Be fit will improve your strength, speed, endurance, power and flexibility – and help you physically live the best life you can
The exercises selected below are great examples of what to include in your functional training workouts. The key is to select a variety that work all muscular actions (see burpee below) and all your major muscles and energy systems – and target the goals that you have in place for your functional training. We end with a couple of tougher moves that you can use to test your increasing levels of functional fitness in time.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
Single leg deadlift
Numerous times a day we will have to bend down and pick an object up (or pull our socks on!). The single leg deadlift is a great functional exercise in this respect. Stand on one leg. Keeping your trunk braced, pivot forward over your hip – try to keep your legs and torso in a straight line – and reach toward the floor with the opposite hand to your standing leg. Pull back up to standing using your hamstrings and glutes. Complete your designate number of reps and repeat.
We squat hundreds of time in a day and extend and flex our thigh muscles by sitting down and standing up, going up stairs, walking and running… The squat – whether loaded using a barbell, for example, or bodyweight – is therefore a great functional exercise. However, many of our daily thigh extension/flexion movements are performed one leg at a time, the pistol squat is therefore a great move to throw into your workouts. It will develop more symmetrical leg strength (in time as your weaker side is developed) and work hundreds of stabilising muscles in the ankle and knee for example, to hold you in place.
To perform the exercise stand on one leg and lift the other leg up out and straight, so it is around parallel to the floor in front of you. Keep your trunk upright and look straight ahead. Using your arms for balance, lower your bottom toward the ground, keeping your heel down. Focus on taking your bottom down to your heel. Push back up to the start position. Complete your reps and swap legs.
Tips: when learning the exercise stand next to a wall or similar object which you can use for balance. A slightly easier version of this exercise involves folding the non-working leg up and behind you – so that its heel is close to your bottom. This version requires slightly less strength and flexibility.
The burpee is a great functional exercise as it targets virtually all your muscles in your body in a very dynamic way and combines a squat and press-up and jump. It also involves a near complete set of muscular actions – muscle lengthening, eccentric ones, shortening, concentric ones and a plyometric muscular action (which dynamically combines the previous two when you jump).
Key points: Brace your core throughout, land lightly from the jump. If you have problem/weak shoulders/knee back don’t perform the jump and ease down into the press-up part. Variation: Do 2 press-ups after landing from each jump.
In part 1 (see last issue) we said that isometric (held) core exercises ￼were truly functional as they target the deeper back, front and side muscles in the core, as opposed to targeting the superficial abdominal muscles. These are targeted when performing crunches and sit-ups for example. Isometric core exercises have real applicability to everyday life – when we sit, stand, run, jump our core has to be held in place and it’s invariably through an isometric action that this is achieved. To perform the exercise, support your body on your toes and elbows and brace your core throughout, whilst remembering to breathe!
We humans evolved from walking on all fours. This exercise requires you to take a step back in the evolutionary chain to crawl like Spidy! Keep your core braced throughout, back down and Spiderman crawl across the floor. Perform over a designated distance. To make the exercise harder, perform a number of Spidermans – say 6 and then perform 10 press-ups. Complete a designated number of sets or for distance, following this sequence. This exercise is a great all-body strengthener.
Medicine Ball Slam
The medicine ball slam is a dynamic all- body move. The slam will add power in particular to your torso as you crunch your abs to power the ball into the floor.
Squat down and place your hands shoulder-width apart around six inches/15 centimetres from a flat and sturdy wall. Kick up and into a handstand position with your legs resting against the wall for support. Bend your arms and lower your head to lightly touch the floor. Push back up and repeat. Hints, tips and variations: This is a tough exercise! If, initially handstand press-ups are too demanding you can perform pike press-ups instead.
From a normal press up, lift your hips so your body resembles an inverted V, bend your arms and lower your forehead to the floor and then push back up. Once you have mastered these, move on to eccentric (lowering) handstand press-ups – simply perform the lowering part of the exercise and then come out of your handstand, kick back up and repeat. With persistence and practice you will soon be able to push back up and do full handstand press-ups.
Very Advanced Move!
Floor Leg Lift
This is a gymnastic style exercise, it’ll get your lower abs and hip-flexors firing. Sit on the floor with legs extended and hands by your hips, palms down and fingers forwards. Push into the ground with your arms and simultaneously lift your legs, holding them straight out in front of you. Hold for a few seconds or longer if you can, lower and repeat. This exercise targets your lower abs and your hip flexors (muscle to top front of thighs).
If you find this easy (!) lift your legs beyond vertical and laterally.
Check out more Exercise routines by Watchfit experts