What is Functional Fitness?

April 5, 2018

Functional fitness is a fancy phrase that basically means the body’s ability to perform its everyday tasks with ease.

For example: Are you a gardener? You need to be able to bend and kneel for long stretches without developing pain or stiffness. Do you have young grandchildren? You’ll want the strength and agility to pick them up and carry them without feeling fatigued – never mind chasing after the little tykes.

Functional training targets muscles used in everyday tasks. By emulating every day movements, functional exercises use multi-joint movements to teach the body's muscles to work together more easily and efficiently.

A good example of a functional exercise would be the squat. The motion involved in squatting is the same one we use many everyday activities like sitting on the couch, going to the washroom, driving.

By practicing the proper motion of a squat, you train the body’s muscles to respond in a more efficient, coordinated effort thereby making the overall movement easier.

Try this at home to get an idea of how functional fitness works:

  1. From a seated position on the couch, rise slowly, if possible, to a standing position.
  2. Pay very close attention to what is occurring in the body; stop thinking and just observe.
  3. Now perform the same action but this time, tighten or "brace" the abdominal muscles as much as possible and rise again. You should have noticed a smother, easier transition to a standing position with less muscular effort.

With an emphasis on core stability, balance, strength and flexibility, functional training helps prevent injury and maintain independence.

Consider this: A clinical psychologist I trained for six years first came to me with a very specific goal. At 67, she found herself struggling to open the subway door that lead to her office. She could have taken the long way around to avoid the door, but she smartly realized that if she’d lost the strength to open a door at her present age, surely other physical limitations were not far behind.

That’s where I came in. By working on very specific, tailored functional exercises, my client was able to quickly gain the strength and power necessary to achieve her goal. But she didn’t stop there. She was so completely taken by her new sense of physical empowerment that she continued working out for several years, thoroughly enjoying all the primary and secondary benefits of overall fitness.