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What Is Functional Fitness and Why Is It Important?

December 14th, 2010 · 7 Comments ·
 
 

Have a chat with a fellow gym member. He is a father of two kids. Just found out that he has been attending Yoga classes since two months ago. He once said that Yoga was only for women. So, it made me really curious why this big man with muscular body, once a critic of Yoga, became a fan of Yoga.

This is what he said, “See my biceps?”

I replied (without looking), “Yeah, bigger than tennis balls.”

“But, they are useless.”  He said.

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Now, I turned and I look at his biceps. WTF, his biceps are almost like rugby balls!

His points are – What good to have “cut” biceps if he hurt his back when he lift his kid? He had to see doctor because of that.

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So, that is why he started learning Yoga.

Now, what I want to share with you is the concept of functional fitness. Functional fitness is an approach that trains for life. It prepares our bodies so we can perform daily activities walking, bending, lifting, climbing stairs without pain, injury or discomfort. Functional training includes balance, posture and coordination. Yoga and Pilates are two good examples for functional fitness. And yes, compound exercise using free weight or bodyweight can be considered as functional training too.

The idea behind this training is to get exercisers use multiple muscle groups in an integrated fashion. This approach runs counter to the idea behind machine-based weight training, which was built to isolate single muscle groups. The muscles get stronger using machines or free weights, which is an essential component of any fitness program, but the all-important synergy of the body will not be accomplished. By contrast, functional training, such as Pilates and Yoga challenges the body to work as a whole, firing up the muscles in a sequential pattern.

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In addition to Yoga and Pilates, another good example is training on a stability ball. Every time the ball moves, you have to activate muscles deep in the pelvis, back, abdominal and hips. Because of the increased muscle activity, more calories are used, and more muscle is potentially built. So, training on this big ball will help losing fat.

In short, functional fitness or functional exercise is a form of exercising that focuses on building a body capable of doing real-life activities in real-life positions. The next time you think guys doing Yoga or Pilates are sissy, think twice.

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Last but not least, I believe those Personal Trainer who specializes in functional fitness require another type of certification and your feedback and insight are most welcomed.

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7 responses so far ↓
  • TMY // Dec 14, 2010 at 10:02 AM

    I couldn’t agree more with this topic! Those ppl who can do so well in body pump classes ie weight training not necessarily can do well in yoga or pilates classes. I was very proud of myself being able to carry heavy weights in bodypump classes but when I started yoga after stopping for 6 mths, I realised that its not so easy. Yoga and pilates require balance, flexibility and endurance, unlike weight training that requires strength,stamina and momentum. Yoga and stability ball is not for sissy or woman! I must say that sometimes even a guy cant balance on the ball like us, the gals :p

  • blackhuff // Dec 14, 2010 at 4:31 PM

    Very interesting article. I did not look at exercise like this. Will definitely have to start considering Pilates or Yoga then :)

  • eksk // Dec 14, 2010 at 9:57 PM

    which is why some have turned to alternative gym work such as cross fit..

  • Jonz // Dec 15, 2010 at 8:26 AM

    Couldnt agree more.

    However, the best way to get the best of worlds would be to mix n match both the usual gym routine + functional fitness training.

  • Ryan C. Stebbins // Dec 17, 2010 at 6:15 AM

    I completely agree that bodybuilders need to take into account their body’s functionality, not just its aesthetic appearance. I engage in not only yoga-like static stretching, but dynamic stretching and martial arts / gymnastics (or “tricking”). Great article, thanks for sharing.

  • Melt It Off // Dec 29, 2010 at 12:06 AM

    Fascinating post! I think most people would agree that we should not only engage in muscle building programs but also “functional” activities that keep us fit for everyday life.

  • Greg // Nov 27, 2012 at 9:16 AM

    spot on with the functional fitness observations, we humans were
    designed to move for functionality ie incorporating multi joint compound movement as a whole unit to achieve everyday objectives that once ensured survival on a daily basis. Fast foeward to modern day life & the objectives may have changed but practising functional fitness can still help stave off injury and such like by ensuring we maintain a reasonable degree of flexibilty and strong posture 2 key components of functional fitness

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