Functional fitness is designed to focus your training on improving daily function. What’s functional will differ from person to person, as what we do in our daily lives is different.
What’s not functional fitness?
As with most things, there’s always someone who takes it too far. Functional fitness was originally focused on developing better movement quality, however some interpreted this as “how difficult can we make an exercise” in order to brand themselves as elite. There is no need to be bouncing on a bosu, single-legged with a dumbbell in each hand, unless to function in your daily routine you need plyometric, strength and balance, perhaps this would be functional for perhaps a trapeze artist and even then, you wouldn’t throw all these goals into one exercise.
The aftermath (and most probably injuries) of these extreme exercises has led to a rewind in mainstream thinking and what we now deem as functional training. We’re starting to see the function being put back into the training.
Functional Fitness vs Bodybuilding
Are you team function or team bodybuilding? Does it have to be one or the other?
Contrary to popular belief, no. Functional fitness is not the sworn enemy of bodybuilding, in fact many bodybuilding compound lifts, such as the squat and deadlift, are adapted into functional training regimes. Where the two differ, is with their focus on isolation and aesthetics. Bodybuilding focuses on the way muscles look, whereas functional fitness is about how the muscles move.
What are the Benefits of functional fitness?
You can’t train functionally sitting down.
Typically most people spend a shocking 9-12 hours sitting down. Let’s take your typical office worker, they drive to work - sat down, spend their morning in the office- sat down, go to lunch- sat down and then when they head to the gym, what do they do? Sit on machines. Functional fitness requires you to get up, to move in multiple planes of motion. Simply standing rather than sitting increases calorie expenditure and encourages better sugar metabolism.
You can improve your posture.
Unfortunately for most of us, the stress of modern life and pressures of our jobs, aren't great for our posture. Ever feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders? A hunched over back and slumped over shoulders are more common than not and it’s not good for our health. Functional fitness focuses on realigning posture by working on muscles slings and how muscle work together. Releasing tension from in the chest for example, can help to draw back the shoulders and correct posture.
You will burn fat.
Functional training burns fat. Fact. Incorporating multi-plane, multi-joint and multi-muscle movements means multi-fat burning. Functional training movement patterns crank up your heart rate and keep your body burning lots of calories.
Touch your toes.
Can you touch your toes? No? Time to get functional. Functional training can help to develop your flexibility by developing a better range of motion in movement patterns we use in everyday life.The whole point of functional training is to replicate the body’s natural planes of motion. Contracting muscles is one aspect, but it’s equally important to stretch muscles effectively to help increase flexibility.
It gives your workouts more of a meaningful purpose.
Whilst training to look good is, of course, of importance, functional training is about more than just looking good, it's about training to improve your life on a daily basis. As we get older, this can have a huge impact. It could be the difference between an elderly person being able to get up on their own, or needing a care assistant. Functional training is designed to improve the little things we do, day in, day out, to keep our bodies young and healthy.
You’ll be less likely to fall over
Functional movement incorporate lots of different planes of motion whilst focusing on single leg exercises. This improves balance and proprioception. What does that mean? You’re less likely to stumble over.
Variety is the spice of life
Training functionally keeps workouts varied. Instead of being restricted to training one muscle group in particular, training focuses on whole body integration. The possibilities of functional training are endless.
You’ll get stronger
Training functionally will produce increases in strength, which can help improve your daily life, from lifting your shopping to picking up children.
You’ll build more muscle
Functional training incorporates a variety of different pieces of kit as well as bodyweight, stumulating different muscle fibres and promoting further muscle growth. Lean muscle burns more calories at rest than fat, as well as pulling against the bone to increase bone density.
Functional Training Round - Up
- Functional training incorporates weaker muscle groups which are often neglected.
- Functional training ensures you are fit enough to perform daily activities.
- Functional training can correct posture and improve flexibility.
Get Fit with 10,000 Steps
10,000 is the magic number for anyone with a fitness tracker, but why 10,000. What's the trick to this magical digit?
With more and more people tracking their every move with fitness trackers, what can 10,000 steps really do?
History of 10,000 Steps
The recommended 10,000 steps that we see so regularly on our wrists today actually ventured over from Japan. In the 19060’s Japanese Doctor Yoshiro Hatano was concerned about the rising levels of obesity in the Japanese people and so began to research the activity of the people of his culture. The doctor and his team found that the average person walked 3,000 - 5,000 steps a day. His research found that in order to burn just 20% of their daily calorie intake, most people would need to walk at least 10,000 steps a day.
Dr Hatano then created a pedometer called the “Manpo-Kei” meaning 10,000 steps meter.
The watches motivation and simplicity made it become very popular in Japanese culture and it remains popular to this day, so much so that the Japanese government have provided an accuracy measure which all pedometers must reach, of 3% accuracy for all pedometers sold in their country.
Fast forward to today and the 10,000 steps per day is being backed by huge federations such as the NHS, World Health Organisation, American Heart Association and the US Centers for Disease Control. It’s the number at everyone's wrist.
Research supporting 10,000 Steps
Today research has proven that tracking your steps can increase your daily activity and help to improve health. Research published in The American Journal of Preventative Medicine trialled the use of Fitbit as a physical fitness intervention in inactive, postmenopausal women. After 16 weeks of monitoring their activity with a Fitbit, those who wore a Fitbit were significantly more active than the control group and wore the tracker 95% of the time.
Research into the Influence of changes in physical activity on frequency of hospitalisation in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease published in Respirology found that walking for two miles a day or more can cut your chances of hospitalisation from a severe episode of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by about half.
Another study by The American Stroke Association found that daily walking reduced the risk of stroke in men over the age of 60. Walking for at least an hour or two could cut a man’s stroke risk by as much as one-third, and it didn’t matter how brisk the pace was. Taking a three-hour walk each day slashed the risk of stroke by two-thirds.
Walking is often underestimated as studies show that simply moving around that bit more can have an array of health benefits. However, we’d say walking isn’t exercise, more essential movement, like drinking water, we need it to stay healthy.
Since walking isn’t exactly exercise but essential movement you can do it everyday without needing any recovery days for your body to repair and regenerate, so it doesn’t require recovery time and the older you get the more important it becomes.
How far is 10,00 Steps?
The average person has a stride length 2.1 ft, or around 60cm, meaning it takes over 2,000 steps to walk a mile. To put it in a clearer perspective, 10,000 steps equals about 5 miles. A brisk 10 minute walk? 1,000 steps. The average inactive person walks anywhere between 3,000 to 7,000 steps a day, so for most reaching 10,000 steps would involve adding a 30-60 minute walk to their daily routine.
How many calories will I burn if I walk 10,000 steps a day?
A person aged 45 and weighing 70kg (about 11 stone) can burn around 400 calories by walking 10,000 steps briskly. If you're trying to lose weight, walking is very low impact and the real difference will come from your nutrition, you should aim to reduce your daily calorie intake by around 500 calories and look for nutrient rich whole foods.
10,000 Steps helps reverse the dangers of Sitting
Part of the 10,000 steps charm is that it gets you up and out of your chair, as sitting for too long has been found to increase your risk of death from multiple health issues such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Research has shown that sitting for more than 8 hours a day is associated with a 90% increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Aiming to reach 10,000 steps simply just by getting up and moving more can reduce your risk of these health issues. Sundried created the concept EHOH, every hour on the hour we get up and move for 5 minutes, doing a 5 minute workout which can be anything from a jog around the block to mountain climbers. For more on EHOH visit here: https://www.sundried.com/blogs/training/77412101-ehoh
Research also studied the effect of lunchtime walks on effectiveness of employees at work and found that lunchtime walks improved enthusiasm, relaxation, and nervousness at work.
Walking was also found to improve quality of life for depressed middle-aged women. Those who averaged at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise or just over 3.25 hours of walking each week reported feeling more energised and more social at their three-year follow ups.
For more in depth research see here: http://ijbnpa.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1479-5868-8-79
If you’re ready to buy you next activity tracker, why not read some of our reviews here:https://www.sundried.com/blogs/reviews/tagged/wearables
Whilst 10,000 won’t get you super fit, it’s a step in the right direction.
Fitness testing and assessment is an important part of training. There are many different ways of testing your fitness and strength, with some better than others. The dreaded bleep test at school is a classic example of a fitness test and is still used in policing today. Nowadays, chances are your smart watch can track your fitness for you, with many of the newer Garmin watches providing VO2 max testing as well as lactate threshold testing. But you don't need an expensive watch to track your fitness! We've put together some of the best fitness assessments around, why not give one a try and see if you're where you want to be?
The VO2 Max test is a very popular fitness test among runners and triathletes as it is a universal indication of cardiovascular fitness. VO2 max is a rating of your body’s ability to consume oxygen. This is affected by factors such as how adapted your muscles are to exercise and how much blood your heart can pump.
This is the classic scene that you have probably seen in films and TV shows many times.The most accurate VO2 max tests take place in laboratories, whereby participants are given an oxygen mask to wear while running on a treadmill with their effort getting progressively more intense. Oxygen intake is monitored and VO2 max is the point at which oxygen uptake stops increasing. The units of oxygen are then measured per kg of bodyweight and a VO2 max score is calculated.
It is possible to do a VO2 Max test yourself outside of a laboratory. You can do this at the gym on a regular treadmill, all you will need is a stopwatch and a calculator.
How To Perform A VO2 Max Test
- Warm up on the treadmill for 10 minutes by walking and jogging at a gentle speed.
- The test begins at a speed of 8km/h (5mph) and an incline of 0%.
- Start the stopwatch and begin jogging.
- After 3 minutes, adjust the treadmill incline to 2.5%, and then keep increasing by 2.5% every 2 minutes thereafter.
- When you are unable to continue, the test stops.
- Make a note of your time.
- Once you have your time, use the following equation to calculate your VO2 Max:
VO2 Max = (Time x 1.444) + 14.99
Time is calculated in minutes and fractions of minutes, so for example, 13 minutes and 15 seconds would be 13.25 minutes, 13 minutes and 30 seconds would be 13.5 minutes and so on.
Whilst many new smart watches provide VO2 max readings, these are only estimates, as they don’t take into account the measure of ventilation, oxygen and carbon dioxide concentration of the inhaled and exhaled air. While they may be a useful guess, don’t get caught up by the value you’ve been given.
What Does Your VO2 Max Score Mean?
Once you have your score, you'll want to know what it actually means. Use the table below to see how your score rates.
Age Very Poor Poor Fair Good Excellent Superior 13-19 <25 25 - 30 31 - 34 35 - 38 39 - 41 >41 20-29 <24 24 - 28 29 - 32 33 - 36 37 - 41 >41 30-39 <23 23 - 27 28 - 31 32 - 36 37 - 40 >40 40-49 <21 21 - 24 25 - 28 29 - 32 33 - 36 >36 50-59 <20 20 - 22 23 - 26 27 - 31 32 - 35 >35 60+ <17 17 - 19 20 - 24 25 - 29 30 - 31 >31
Age Very Poor Poor Fair Good Excellent Superior 13-19 <35 35 - 37 38 - 44 45 - 50 51 - 55 >55 20-29 <33 33 - 35 36 - 41 42 - 45 46 - 52 >52 30-39 <31 31 - 34 35 - 40 41 - 44 45 - 49 >49 40-49 <30 30 - 32 33 - 38 39 - 42 43 - 47 >48 50-59 <26 26 - 30 31 - 35 36 - 40 41 - 45 >45 60+ <20 20 - 25 26 - 31 32 - 35 36 - 44 >44
As you can see, the higher the reading, the better.
Top VO2 Max Scores
These athletes achieved the highest VO2 Max scores in the world. How does yours compare?
VO2 max (ml/kg/min)
Espen Harald Bjerke
Cross Country Skiing
Cross Country Skiing
Tore Ruud Hofstad
Cross Country Skiing
Cross Country Skiing
Cross Country Runner
Sit and Reach
The sit and reach test uses flexibility as a basis for judging your level of fitness. The test measures the flexibility of the lower back and hamstrings. Tightness in this area is associated with lumbar lordosis, forward pelvic tilt, and lower back pain.
How To Perform A Sit and Reach Test
- Warm up for 10 minutes by doing dynamic stretches.
- You will need a box, a marker, and a ruler/tape measure.
- Sit with your legs outstretched and your feet flat against the front of the box.
- Place the marker (it can be anything, a rubber is probably best) on top of the box at the edge closest to you.
- Keeping your legs dead straight, lean forwards and push the marker along the box as far as you can using your fingertips.
- Once you have pushed the marker, measure how far it went.
What Does Your Sit and Reach Score Mean?
The Vertical Jump Test
The vertical jump is a measure of fitness through explosive power in the legs. The test is really simple to complete, to set up all you need is a wall and a tape measure. Start by getting the participant to stand next to the wall and stretch their closest hand up as far as they can and make a mark of this point. This is the standing height. The participant then leaps as high as they can in the air and touches the wall at the highest point of their jump. The distance from the start point to the highest point is then measure as your score. Take the test 3 times and take an average for the most accurate results.
What Does Your Vertical Jump Score Mean?
Males (height in cm)
Females (height in cm)
Cooper Run Test
The Cooper run test is one of the most popular fitness tests used to determine aerobic endurance. It is also used as part of military training, with different scores being required to make the different role entry requirements. The test lasts just 12 minutes and participants are required to run as far as they can for the entire duration. The test can also be used to measure VO2 max using several equations (in ml/kg/min) from the distance score (a formula for either kms or miles):
VO2 max = (35.97 x miles) - 11.29
VO2 max = (22.35 x kilometers) - 11.29
What Does Your Cooper Run Score Mean?
Very Good (metres)
Male: 2700m +
Male: 2800 +
Male: 2400 +
Female: 2200 +
The Bleep Test
The bleep test is a classic and is often used in school lessons. The test involves 20m shuttle runs from two marked points. The aim is to reach the cone before you hear the bleep. As the test continues, the frequency of the bleeps increases, with the time between getting shorter and shorter. The test requires a recording of the bleep and the score is then measured depending on how many rounds you last.
What Does Your Bleep Test Score Mean?
11 - 13
10 - 12
9 - 11
8 - 10
7 - 9
6 - 8
5 - 7
4 - 6
Whichever test you decide to do, don’t just do it once and leave it at that. In six weeks time, hit it again, and see if your score has improved. Fitness tests are a great way of monitoring your progress and seeing if your training is actually working. Fitness tests make goals measurable and give you a benchmark to aim for. Do you have any other fitness tests that you enjoy doing to measure your fitness?
“I don’t want to do any weights or I’ll get bulky” - The single most used phrase which could send your PT’s head through the wall. All my fellow Personal Trainers will support me here, we’ve all heard it before and it’s probably induced a full-blown rant, throwing in research from multiple different studies, but most of the time it goes in one ear and out the other. So now you have it in writing: Lifting weights will not make you bulky. Let’s explore why.
The reality is women lift heavy all the time, every time you pick up your kids, lift the shopping, you don’t end up with bulging biceps and yet we still fear the bigger weights in the gym.
Heavy weight training benefits weight loss:
Research in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise studied this theory, they compared low intensity and high intensity resistance training on post exercise EPOC, Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, this is what causes us to continue to burn calories after exercise, which is, of course, the largest contributing factor to weight loss. The study concluded that the heavier weight lifting caused a larger effect on heart rate as well as creating a larger EPOC window, meaning more weight loss from extra calories burned after exercise as your body recovers.
Women don’t have the hormones to turn into the Hulk
Testosterone is key when building muscle and a calorie surplus. Ask any bodybuilder, big muscles are not easy to come by, they're constantly eating to build their bulky muscles. Women’s genetics mean even if they are lifting heavy their low levels of testosterone will sculpt and define their muscles, without them ending up huge.
Heavy lifting increases your BMR
Your BMR is your Base Metabolic Rate, this is how many calories your body burns just to keep it alive. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest, when you're doing absolutely nothing! A pound of muscle burns around 6 extra calories per day. Muscle is actually far more compact than fat; so the more muscle you build, added with the fat you lose from the extra calorie burn, the smaller you’ll actually become. The more lean muscle tissue you acquire, the more calories you’ll burn 24/7.
Reasons you may feel bulky after lifting weights:
As your hormones fluctuate throughout the month, your weight can change drastically. 8/10 women suffer from bloating before and during their period. Women actually gain pounds of water during this time due to the ability of estrogen to cause fluid to be retained, which could be why you feel ‘bulkier’.
If you're new to weight training, when you first start training some women may experience weight gain, this unsurprisingly puts them off and they return to the comforts of cardio, but really we should stick at. The reason you may gain some extra weight when you first start weight lifting is that the muscles swell and retain more water as they repair. Once your body becomes accustomed to weight training this will become less of a drastic increase as your body recovers and settles into your routine. Stick it out.
Muscle weighs more than fat
For most women, this is a tough psychological battle as we’re taught the less you weigh, the better. Muscle actually weighs more than fat, so you may look smaller and leaner and yet be gaining weight on the scales. This is why it’s useful to take body fat measurements, or if you don’t have the equipment for that, a simple set of before and after pictures will help you keep your mind on track if your weight is going up. Your weight may change but so will your body composition.
Benefits of heavy lifting for women:
- It boosts your metabolism and raises your BMR so that you are burning more calories 24/7.
- Your chances of getting Osteoporosis are decreased by increasing bone density.
- It is the most effective anti-aging activity to keep your body strong, fit and active.
- Weight training is empowering and will increase your confidence. Becoming strong can help you feel more confident in other areas of your life and help you to succeed not just in the gym.
- Weight training can enhance your curves, shaping your body with increased muscle tissue.
- Heavy lifting increases energy levels and mood through the release of brain-chemicals that reduce anxiety and depression.
Now ladies, what are you waiting for? Those weights aren’t going to lift themselves, you got this!
I don’t always take a rest day, but when I do it’s to give the weights a break, not me.
Rest days are a widely debated topic in the fitness industry, we all know we need rest in order to recover but how do you properly rest? Can you do cardio on your rest days without halting your progress? This is never going to be a clear cut yes/no answer, as people train for all different reasons and no two bodies will react the same to training. Typically people train with two main purposes, gain muscle or lose weight and, therefore, these are the most widely researched areas when it comes to cardio on rest days.
Should I do cardio on my rest days if I’m trying to build muscle?
When trying to build muscle, lifting days involve intense training, heavy compound lifts stress the muscles causing micro tears and it is on rest days that the body adapts to compensate for the stresses put on your body through training, repairing these muscle tears so the muscles grow stronger and increase their work capacity. Without adequate recovery, there will be no signs of growth or strength. This suggests that for hard gainers to succeed rest day cardio would be detrimental, as although it is working the muscles differently, cardio still takes energy from the same muscles you are trying to recover, thus resulting in hindered progress. However, low intensity exercise can help increase blood flow to tired muscles, enhancing recovery without impeding muscle gains, such as a long walk or yoga session.
Research in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning compared cycling with incline walking on a treadmill and found that cycling was significantly better for achieving hypertrophy when combined with resistance training compared to incline treadmill walking, suggesting if you are going to do gym-based cardio on your rest days, keep it low impact to reap the cardiovascular rewards and keep it on a bike to preserve muscular gains.
Top Tip: Keep your heart rate between 100 and 130 beats per minute and no higher than zone 2 to avoid slowing down your recovery.
Should I do cardio on my rest days if I’m trying to lose weight?
In this scenario, the purpose of creating more muscle is to burn more fat. The more muscle we have the more calories we burn at rest. When trying to lose weight the key factor is to create a calorie deficit, resulting in weight loss. On rest days light cardio would enable fat loss through the additional calorie deficit without going catabolic through high intensity. The problem with this is that consistent restrictive dieting and resistance training takes a huge toll on your body and over training can be counterproductive, as your body begins to lose the muscle you’ve been trying to gain and never has a chance to recuperate from exercise, which in turn damages your metabolism. A calorie deficit can be maintained through diet on rest days in order to stay on track and avoid overtraining. If however you do want to train, stick with lower intensity activities within your zone 2 heart rate capacity (as with the above) in order to allow for recovery. Swimming is a great form of lower intensity exercise as it allows training without putting any strain on the joints.
Signs of Overtraining:
If you experience signs of overtraining, it’s time to take some well earned complete rest days, from cardio and weights alike. Signs of overtraining include:
- Insomnia/Sleep Problems
- Lack of motivation
- Constantly feeling fatigued and lacking energy
- General body aches or mild muscle soreness
- Decrease in performance
- Inability to complete workouts
- Increases susceptibility to infections
- Persistent tiredness
- Mental Breakdown
With cardio on rest days, it’s very difficult to create a definitive answer. The best advice is to listen to your body and find what works best for you.