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Let's Get Functional

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woman doing lunge

Cooper Fitness Center Professional Fitness Trainer Paul Nally discusses the positive impacts of functional fitness and practical exercises to incorporate into your current workout routine.

Functional fitness consists of exercises which train your muscles to work together in order to efficiently perform daily tasks. These activities can encompass daily movements one makes at home, at work or in a particular sport. By teaching your muscles through exercise to work together properly the way they would in everyday tasks, this in turn prepares your body to move safely and efficiently in a variety of common situations and movement patterns.

“Functional fitness exercises mimic movements our bodies make while performing tasks in everyday life,” says Nally. “When your body moves better you feel better and decrease your risk of injury.”

Designed for diversity
While traditional weight lifting focuses on increasing strength in one particular muscle group at a time, functional fitness engages multiple muscle groups simultaneously. This not only results in maximum efficiency in your workouts but your time as well.

The beauty of functional fitness is it is designed for and can benefit people of all ages and fitness levels. Some of these benefits include:

  • Improved posture
  • Increased flexibility and mobility
  • Enhanced core stability
  • Improved strength and balance
  • Reduced pain and risk of injury
  • Increased number of calories burned

Functional fitness training can easily be done at home, in the gym, outdoors or even while traveling as it requires minimal to no equipment. These specific types of exercises can often be performed with body weight alone but can include resistance bands, medicine balls or dumbbells for those who are up for a challenge and wish to increase the intensity of the workout.

Functional fitness made practical
These exercises can easily be incorporated into your current workout program as a warm-up to increase your heart rate and blood circulation before strength training. “Exercises that require more energy expenditure and motor control should always be done early on in your workouts,” says Nally. “I recommend selecting a few functional fitness exercises to perform as a warm-up at least three times per week to see improvement in your body’s daily movement patterns.”

Give these exercises a try before your workout or if you need an effective workout when time or available equipment is limited.

Squats are a classic functional fitness exercise as they strengthen specific muscles needed for daily activities including sitting and rising from chairs as well as picking up objects are lower to the ground.

Farmer’s Walk
The Farmer’s Walk provides a full-body workout by targeting both upper and lower body muscle groups all at once. Begin by choosing a pair of dumbbells, kettle bells or objects at home of equal weight. Hold a weight in each hand and stand tall with the weight by your sides. Keep your shoulders back and your spine straight as you take short, quick steps. Continue to walk at this pace for 25-30 seconds while carrying the weights in your hands.

Lunges can be done to strengthen multiple muscle groups in your lower body such as quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves. Performing a variation of multidirectional lunges to the front, back and side will help improve posture and range of motion in daily activities like vacuuming or yardwork. To perform a lunge, keep one leg in place and step out with the other leg. Lower your body, driving your back knee down until your front leg reaches a 90-degree angle and your back knee is parallel to the ground. Make sure your front knee does not go beyond your front foot but remains stable as you lift your front-lunging leg back up to your neutral standing start position.

If you are interested in moving better and more efficiently through the movement patterns and activities of your everyday life, functional fitness is an ideal way to engage multiple muscle groups at once and train them to work together properly.

Remember, form is vital when working toward improving everyday movement patterns through functional fitness training. Start your functional fitness routine using only body weight or lightweight equipment and steadily increase the weight or resistance as you build up to different levels of intensity.

Watch this video for more variations of functional fitness exercises.

​For more information about Cooper Fitness Center or to schedule a session with a Professional Fitness Trainer, visit or call 972.233.4832.