Moving towards a stronger you

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Whether you’re new to the gym or a fitness fanatic, you may not have come across the term “functional training.” So, what does this mean and how can it have a positive impact on your life? 

Let’s take the shopping bags you haul to your car each week as an example. As you lifted the bags, did you move in close to them? Did you load your hamstrings and brace your core muscles? If not, then you probably haven’t been shown how to deadlift. These skills help avoid torque and rotation in your lower back.

What constitutes functional exercise?

Functional movement, simply put, is about moving efficiently to perform any day-to-day activity, whether around the house or playing footy in the park. Functional exercise can be defined as the practice of correct movement which correlates to everyday tasks or sports. They’re usually multi-joint (e.g. knee and hip) and utilise both prime moving and assisting muscles to execute movement.  As you progress you’ll acquire a skill-set that will correct movement dysfunction, increase strength and promote stability and mobility.

Performing a deadlift or squat in the gym will mean you won’t damage your back whilst playing with your kids. Athletes can also benefit from movements that translate into their chosen sport. For example, a basketball player who is looking to improve their vertical leap can do so through performing an ‘Olympic Snatch.’ This involves extension through the ankles, knees and hips.

Whatever your goal may be, there are movements you can do to help get you there. Here are three functional exercises to get you started. Be sure to speak with our friendly YMCA Personal Trainers to learn how to do these, movements safely.

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Overhead Squat:  

* Strengthens: the lower body (quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes)  

* Challenges: hip mobility and forces upright torso  

* Strengthens: upper body (shoulders)  

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Single Deadlift  

* Strengthens: balance  

* Challenges: knee stability  

* Challenges: hip mobility  

* Improves: hamstring strength and flexibility  

Kettle Bell Windmill  

* Strengthens:  full range shoulder mobility 

* Strengthens: core muscles and obliques  

* Improves: lower body flexibility  

* Strengthens: hamstrings  

For further information on how functional training can improve health and fitness, seek out coaching from our experienced and dedicated team at the YMCA. 

Thanks so much to Robert Callea, Expert YMCA Personal Trainer and Australian Weightlifting Federation Sports Power Coach, for developing this article.