There are so many types of exercise programs, how do you choose which one to do? Some cater to different levels of fitness and intensity, while some work towards improving cardiovascular endurance, some to increase strength. Have you heard of Functional Fitness?
What is functional fitness?
“Functional fitness” is a vague and complex phrase that can only be understood better when dissected into bits. The word fitness represents the optimal state of a human being characterized by strength, endurance, flexibility, power, stamina, and optimal body composition among other factors. The term “functional,” on the other hand, refers to the real-life everyday application of tasks.
This post may contain affiliate links and I may receive commissions for purchases made through the links, this comes at no cost to you. Here’s the Disclosure page for more information.
Consequently, functional fitness is a training plan that concurrently improves strength, endurance, flexibility, power, stamina, composition, and functional capacity of the body.
Let us narrow it down to the basics. Functional fitness training includes exercises designed to mimic or help you in the safe and efficient performance of daily tasks or activities, such as picking up your traveling box from your car trunk and carrying it up the stairs to your room or carrying out general cleaning functions around your home.
I made this handy-dandy tracker for you! Make weekly plans for your health.
Functional fitness training involves multiple joint movements where both the upper and lower body muscle groups are simultaneously put to work. The benefit is avoidance of injuries or protection of any compromised body parts. One example is an exercise like the dumbbell curl, it is meant to work the biceps highlight one of the glamour muscles. The dumbbell farmer’s walk, on the other hand, trains the body to lift heavy objects properly off the ground. This is done while engaging the core, going through the heels, and then moving those heavy objects from point A to point B.
Additionally, working multiple muscles such as the glutes, quads, hamstrings, upper traps, forearms, and core. Besides, the dumbbell farmers walk is not a bad high-intensity cardio workout. In a real-world scenario, an exercise such as this is much more likely to transfer over to a common task such as carrying two heavy grocery bags from the store to your car.
Benefits of functional fitness training:
Most training programs focus only a few attributes of fitness to the detriment of all others and have very little practical value. An example would be the trainee who runs on a treadmill for an hour 3 times a week and does high rep resistance work on a machine once a week. Both cardiovascular and muscular endurance are being improved, but strength and power have been left to the wayside. This type of training also leads to a loss of muscle mass which results in lowered basal metabolic rate (metabolism) and as a result body composition is negatively affected. The program has next to no functional worth because it does not have any reflection on the trainee’s day to day activities.
The above is due to the resistance work being done on machines rather than with free weights. The machines lock the human body into unnatural movement patterns and attempt to segment the body into individual pieces. Movements like cable crossovers and triceps pushdowns are never replicated in real life. To make things a bit grayer, this type of training is incredibly monotonous and boring! It does not make for a motivating and sustainable exercise program.
A program geared toward functional fitness might have the trainee training a total of 3 times per week.
Each session would feature a different combination of one or more of the following: bodyweight movements, compound free weight exercises, and intense yet brief bouts of cardio. The variation in the program keeps things fun, exciting, and challenging. Sets and reps would be varied so there would be increases in both muscular strength and endurance.
Adequately executed explosive movements like the Olympic lifts (clean and jerk/snatch) would give way to unprecedented power. Cardio would be done at intervals, which would improve both aerobic and anaerobic energy systems, and consequently cardiovascular endurance.
The high-intensity short duration workouts, including a warm-up and cool-down, would only take around 30-45 minutes; yet they would burn large amounts of calories and elevate metabolic rate for hours after the workout had finished.
Here are a few examples of how functional exercise training translates into everyday life:
- Squats, push-ups, deadlifts, pull-ups, press, and clean and jerk to name a few. You have to squat to get on and off your couch, or toilet for that matter.
- A push-up is nothing more than a means of getting off the floor. Whenever you pick up anything from the ground, you are performing a deadlift.
- When you climb a tree or had to mount some object you have done a pull-up.
- Each time you reach above your head to put something away or get something down you are performing a press.
- The clean and jerk is a combination of a deadlift and press; it represents picking something up off the floor and placing it in/on a shelf above your head.
Would it not be wonderful to have your training program improve your appearance, your efficiency and effectiveness in your day to day life?
This type of training also has a profound impact on general physical preparedness (GPP). GPP represents your ability to adapt to any given situation without difficulty. This is unbelievably empowering as it allows you to explore your body’s capacities. If you decide to take up kayaking, mountain biking, or tennis, you will be physically prepared and able to do so. Increased GPP removes the limitations most people place on themselves by following a sedentary lifestyle.
High-intensity interval training:
Another fitness term worth being familiar with is HIIT. It is a method of working out in which you alternate low-intensity moderate exercise for more intense driven training. High-intensity training usually has less rest in between sets, and you are often working at more intense levels, whether it is lifting more weight than you are typically accustomed to, or sprinting harder than you would normally.
Before you become fearful of HIIT, although the exercises are performed intensely, you invest little time into your workout and burn more calories than you would when working out at lower intensity levels of intensity for hours on end.
A typical example of HIIT would be to sprint as intensely as you can for 30 seconds and walking for one minute. Doing exercises in this order has been scientifically proven, to burn more fat, and build more muscle, much more rapidly than low-intensity exercises, or cardio.
Core benefits of HIIT
HIIT is beneficial in more ways than one; it has been scientifically proven to be the most effective way to work out. One of the most significant advantages of using HIIT is known as the afterburn effect. This is also known as EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). EPOC happens when you increase your metabolism and burn more calories for up to 24 hours after training. This can only be achieved through HIIT. Low-intensity exercise will not cause these effects.
Here are other benefits of HIIT Training.
● Promotes HGH production (human growth hormone),
● Boosts metabolism,
● Improves strength and stamina,
● Improves overall health,
● Promotes weight loss,
● Enhances sensitivity to insulin
HIIT VS CROSSFIT, RUNNING, OR WEIGHTLIFTING
Some exercises are known as Steady State Endurance Exercises (SSCT). They are performed for more extended periods of time to get the heart pumping. These are:
There is a better alternative though. High-intensity interval training (HIIT).
HIIT can boost athletic performance, improve the health of recreational exercisers, and provide the benefits of SSCT in less time and fewer workouts!
SSCT is considered aerobic exercise (running, biking, rowing, swimming) for greater than 20 min. HIIT is regarded as a short amount of time exercising at maximum intensity followed by short rest. Timing varies from method to method, but it usually follows a 2:1 ratio of intense exercise to rest. For example, Tabata (a form of HIIT) is eight rounds of 20 seconds of intense activity followed by 10 seconds of rest.
Both methods increase stroke volume (amount of blood pumped per heart beat), heart contractility (force of each contraction), and left ventricle heart mass. Both of these variables increase blood flow, and the amount of O2 supplied to your muscles. However, HIIT:
• Improves stroke volume better than SSCT
• Improves VO2 Max more effectively, which is vital for fighting heart disease
Let’s explore on the cellular level
During aerobic exercise, mitochondria (energy factory of a cell) use O2 to manufacture adenosine triphosphate (ATP- the energy source of a cell) through the breakdown of carbs and fat. As mitochondrial density increases, more energy becomes available to working muscles. HIIT leads to an increase in mitochondrial oxidative enzymes; thus, making your body more effective at breaking down carbs and fat for fuel.
HIIT also has greater excess postexercise O2 consumption (EPOC) after exercise sessions than does SSCT. O2 consumption (and thus caloric expenditure) remains elevated as working muscle cells restore physiological and metabolic factors in the cell to pre-exercise levels.
Still the question. How do you choose which training program is right for you?
That is dependent on a lot of factors. As working mothers with limited time, we have to consider the length of the program, their schedule, and motivating factors. I am personally a fan of functional fitness. It allows for injury prevention and helps function with everyday tasks. The short amount of time required to obtain the benefits of functional fitness is definitely a plus. Functional fitness training incorporates some elements of HIIT. So you get the benefit of both. The increased metabolism of HIIT plus the safety, strength and injury prevention provided by performing functional fitness workouts.
CHOOSING THE BEST GEAR FOR YOUR WORKOUTS
Now let’s talk about properly dressing for our training to better optimize our workouts. Acquiring the suitable equipment is the first thing you need to do. Consider wearing comfortable, wicking, supportive and non-bothersome clothing. That way you can concentrate on the actual workout, as opposed to trying to fix your wardrobe or being uncomfortable.
You also need to have the proper shoes. Failure to do that often leads to some injuries in your feet, ankles, legs and even the rest of your body too.
Below are a few workout essentials:
For the upper body, I vote or wicking shirts and tops. They absorb the sweat very fast and wicks it away from your body. Wearing proper fitting shirts will serve you well. Not too loose, not too tight. If a shirt is too free, it might get in the way and hamper your movements. If the shirt is too tight, it will again impede your movements, and you will not be able to perform at your peak.
For the lower body shorts or track pants or tights are most suitable, and should be proper fitting as the shirt. Choose flexible and wicking materials, that absorb and wick sweat away from the body in addition to preventing chaffing.
The feet take much load while exercising, especially while walking or jogging or running. Therefore, one must be very meticulous in selecting socks and shoes for workouts. Choose soft, absorbent socks. You may even opt for ones with a little cushion. Your choice of footwear may affect your performance. The fit has to be just right. Make sure you have got the right size shoes. While buying the shoes, put them on and walk around for a bit. The soles should be able to absorb a high quantity of physical shock. Finally, the quality of the shoes should be the best available.
Dehydration is very common with exercise. To replenish the lost fluids and electrolytes, one has to drink a lot of it between workouts. Always have hydration and replenishment in mind when working out. The bottles used for taking water should be handy, easy to open and drink from.
Today, all the top sportswear brands are marketing many varieties of clothes and accessories for fitness training.