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Functional Exercise: What It Is And Why You Need It

Put differently: How to optimize your gym time.

I am a fitness trainer, and my definition of functional exercise is the focus on any movement that can be applied to what you do or what you want to do. For example, if you are, say, a baseball pitcher, then strengthening the external rotators of your shoulder would be functional. For someone who likes to rock climb, pull-ups and chin-ups could be functional. For moms with newborns, a biceps curl would be a functional exercise.

What most gym go-ers want to do, however, is simply live a healthy life. They may have a hobby or sport they play recreationally, but, for the most part, they want to look trim and feel great. They know they need to work out and exercise, even though they may not like it. So how should they approach functional exercise?

Focus on strength.

Strength is the number one predictor of health as we age. According to a Tufts University study from 2000, muscle mass is the number one predictor of healthy longevity in senior citizens. While they aren’t one and the same, typically the more muscle mass you have, the more strength you possess. (And yes, there is a point of diminishing returns where more is not better. Most of you reading this do not train hard enough, train often enough, eat enough and sleep enough, however, to become one of those people that has to walk sideways through a doorway.)

Strength is the most versatile building block to any physical desire you may have. Focus your weight room excursions on building and developing strength. One of the greatest by-products of this strength training is that the hormonal response is vastly superior to the results you’ll experience from using a bosu ball or  an elliptical machine. You will burn more fat, you will process your food better, you will sleep better, and you will even feel better.

How much more functional can you get?!


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