Physical activity is important to renew your body and mind with positive energy. We all need it to tackle our daily life with eagerness and spirit. Hence, we go for a walk or jog in the park, join aerobics or perhaps religiously hit the gym five times a week.
Despite that, on some days we sense something gives away in our body as we feel the discomfort of a painful twinge somewhere. It could be a stitch in our side while we reach for something placed at great height, a wrench in our knee when we trip over something while rushing down the stairs, or a pull in our back while lifting a huge suitcase off the ground. These signs just go to show that the body is not functionally strong.
What is functional fitness?
All exercises serve a specific function to strengthen a particular body part. The market is flooded with gadgets like gym balls, bosu balls, valslides, TRX suspension cables that tax your co-ordination and balance to the limit. If you can manage your own body weight particularly on unstable surfaces, you are functionally strong.
This means that tumbles or slips are unlikely to faze you. Carrying heavy supermarket bags to your car, no matter how far it is parked, is unlikely to bother you. In short, you are adept at managing the daily grind and remarkably seasoned at enduring more laborious tasks. This kind of strength not only reinforces your self-confidence, but also comes with enhanced anxiety-free focus.
How to get started?
Machines in the gym have their benefits. They are a good start to build strength for those who haven’t played a sport in years. Since, people with a sedentary lifestyle are likely to suffer from muscle imbalances; resistance machines in the gym help strengthen a single body part in isolation and prevent injury by not engaging the rest of the body.
However, to preserve physical integrity you need to increasingly incorporate the kind of exercises that engage your core and activate your sense of balance and co-ordination.
Following is a sample WORKOUT to get started. You may include the exercises in your routine workout or after a thorough warm up do all the exercises as a CIRCUIT, done 3 times through. Aim for at least 10 repetitions per set on EACH side.
Added bonus: Such exercises are great for breaking through plateaus and boosting metabolism.
- Squat with Reverse Wood chop
How to: This move can be done with a dumbbell, medicine ball or even a heavy book. Start with your feet shoulder width apart. Squat down and lower your arms on the left side of your hips. As you stand up straight, take the weight in your hands diagonally across your body and raise it above over your right shoulder. Repeat on the other side after finishing all your reps on one side.
Benefits: Targets your lower body and abs. It is a core stabilizing move that particularly works your obliques and prevents back pain.
- Plank to push up
How to: Start in a plank position with feet and arms shoulder width apart. Press one hand hard into the floor to straighten your arm following with the other hand to raise yourself into a push up position. Go back down into a plank, one arm at a time.
Benefits: A challenging exercise- it strengthens your arms, improves shoulder mobility, strengthens your lower back and hip flexors and builds overall endurance.
- Reverse lunge with rotation
How to: If you have mastered the basic lunge and can easily step your leg back or forward to lower your leg to 90 degrees without letting the knee go across your toe, it is time to add a torso rotation to further engage your core and balance.
Brace your arms across your chest and twist to the left every time you lunge your right foot back and vice versa. Once comfortable, extend your arms straight, parallel to the floor, while executing the rotation. Hold a dumbbell for added resistance.
Benefits: Your legs get targeted from all angles. It strengthens the spine and corrects your posture while working your abs at the same time.
- Inverted row
How to: Grab hold of a bar or edge of a strong sturdy table, lean back your body under the bar into a diagonally straight alignment. Pull from your arms, keep your core stiff, don’t let your butt drop down on the floor and squeeze your shoulder blades together as the top of your chest nearly touches the bar.
Benefits: It is a great exercise to strengthen the back without putting lower back at risk. The middle back and rear shoulder muscles strengthen to correct postural alignment and improve shoulder mobility.
- Step ups
How to: Stand in front of a box or bench and place one foot onto the surface. Your knee should be at a 90 degree or a slightly lower angle. Push through your heel to raise your body over the bench. Bring the other foot into the air at a 90 degree angle before softly landing back on it on the floor. All this time the foot on your bench is not supposed to move.
Benefits: Step ups are a great way to improve the shape and symmetry of your legs and tighten your booty. Apart from improving balance your legs develop additional power to run and cycle faster and longer. Taking the stairs also gets much easier.