Functional fitness means training your body for everyday activities, and to make daily motion easier and safer.
When we practice functional fitness, it’s for activities like:
- Carrying groceries
- Picking up small children
- Walking in nature
- Being mobile on the floor
- Fighting off sharks
Functional fitness seeks to build strength, flexibility, and balance for navigating the physical world and the objects in it.
We do this by replicating and practicing movements necessary in the real world: squatting, pulling, pushing, bending, climbing, walking, and running.
Personally, I like to think of it as becoming “antifragile,” or being able to physically handle the chaos of life.
So for functional fitness, we prioritize natural movements (squats, pull-ups) over exercises that are done on a machine (leg presses, lat pulldown).
Here’s the rationale: in your everyday life, you probably won’t find yourself in a situation where you have to push weights along a guided track…while seated:
But you’ll probably find yourself in a situation where you have to lift an object from the floor, then raise it above your head, like loading your luggage into the overhead bin on a plane.
Here, the kettlebell is substituting for an object you may have to pick up and lift during your everyday life: a book, a pet rabbit, a cursed golden idol, etc.
It’s why we encourage free weights instead of machine use, because free weights force you to balance and control objects just like you have to in day-to-day life.
Another thing to consider for functional fitness: “compound exercises.”
Compound exercises require more than one muscle group working together for the exercise (squats, pull-ups), so they replicate the way your body actually moves. This would be different from isolation exercises like biceps curls, which more or less train JUST your biceps muscles to move one particular way.
Since functional fitness seeks to improve your body’s ability to work as one unit, compound exercises are encouraged!
As they say, variety is the spice of life.
Let’s give you one last example of functional fitness.
Compare running on an elliptical vs going on a short hike:
- Both will get your heart rate up.
- But a hike will challenge your stability and balance as you move over uneven terrain. The elliptical, on the other hand, provides a repetitive motion over and over.
There is a time and a place for both, but it’s important to introduce variety and instability if your goal is to develop all-around functional fitness.
What’s that? You want exact exercises to try?
You got it!