Why Is “Functional Fitness” So Important?

If you’re anything like most gym-goers, chances are you’ve been programmed to think of fitness in a very strange and unnatural way. Bodybuilders bulging with chemically enhanced muscles or powerlifters swaddled in wraps and braces squatting eight-hundred pounds may come to mind.

But what about the rest of us? Fortunately, the fitness world is coming to a consensus, if you’re not a sport specific athlete, functional fitness is what you need to be focusing on. You might have read this phrase before or had a friend try to explain it you, in order to to get us on the same page, let me start by defining functional fitness by explaining its principles.

Being functionally fit means having athleticism beyond big muscles. While traditional weight training isolates each muscle, Functional Fitness focuses on how different muscle groups work together. By doing so, you’ll improve the following:

  • Coordination: From jumping lunges to kettlebell snatches, to wall ball throws – you won’t just be building muscle and improving your endurance, but also your hand-eye coordination. In addition, you’ll be training your mind-body connection, increasing your spatial awareness. This will translate the next time you’re on the office softball team or playing soccer with your son.
  • Power: This is the ability to generate maximal force as quickly as possible. “Explosive,” a term you may have heard applied to NFL running backs or NBA point guards, is what functional fitness will prepare you to be. A greater generation of power enables you to jump higher, sprint faster, and complete complex movements with substantial weight. Next time you need to grab your heavy suitcase out of the back of an impatient Uber driver’s ride, you’ll be glad you’ve been doing more than just bicep curls.
  • Range of Motion: Moving through multiple planes (i.e., up and down, side-to-side, front and back) not only helps you become more agile but also restores range of motion that can be lost over time. Even simple exercises done properly, like getting into a deep “ass to grass” squat, improve flexibility. After mastering the basic exercises (e.g., walking lunges), try adding a rotation at the end or completing them in reverse.
  • Muscular Endurance: Unlike a marathoner or powerlifter, those who participate in functional fitness will both strengthen their muscles by increasing the size of muscle fibers and train muscles to hold more glycogen (which can be converted to energy).  Focusing on extending the volume (e.g., number of reps) or length (time) of your workout will train your muscles to work longer.

These capabilities are universally useful. Whether you’re a Marine or just a weekend warrior, these are all concepts you should incorporate into your fitness plan.

Additionally, functional fitness is suited for all levels. Beginners can focus on mastering the fundamentals of movement while pros can train advanced complex movements with heavy weights.

 

Try It For Yourself

Here’s a functional fitness workout that’s doable for everyone and gives you a chance to test your strength:

21-15-9: Wall Balls and Burpees (for time)

Complete 21, then 15, then 9 reps of wall ball throws and burpees as quickly as possible

  • Choose a wall ball weight that suits you: 8lbs = beginner, 14lb = intermediate, 20lb = advanced
  • Throws should hit the wall at a height of 10 feet
  • The power of the throw should be generated through your hips

How fast did you knock out this surprisingly exhausting combo? Let us know below.

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