Functional training is essential for better posture, balance and flexibility and warrants inclusion with every form of exercise you are already doing.
Even if you aren’t physically active, these exercises will prepare you for a new fitness regime or make you better capable of advancing from your current fitness level.
How Does Functional Training Work?
Functional training strengthens muscles that we use in everyday activities like walking, standing, sitting, lifting, and household chores. Functional training helps integrate the muscles of the extremities and trunk for fluid, powerful movements.
It also puts the body into proper alignment, improves posture and balance and promotes deep breathing for relaxation purposes. Functional training routines can complement your cardiovascular or strength training workouts, and you can do most of them daily, no matter your fitness level – but of course, with your doctor’s approval.
Below are some functional training exercises that anyone should be able to do:
Seated Alignment – This exercise corrects trunk alignment, by strengthening weak abdominal muscles that weaken posture and strain the lower back; and builds physical stamina and endurance. It provides the needed strength to carry objects, walk and run, and relieves muscle tension from prolonged computer use.
To start, sit in a straight-backed chair, scrunch your shoulders up to your ears and slowly lower them back into starting position. Inhale as you raise your shoulders and exhale as you lower them. Repeat this 3-5 times, releasing tension each time you return to starting position. Next, sit tall and concentrate on stacking or pressing your hips, ribs, chest and head on top of one another like building blocks.
Exhale forcefully while pulling the muscles of your abdomen into your spine and then pull your shoulders back gently. Breathe deeply for a moment before continuing. Finally, sit tall while picturing the tops of your ears stretching upward. This will elongate the spine and improve respiratory function. Now, tighten your abdominals inward and upward toward the spine while exhaling forcefully 3-5 times.
The Compass – This exercise strengthens the postural muscles to improve coordination and balance and reduces fatigue and stress on the legs, hips and back. It also relieves muscle soreness as a result of standing for long periods, as well as improves physical performance for athletic individuals.
To start, stand with your feet flat on the floor about a foot apart and pretend that you’re standing in the middle of a large compass. With exaggerated movements, shift your entire body toward each of the four main points on the compass (north, south east and west), pausing briefly at each point. Repeat 3-5 times, contracting your abdominal muscles throughout. Gradually make movements smaller and smaller, and finish by standing tall with your body weight evenly distributed.
Fish Bowl Pelvis – This exercise centers the hips and aligns the pelvis, reducing stress on legs, back and neck. It’s good for lifting, getting in and out of bed, and swinging a golf club or tennis racket.
To start, stand with your feet a foot apart, contracting your stomach muscles and drawing them inward and up toward your spine. Picture your hips as a fish bowl filled with water, with the bowl’s rim at your waistline. Now, tips your hips forward slightly and visualize water spilling out of the front of the fish bowl.
Next, tip your hips backward slightly and visualize water sloshing out of the back of the bowl. Finally, balance the fish bowl so that the rim is perfectly level. This is your pelvis’s neutral position. Assume this position throughout the day as you stand, walk and sit.