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The Best Way to Improve Your Functional Strength

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Functional training is a type of training that helps you perform activities in everyday life more easily. These exercises focus on the whole body and emphasise building and improving core strength and stability. The functional strength describes how you can efficiently perform your daily activities. For example, suppose you are someone who gets tired very easily while doing your daily activities, or you cannot perform some simple activities that others find no difficulty doing. In that case, you should start this functional strength training. It will help you and make your daily life easier and better. You will feel more energetic and can perform all the activities required around you. Furthermore, it will help you increase your quality of life and reduce the risk of injury.

The idea behind functional training is to replicate the daily movements you must perform and practise them every day for a fixed interval. Functional strength training consists of simple activities like squatting, reaching, and carrying heavy objects. According to the research by NCBI, functional strength training is very effective for older women.

Everyday Functional Movements

To understand more about the functional exercises, we must be able to relate to them. Without a proper correlation understanding, we might not understand them.

To help you better understand how we can improve our overall strength and fitness, and avoid injury because of daily tasks, let us look at the correlation between the exercises and the activities in our everyday life. It is essential to focus on improving the capacity for a few functional movements with the help of functional fitness exercises.

The seven vital functional movements are as follows:

1. Hinge Movement

This movement depicts the hinge action required to perform basic tasks like picking something up from the ground. It happens when we bend at the hips. It is one of the most common movements we use every day.

2. Squat Movement

Although the squat is a commonly known movement, it is when we bend at the knees and lower our bodies. This action becomes difficult specifically for overweight people with bulky bodies. In addition, it is also challenging for people with weak knees. The primary reason why people find it challenging is either because they have weak knees or their body is heavy for the knees to support them. So, if you are having issues doing this movement, you should practise the squats. Besides strengthening your knees, it will help you lose thigh fat.

3. Pull Movement 

It is another common movement that you indulge in your everyday life. It usually happens when you pull your body towards an object or pull a thing towards your body. It can be difficult for you if you have weak arms. For that, you need to perform arm exercises that include pulling movements. Gradually you will feel the strength in your arms and can control your body while pulling.

4. Push Movement

You indulge in this movement when you push an object away from your body or vice versa. It uses similar body parts to the pull action; your arms are responsible for efficient push movements. People with weak arms or less arm strength find trouble performing this movement. Hence, you can practise push-ups if you are having trouble with this action. We will also discuss how to perform these exercises. 

5. Lunge Movement

You indulge in a lunge movement when you place one leg forward and bend with the knee. Although it is not an activity we perform quite often, it is a functional movement. You may observe yourself performing lunge movement while walking on a hilly area or any slope.

6. Twist Movement

Twisting happens when you turn half of your body to look back. It could be for taking something from your back shelf or having a short interaction with someone behind you. Sometimes while twisting, people experience pain either in their spine or waist. However, practising functional strength exercises that help strengthen your core can make it easier and pain-free for you. 

7. Carry Movements

As the name suggests, carry movement includes many movements when carrying an object while walking. Unfortunately, many people fail to carry heavy things because they lack strength. You can build this strength with the help of functional exercises.

The HealthifyMe Note

Functional movements, as the name suggests, are movements that you indulge in while allowing your body to indulge in everyday functioning. Basic activities like pushing, pulling, carrying, twisting etc., are a part of the functional movements. To perform these functional movements, you require strength, which you can term functional strength. Unfortunately, many people lack functional strength, which restricts their movements. The best way to gain the lost strength is to practise functional exercises.

Benefits of Functional Strength Workout

Besides enabling you to perform the everyday functional movements well, a functional strength workout benefits you in several ways. Here are some of the benefits of the functional strength workout.

1. Allows You to Do Your Daily Movements Efficiently

The primary purpose of functional strength training is to help you do the movements you need in your daily life without much difficulty. It strengthens you and provides ease in doing all the tasks. It focuses on your muscle strength, endurance, and multi-directional movement to do daily activities more efficiently and comfortably. 

2. Boosts Mood

Exercise of any kind helps your mental health and boosts your mood. Similarly, functional strength training improves your mood and helps develop other good habits that support mental wellbeing. For example, due to the physical exercise schedule, you sleep better and can focus on your work more.

3. Burns Calories and Fats

Strength training helps in burning calories. It is a simple mechanism. The more your body moves, the more calories you burn. With functional training, you give your body enough movement it needs to burn calories. It also helps the body increase the metabolic rate, which allows you to burn more calories and fat efficiently throughout the day.

4. Strength and Muscle Building

The strength training mechanism is such that it tears the old muscles and generates new muscles while strengthening them. As a result, while training, you may feel mild muscle pain. However, you don’t have to worry about it. That is how our body strengthens. The old muscles must gradually tear out to form new, stronger muscles.

5. Strengthen the Bones

Functional strength training can increase bone density like any other physical training. While you involve your bones in several exercises, the bones become stronger and allow you to function better.

6. Improves Endurance

Functional training improves endurance and helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular problems. The primary cause for the same is oxygen pumping. While exercising, your body pumps plenty of oxygen and circulates it throughout the body. 

As per research, the effect of functional training for girls aged 12-13 years shows that it is more effective in improving movement quality, muscular strength, flexibility, and power among untrained healthy girls. In addition, it may also result in better health promotion and injury prevention.

The HealthifyMe Note

The role of functional strength training does not limit to improving functional movements. Instead, it benefits your overall health. For example, it helps burn more fat and calories, helping you lose weight. Furthermore, it improves your endurance and strengthens your bones, making you fitter and stronger.

Functional Strength Exercises: A Simple Guide

There is a wide range of functional exercises that can benefit you. However, let us look at a few essential exercises which will help you the most. Fitness experts categorise functional training exercises in different levels for different individuals. Therefore, you must choose the exercises as per your levels. Here we mention two levels there are to functional training.

Functional Strength Training: The Beginner Level

1. Squat

A squat is simply when you bend at the knees and lower your body. For practising squats, follow the given steps.

  1. Stand straight, keeping your feet at shoulder length to each other.
  2. Join your palms in front of you. (It helps you keep the balance)
  3. Bend your knees, keeping the upper body straight
  4. Move to a position where your knees are at a 90-degree
  5. Push your feet downwards to get the body back upwards
  6. Try to keep your upper body straight in the complete process
  7. Since you are a beginner, practise three sets of 15 squats. Gradually, increase the number of repetitions.

2. Wall/Incline Pushup

Since you are at the beginner’s level, you might be among those who do not have an active lifestyle. Therefore, doing the complete push-up will be very difficult if you have never done it before. A full push-up demands you to start from a wall and move towards an inclined plane. However, here is an easy way to start.

For the wall pushup, follow these steps:

  1. Stand at a one-hand distance from the wall
  2. Place your palms on the wall keeping it at shoulder length.
  3. Keep the fingers upwards.
  4. Gradually bend your elbows and move your body forward, keeping the feet fixed.
  5. Ensure your foot is entirely on the ground and not bringing your heels up.
  6. Also, make sure that the whole body is straight.
  7. Now push back using the strength of your arms.
  8. Repeat this for 20 counts, and do three sets every day, increasing it gradually.

Once you are comfortable in the wall pushup and do not find it challenging, you should move to the inclined pushup. Follow the following steps:

  1. Take a strong bench that is at knee length.
  2. Keep your palms on the bench and spread your legs backwards.
  3. Keep the feet close but do not join them.
  4. Make sure your whole body is straight
  5. The body weight should be on your palms and toes.
  6. Gradually bend your elbows and bring your body downwards.
  7. Then push back up.
  8. Repeat this for 15 counts, and do a total of 3 sets every day, increasing it gradually.

3. Glute Bridge

This exercise benefits your glute muscles, hamstrings, and the abdominal body. Follow the below steps: 

  1. Lie down on the floor with your back.
  2. Fold your legs in a way that your knees are facing upwards.
  3. Keep your hands straight on the ground.
  4. Place your arms in a palm-down position near your hips.
  5. Gradually lift your hips with the help of your legs and take a little support from your palms.
  6. Once the hips are at their maximum position, slowly bring it back to the floor.
  7. Repeat this ten times, and perform three sets every day, increasing it gradually.

4. Forward and Lateral lunge

As discussed in the functional movements, the lunge is one of the essential exercises that you should practice daily. The steps for the exercise are as follows:

  1. Stand straight by keeping your arms on your waist.
  2. Put your right leg forward.
  3. Bend the right knee so that it makes a 90-degree angle.
  4. Make sure to keep your left leg straight during this stretch.
  5. This stretch will also help you improve your balance.
  6. Now extend your right leg to the right side. 
  7. Again bend your right knee to stretch it.
  8. Do the same for your left leg.
  9. Repeat this ten times, and perform three sets every day, increasing it gradually.

5. Plank

Plank is one of the best core exercises that will help you strengthen your overall body. In addition, it enables you to improve endurance and stamina. Follow the given steps for this exercise.

  1. Lie down on your stomach
  2. Keep your forearms on the ground.
  3. Keeping the elbows at a 90-degree and shoulder-length distance
  4. Bring your body up, keeping your toes on the ground.
  5. Make sure your whole body is straight.
  6. Do not bulge or curve your spine. Keep it straight.
  7. Stay at this position for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Then, gradually, try to increase your time.

Functional Strength Training: The Intermediate Level

1. Jumping Squat

Jumping squat is a more advanced version of the regular squats. Follow the given steps for this exercise.

  1. Stand straight, keeping your feet at shoulder length to each other.
  2. Join your palms in front of you, which helps you keep the balance
  3. Bend your knees, keeping the upper body straight
  4. Move to a position where your knees are at a 90-degree.
  5. Push your feet downwards and jump on your feet.
  6. Right after the jump, bend your knees for the next squat.
  7. Keep your upper body straight in the complete process.
  8. Repeat this for 15 counts.

2. Reverse Lunge

You are already aware of the forward and lateral lunges. Now, this is another type of lunge with a bit of variation. In the forward lunge, we put our legs forwards, while in the reverse lunge, we take our legs backwards. Here is how you can do it.

  1. Stand straight by keeping your arms on your waist.
  2. Take your right leg backward.
  3. Bend the left knee so that it makes a 90-degree angle.
  4. Make sure to keep your right leg straight during this stretch.
  5. After one stretch, bring your right leg back and repeat it for the left leg.
  6. Repeat this ten times, and perform three sets every day, increasing it gradually.

3. Full Body Pushup

If you are confident with your inclined pushup and want to try the full-body pushup, follow the given steps.

  1. Lie down on your stomach and place your arms on the floor.
  2. Push your body upwards, keeping the toes on the ground
  3. Keep the feet close but do not join them.
  4. Make sure your whole body is straight
  5. The body weight should be on your palms and toes.
  6. Gradually bend your elbows and bring your body downwards.
  7. Then push back up.
  8. Repeat this for 15 counts, and do a total of 3 sets every day, increasing it gradually.

4. Wall-Headstand

Headstands are one of the best exercises for overall body improvement. During the headstand, your body should be upside-down, which helps increase the blood flow towards your brain. It drastically improves the mood and contributes to your face’s glow. If you are doing it for the first time, it is best to do it with someone who could help you if you need it.

Follow the given steps for the exercise.

  1. Stand straight one foot from the wall keeping your back towards the wall.
  2. Bend down to keep your palms on the ground.
  3. Gradually shift your weight from your toes to your palms.
  4. Once you are confident, place one foot on the wall.
  5. Keeping that steady, bring the other foot.
  6. Stretch your whole body and extend your legs until the body is straight.
  7. You can either stop at this and come back down or slowly move your palms one by one towards the wall if you feel comfortable. Again, the goal is to keep the whole body straight.
  8. Stay in this position for up to 1 minute.

Functional Strength Training: The Advanced Level

1. Military Press

The muscles targeted for this exercise are Anterior Deltoids, Upper Pectorals, and Triceps. Follow the below steps to perform this exercise.

  1. Sit on the bench
  2. Spread your legs wide apart and keep your back straight.
  3. Place your back on the back of the bench.
  4. Take a dumbbell of 10kg and keep it right above your shoulders.
  5. Gradually push your arms upwards and bring them back down
  6. Repeat this for 15 reps, three sets every day, increasing it gradually.

2. Pullup

This activity helps you improve the strength in the pulling action. In addition, it enables you to improve your arm strength. The steps for this exercise are as follows.

  1. Make sure you have a horizontal rod at one hand distance above your head.
  2. Hold the rod with your palms and shift your weight from your foot to your arms.
  3. Fold your knees a little, so your feet do not touch the ground.
  4. Pull your body upwards with your arms while engaging your core.
  5. Pull up till your shoulders come to the rod level.
  6. Then gradually release your body and go downwards.
  7. Repeat this for 15 reps, three sets every day, increasing it gradually.

3. Deadlift

It is the most basic move: picking up something from the ground. For the deadlift, you need to keep some weight that you will pick. Follow the given instructions.

  1. Stand straight, keeping your legs shoulder-length apart.
  2. Squat down, keeping your back straight.
  3. Reach out and grab the weights
  4. Pull the weight along with your body.
  5. Make sure you keep your upper body straight.
  6. Repeat this action for 15 counts, three sets every day, increasing it gradually.

4. Wall-Headstand Pushup

As we discussed, the wall stands for the intermediate stage. The next step after a successful headstand is the headstand pushup. Follow the given instructions.

  1. Stand straight, facing the wall.
  2. Keep one foot away
  3. Bend down and place your arms
  4. Shift your body weight and go to the headstand position
  5. Once you hold a perfect position, bend your elbows and bring your body downwards.
  6. Stretch back the elbows and go back to the original position
  7. Repeat this for 15 counts, three sets every day, increasing it gradually.

Precautions

Functional strength training is an excellent way to improve your functional movements and strengthen your core strength. However, it is not for everyone. Similarly, it requires an expert’s intervention. 

As per Harvard Health, some of the precautionary measures to keep in mind regarding functional strength training are:

  • It is best to warm up and cool down for five to 10 minutes. You can choose walking as a warm-up and stretching as a cool-down method. 
  • Ensure that your form is correct because a poor form (position) can lead to injuries. If you are at the beginner level, start without any weight and continue till you do not get the position right. 
  • Before lifting heavy weights, ensure that you get the tempo right. It helps you stay in control rather than compromise strength gains through momentum. For example, count to three while lowering a weight, hold, then count to three while raising it to the starting position.
  • Pay attention to your breathing during your workouts. Exhale as you work against resistance by lifting, pushing, or pulling; inhale as you release.
  • Keep challenging muscles by slowly increasing weight or resistance. 
  • Stick with your routine: working all the major muscles of your body two or three times a week is ideal. You can also do one full-body strength workout two or three times a week, or you may break your strength workout into upper and lower-body workouts. However, ensure you perform each workout two or three times a week.
  • Give muscles time off. Strength training causes tiny tears in muscle tissue. However, muscles grow stronger as the tears knit up. So, always give your muscles at least 48 hours to recover before your next strength training session.
  • If you have an underlying injury or health issue, consult your healthcare professional before starting your workouts.
  • Pregnant and lactating women must always do any exercise under the guidance of a fitness expert.

Besides the precautions mentioned above, everyone must consult a fitness coach for assistance. A trained professional will help you define your levels, train you to perform the correct postures and make a proper workout plan. That will help you reduce injury risk and get the best results.

Conclusion

Functional training is a type of training that helps you perform activities in everyday life more easily. These exercises focus on the whole body and emphasise building and improving core strength and stability. The functional strength shows how you can perform your daily activities with ease. Therefore, it will help you increase your quality of life and reduce the risk of injury. 

A few benefits of practising the functional strength exercises include helping with daily work, boosting mood, Burning calories and fat, Building strength and muscle, Strengthening bones, and Improving endurance.

Now that you know about the functional strength, the benefits, and how to improve it, it’s time you start thinking about starting to improve your functional strength. Critical functional movements can benefit you in several ways. First, however, ensure that you know your levels and choose exercises that you can do to help improve functional strength.

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