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. So, is functional fitness right for you?
What’s not functional fitness?
Functional training was originally focused on developing better movement quality and exercises like two-legged jumps and wood chops reflect this. However, not every crazy exercise you see people doing in the gym is worth copying. You may see people balancing on a Bosu ball throwing dumbbells around or balancing on one leg. This is not functional fitness as it does not prepare you for everyday movements or sports.
It's important to remember that the point of functional training is to condition your body for a particular task or exercise, such as a golfer doing cable twists to improve their drive or a footballer doing fast-feet movements to improve their footwork.
Functional Fitness vs Bodybuilding
Can you incorporate functional fitness into a bodybuilding routine? The answer is yes. Functional fitness is not the sworn enemy of bodybuilding and 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. Therefore, bodybuilding workout routines will feature many more isolating exercises like bicep curls and lat pull downs, while functional fitness incorporates more compound movements like squat jumps and burpees.
What are the benefits of functional fitness?
Functional training gets you moving
Typically, most people spend a shocking 9-12 hours sitting down. If you work in an office, chances are you sit down for most of the day, so when you get to the gym you want to be up and moving, not sitting on machines doing isolated exercises. Functional fitness requires you to get up and to move in multiple planes of motion. Simply standing rather than sitting increases calorie expenditure and encourages better sugar metabolism. Plus, you will feel so much better after a day spent fully sedentary if you can really get your heart rate up and feel the burn during a high intensity workout.
It improves posture
Unfortunately for most of us, the stress of modern life and the 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 can improve your posture by working on muscles slings and how muscles work together. Releasing tension from the chest, for example, can help to draw back the shoulders and correct posture.
Better fat burn
Functional training burns much more fat than steady-state cardio or bodybuilding because your whole body is moving. Incorporating multi-plane, multi-joint and multi-muscle movements means high fat-burning as well as better all-round fitness. Functional training movement patterns crank up your heart rate and keep your body burning lots of calories well after your workout is over.
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 is a meaningful workout
Whilst training to look good can be important on a personal level, functional training can give you a better quality of life. Functional fitness is about training to improve your life on a daily basis and this is especially important as we get older. Functional training is designed to improve the things we do every day such as keeping up with our children or bending down to load a washing machine.
It won't get boring
Training functionally keeps workouts varied and will stop you from getting fed up with going to the gym. Instead of being restricted to training one muscle group in particular and always doing the same exercises, functional training focuses on whole body integration and there are endless possibilities to fun and interesting exercises you can do.
You’ll build more muscle
Functional training incorporates a variety of different pieces of kit as well as body weight, stimulating 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.
So, if you'd like to be able to run after your kids, do daily chores, and move with ease, functional training is for you. Especially if you are chained to a desk all day at work, functional fitness could really improve your quality of life and set you up to be more mobile as you grow older.
The energy and excitement of making new year's resolutions and getting fit is well and truly burnt out and the gym is starting to empty out again. How can you stay motivated when all you want to do is melt into the sofa and eat? We're here to help. Follow these tips to boost your motivation when it feels like there's no hope.
1. Partner up
If you have someone to let down, you'll be less likely to flake. Having accountability means you have more of a reason to get to the gym and it will be more hassle to have to text your friend or personal trainer to say you're not going and then get an earful from then than to just go. Plus, you'll know that once you're there you'll have a great time because training with a buddy makes training more bearable.
2. Get changed
How many times have you been sat on the sofa watching TV after work telling yourself "I'll go in a minute" or "I'll go when this show is finished" and then it never happens? By getting changed into your activewear you're getting the ball rolling and getting into the right frame of mind to work out. Once you're changed into your sportswear you're already halfway there and will be much more ready to get out there and go train.
3. Take your gym gear to work
If you go to the gym straight from work, you won't have a chance to talk yourself out of it. If you pair this with point number 1 of partnering up and telling your friend you'll join them at the gym, you'll be well on your way to success. Get changed at work and go straight to the gym instead of going home first. It's much harder to gee yourself back up once you're home from work than if you continue the momentum from your day at the office.
4. Have a workout to look forward to
There's nothing worse than finishing a monotonous day at work and thinking about now having to go and run on a treadmill for half an hour while staring at a wall. By planning out a fun and exciting workout, you'll actually want to go to the gym and do it. Try circuit training or functional training to mix things up and talk to a personal trainer if you'd like to try something new like Olympic weightlifting or CrossFit. If you're dreading the workout, getting motivated can be impossible. Whereas if you're actually looking forward to it, exercising can be a joy instead of a chore. If you enjoy something like Zumba, sign up for a class! Group exercise can be a great way to stay motivated too.
5. Use the 10 second rule
If you find yourself making terrible excuses like "it's raining" or "I'm too tired" then use the 10 second rule. It's very simple: count to 10 and then go anyway! This will eliminate your mind telling you that you can't do it and 9 times out of 10 you'll find that you actually enjoy the workout and will be pleased that you went.
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Having little ones at home can leave you feeling like you don't have a spare second in the day. Between rushing to and from school and picking the little ones up from activities and trying to squeeze in daily errands too, it's no wonder that the average mother only gets 17 minutes of 'me time' each day. So how can you fit in exercise when you have no time? We give you all the tips you need along with with a working mom workout routine for you to try.
How can I find time to workout with kids?
Finding time to exercise as a working parent can feel almost impossible, but it doesn't have to be! Try some of our ideas and see if you can fit exercise into your busy day.
1. Get a training buddy
One of the best ways to stay motivated is to partner up. Whether it's a work colleague, your husband/wife, a friend, or a family member, working out together can make things more fun and interesting. Not only this, but if you have someone to be accountable to and someone who you will let down if you skip your session, you'll be more motivated to get that training session done!
2. Utilise playtime
When it's your child's playtime, get involved and burn some calories! If you have an energetic toddler, run around with them by playing adrenaline-fuelled games that involve running or chasing. If your children are a little older, find games where you can both get active, especially in the garden if it's summer time as there are lots of benefits to training outdoors.
3. Try dancing
Dancing is something that burns a lot of calories, will get you up and active, and can be very fun! If your children are very energetic, put on some music and dance away. This will not only help them burn off that extra energy and get you moving, it can be a great bonding experience.
4. Swap your car for walking or cycling
By combining your errands with exercise, you can make the time to get active without compromising any of your daily activities. Try walking or cycling to the shops instead of driving, or walking your children to school. It may be easier than you think to get around without your car!
5. Exercise before you start your day
By getting up 30 minutes earlier than usual, you could fit in an entire workout and start your day right. There are lots of workouts you can do in under 30 minutes, like this 5-minute punchbag workout, 10-minute tabata workout, or this 20-minute home workout. Even a short workout is better than no workout at all, and it'll energise you for a productive day. If you don't want to get up earlier than you already do, try this lunchtime HIIT workout instead.
How can a stay at home mum lose weight?
There are lots of tips and tricks to losing weight if you are a stay-at-home parent. Follow these dos and don'ts to make sure you're staying healthy while at home with the little ones.
1. Don't eat anything you wouldn't feed to your kids
There are lots of things you wouldn't feed to your children because the salt or sugar content it too high, so why feed them to yourself? A good rule of thumb to follow is that if you wouldn't give it to your child because of the ingredients, you should avoid it yourself too. Stick to whole foods and try to avoid anything overly processed or pre-packaged.
2. Don't snack mindlessly
If you find yourself in a rare moment of calm when your child is playing happily alone or watching a television show, it can be tempting to mindlessly eat food that you don't really need. Avoid temptation by not having snacks in the house, and stick to eating at set times.
3. Do make mealtime an occasion
If mealtime is an occasion to look froward to when you eat together with your kids, you'll be less likely to have an unstructured day. Try to have at least one meal a day together as a family where you sit at a table and focus on what you're eating, rather than grabbing whatever is nearby because you're so rushed off your feet. This might mean deliberately making time for it in your day, but it will be worth it ultimately.
4. Don't eat through stress
Being at home on your own with the kids all day can get pretty stressful. If tempers raise and tantrums ensue, make sure you're not reaching for food as comfort. Comfort eating is something that many of us do without realising and can be an almost impossible habit to break. As above, not having any temptation in the house will help with this and always count slowly to 10 before you eat a snack so that you're not eating it out of a stressed panic.
5. Do make food fun and creative by getting the children involved
Getting your kids to help in the kitchen is a fantastic way to bond and to help them develop vital skills for later in life. Let them get creative by coming up with new recipes and help them with the cooking. If you really want sweet treats, bake cookies or cupcakes together so that you really feel you've earned them and can have fun in the process.
Working mom workout routine
If you have kids at home or are pregnant, try this working mom home workout routine by Sundried ambassador Carly Newson.
Functional fitness refers to any type of fitness or training that works your muscles together in a way that prepares them for a specific task or everyday movements. But is it better than isolated training such as bodybuilding? How can it help you in everyday life?
What are the benefits of functional training?
A good level of fitness is important, we know this. Having a good level of fitness promotes better health and a longer lifespan, but why is functional fitness important?
Functional fitness trains us for everyday life. The exercises in a functional fitness exercise programme mimic real life activities and are designed to allow you to perform your day-to-day activities more easily and without injury. Each exercise focuses on several muscle groups instead of isolating just one, so all of your muscles work together to perform the movement. This is important because all of our muscles depend on each other and are supposed to work together. By using our muscles together, we become more efficient.
Functional training exercises
There are four types of functional fitness known as the 'four pillars'. All of your functional training exercises will come under one or more of these categories.
Locomotion refers to moving from one point to another, whether it’s skipping, jumping, jogging or running. When locomotion is required, single-leg movements are best as this trains both sides of your body equally and will reduce imbalances as we all have one more naturally dominant side. Functional training therefore includes lots of single-leg movements designed to enhance functional movement patterns.
Level changes are movements from low to high. Our body goes through lots of level changes in every day life, such as being seated to getting up and standing, bending over to pick things up and lifting things into the air or onto a high shelf. If you have a physical job, you may have to perform lots of level changes with heavy equipment or materials and therefore functional training would be great for you. Level change exercises include deadlifts and shoulder pressing.
Push and Pull
Push and pull makes up almost every exercise, whether it's pushing and pulling weights, cables, objects or your own body weight. These two movement patterns are fundamental to functional training. Most functional push and pull movements require you to push and pull whilst standing. So whilst a bench press wouldn’t be functional, a standing chest press using a cable machine would. With pulling motions, you’re typically pulling something towards you, often off the ground, and that’s where bent-over rows come in. Pull-ups are also great for training various grips required for sports, however rows are probably the best functional pulling move.
Rotation is required in most movements; we bend and twist to pick things up, to get dressed of a morning or to shoot in tennis or rugby. Rotation accelerates and decelerates movement, cables are great for training with rotation as they add resistance to regular movement patterns.
What is functional training?
An exercise becomes functional when it improves everyday function. If an exercise has a real life equivalent, it becomes functional. In real life you may not do a lunge with a medicine ball cross body rotation as such, but you may stagger your stance as you catch and twist to throw to another player in a netball match, for example.
When it comes to functional movements, children move far better and more easily than us. Children typically perform squats and deadlifts without anyone having to show them how and it is as we grow older and become more sedentary that these movements become unnatural.
Functional fitness benefits
When we talk about training functionally, we look at how muscles work together to support entire body movements. This means we look at how muscles connect to form a chain of reactions which create movement, identifying any weak links in that chain can improve performance. When we focus on muscles working together for function, we call these “muscle slings”.
Adding functional movement to any routine, will help improve your day to day function and keep your training varied.
Emma comes from a dance background but got into hula hooping as a way of relieving tension and was instantly hooked. She tells Sundried about how hula hooping helped her to learn to love moving again.
How did you first get into hula hooping? Did you already have a background in fitness?
I first got into hooping because my healer noticed a ball of tension that was lodged in my sacral chakra. I then read somewhere online that hooping is great for the sacral chakra. So I got my first hoop and I started with just waist hooping initially. I then started expanding my repertoire with private lessons ten months ago. And it's become my daily sanity ever since.My background in fitness - I used to be a professional dancer at the Moulin Rouge in Paris, and on cruise ships. But I took a break from dancing, and from movement altogether for a number of years. So I have hooping to thank for re-sparking my passion for movement.
Do you have any goals for your hula hoop training?My biggest goal would be to never take myself so seriously that I forget how to have fun. Being a novice with something allows such joy in making mistakes, and I really don't want to lose that - no matter how much time passes. I find there's such expansion in the beginner's mind.
Do you follow a specific diet?I don't. When I was dancing professionally, they were really strict with our weight control. The body issues that developed as a result were really harmful, and in the end, were what caused me to take such a long break from moving my body in any way. When I used to keep to a strict diet, I found myself thinking about food constantly. So I find a lot more joy in food and in my body now that I just listen to my instincts. I eat when I'm hungry and I don't restrict myself when I crave something. One of my closest friends, Caroline Brooks, coaches people about intuitive eating. And I've learned a great deal from her.
Talk us through your training regime:I wake up first thing in the morning with an hour of waist hooping while I read books - 30 minutes clockwise with one book, then 30 minutes counter-clockwise with another book. Then during the afternoon, I practice my hoop tricks on the beach for an hour or two. This is really my play time.
What are your top 3 tips for hula hooping?
- Trust that every mistake you make is contributing to a conversation with your body, sending feedback to your kinesthetic awareness. Like a baby learning to walk, each fall is a new lesson for the body's awareness, rather than a failure.
- Don't be scared to hit yourself in the head with the hoop. It's bound to happen and it really doesn't hurt that much.
- The best tip is to play! When I take lessons with my teacher, Morgan Jenkins, she'll always teach me a trick and then allow play time before she moves on to teaching me the next. This is an incredible method for integrating the new trick into my flow.
What advice would you give someone who wants to get into hula hooping themselves?There's no time like the present. Get yourself a hoop (the bigger, the better when starting out). Even if you don't have the resources for private lessons, there are wonderful tutorials online that I learn a lot from, ranging from beginner to advanced tricks. A couple that I highly recommend... the Hooptown Hotties YouTube channel has lots of amazing Hoop University tutorials. And there are great beginner's tutorials on Deanne Love's YouTube channel as well.
Why work with Sundried?Ever since I read the book, The Soul of Money, I've increased my awareness of the things I consume and how they are produced. I'm really inspired by companies like Sundried that are taking the care and consideration to do their part in looking after their workers as well as our Mother Earth.