A lot of us hear that and think of Olympic weightlifters screaming as they strain to lift hundreds of pounds and drop them on the floor; of bodybuilders flexing onstage; of power and force and an almost inhuman ability to move weight. These associations can make strength training feel inaccessible to some, which is a huge problem because that’s not all strength training can be.
Strength training has many benefits, but one of them that a lot of beginners might not recognize is the potential for protecting the body and supporting movement outside the gym. Functional exercise strength training is actually just a type of strength training that focuses on helping your body move rather than moving as much weight as you can.
When we strengthen our muscles correctly, they’re able to support our bones and joints so that we can move through our daily lives with more ease. That’s where functional strength training exercises really shine: it takes a more holistic approach to strength as it relates to our bodies than traditional forms of muscle strength training like powerlifting.
To dig in, let’s break this down into its parts: functional movement and strength training.
What is Functional Training?
The dictionary definition of functional is, “of or having a special activity, purpose, or task; relating to the way in which something works or operates.”
That effectively means that if we’re doing something with functionality in mind, its purpose is to improve the ease with which we perform that action. Functional strength training actually goes far beyond strength. It emphasizes mobility, balance, agility, and your ability to move through space in whatever way you need without any pushback from your body.
Whether you need to hinge, twist, or reach, the functional aspect of this form of training has the potential to significantly improve not just your fitness but also your quality of life. Of course, we want to improve our gym performance, but this is about taking that performance beyond the gym’s walls.
What is Strength Training?
Strength training is the act of doing exercises that make us, well, stronger. It’s as simple as that. Strength training doesn’t necessarily have to be about pushing your body to extremes, but rather making incremental improvements to your ability to move increasingly heavy objects.
When functionality and strength come together, we get stronger using exercises that serve a function, thereby strengthening our bodies as they go about their daily activities. And on top of making it easier for you to perform the tasks that get you through the day, functional strength training is a method of preventing future injuries from occurring, both inside and outside of the gym. When our muscles are strong and our tendons and ligaments protected, we’re less likely to get hurt.
What are the Benefits of Functional Strength Training?
The beauty of functional strength training is that it allows you to reap all of the benefits of functional training and the benefits of strength training. Some of those benefits include:
- Improving body mechanics
- Building strength
- Supporting mobility
- Slowing down muscle atrophy (aka sarcopenia)
- Improving balance and coordination
- Preventing injuries
- Helping with chronic disease management
- Weight loss
- Releasing endorphins in the brain (making you happier)
- Strengthening bones
- Improving cardiovascular health
How do I Start Functional Strength Training?
The key to functional strength training is implementing dynamic movements with resistance that can help us take on our actions every day. Whether you’re pulling groceries out of your car, lifting a wriggling toddler into a car seat, or walking up the stairs in your house, functional strength training can help you establish a strong base from which to move in all the ways that make you—you.
When we talk about dynamic movement, we have to utilize those exercises which translate to daily life—these may include pushing, pulling, jumping, stepping, balancing, and more. Keep in mind that it’s important when performing functional strength exercises to move in three dimensions: front-back, side-side, and rotational.
When we talk about these functional movements with resistance, we have to ask ourselves: Does this action require me to effectively work against a force? How could this movement translate to my mobility needs? Is it an opportunity for me to resist weight—be it gravity or a barbell?
The types of exercises you are going to look for in functional strength training will use a lot of your body at once, like squats, pull-ups, twisting motions, and more.
Consider functional strength training a form of preventative physical therapy (which is actually where functional strength training comes from). While getting started in this journey may not be easy for everyone, it’s vital for people of all ages. Even the ability to stand up from a chair is based on functional strength training, and you can get started to protect your body and your future today. You can work on functional strength training in any of our clubs and with our virtual workouts on iChuze Fitness. We can’t wait to welcome you to the Chuze Family.