How to train your body for everyday tasks
Working out your muscles for everyday tasks is crucial. This is where Functional Training comes in.
Brinda Sapat tells us more!
Training the body for actual use is the most needed form of exercise.
Allowing your body to move through the daily physical tasks energetically, efficiently and without injury should be the basic effect of a fitness routine.
Functional training does just that.
It should be incorporated in your workouts or can be done as a single workout session a couple of times a week.
Please note that Functional Training is not a substitute for strength training, cardio or flexibility exercises.
What exactly is Functional Training?
The exercises in this form of training work multiple muscle groups at one time, imitating the daily physical movements we actually use.
For example you lunge forward to pick up an object off the floor and put it on a table.
A movement like this uses the legs, the arm, shoulder, back and abdominals.
It is very common for injury to occur in any one of these areas when the body is untrained.
Here is an example of a functional training exercise to condition this system.
Lunge forward with the right leg, reach down lift the dumbbell with the left hand, bring it in towards your chest and support it with the right hand.
Then twist to your right and extend both arms. Repeat the movement on the opposite side.
(Detailed description in the workout segment below.)
The focus in functional training exercises is clarity of movement, balance and a strong core.
This allows the movement to happen easily and without injury.
In a day to day scenario the body moves asymmetrically.
Rarely do you find yourself concentrating and lifting two identically weighted objects with both hands up to your shoulders, like a bicep curl!
Functional Training will strengthen this system of the body.
The idea is not to fatigue your body, but to condition it for daily tasks and strengthen the postural system; something that your body will be thankful for as you grow older.
Functional Training tones and tightens the body.
It improves posture making you appear taller and leaner.
You learn to generate strength from the core and your body moves with greater control and grace.
It improves your cardio, strength training and sports performance.
And it adds an interesting twist to your regular weight training routine!
For now, here's a workout to get you started!
Equipment needed: Medium-weighted dumbbell!
Image: Functional Training works out multiple muscle groups at one time.
Photographs: Calibe Thompson/Creative Commons
This exercise imitates the movement of reaching the floor to pick up an object and twisting to place it on a table.
You want to watch for proper posture through the movement.
Hold the dumbbell in your left hand.
Take a wide step forward with the right leg and bend both knees (your front knee must stay in line with your ankle and not surpass your toes), reaching dumbbell towards the floor.
In a rowing movement lift the dumbbell up, straighten the knees and taking support of the right hand, twist your torso to the left.
Here, bear in mind that your spine should be pulled up tall, not leaning back or rounding forwards.
Extend both arms to the right. Bring the dumbbell into the chest as you face front, then step the right leg back.
Prepare to repeat with the left leg and right arm leading.
Do a total of 12- 16 reps.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh
This movement is like reaching for an object at a lower level and then placing it on a higher one.
Stand with the dumbbell in your right hand.
Extend your left leg straight behind you and raise your right hand up till the upper arm is in line with your ear. Lower and repeat.
Do 12 reps and then switch sides.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh
Image: Reciprocal Reach
Cross legged squat, hand reach down
This exercise imitates and will strengthen the muscles we use to get into a seated cross legged position on the floor.
Cross your right foot in front of the left.
Start squatting down and begin to reach your hands towards the floor for support, taking care not to bend too far forwards.
Let the thighs take the load of the movement.
As your hip touches down and you get into sitting position, press your hands into the floor, and slowly start straightening your legs to get up and then straighten the back.
Once again, let the thighs do the work.
You should feel no strain in the back, knees, ankles or shoulders.
Image: Cross legged squat, hand reach down
Plank stabilisation with hand and leg reaches
Get into a plank position.
Maintain your head in a comfortable position, without any strain in the neck.
Hold for 30 seconds.
Next lift your right arm off the floor and bring it down.
Then lift the left and bring it down.
Do a total of 4-8 reps.
Next lift the right leg up and bring it down.
Repeat with the left.
Do a total of 8-12 reps.
Image: Plank stabilisation with hand and leg reaches
Hold both dumbbells in your hands.
Bend your elbows at waist level with palms facing up.
Raise your left knee.
Now move your arms to the right and rotate the right knee out to the left.
Your body is moving in opposing directions.
Bring them both back to centre.
Do 8-12 reps and change sides.
One leg balance and reach
Mark out three points on the floor in front of you at positions of 11 o'clock, 12 o'clock and 1 o'clock.
Hold the dumbbell in your right hand.
Stand on the right leg, lifting the left leg off the ground.
Reach your right hand down to the floor at 1 o'clock.
Come back up, then take it down to 12 o'clock and up; and then to 11 o'clock and up.
Repeat this sequence 4-5 times, then switch legs and hands.
Image: One leg balance and reach
Side bends with arm reach middle and down
Hold the dumbbell in the right hand.
Bend down sideways from your waist to the right, reaching the dumbbell down along your leg.
Come up and bend to the right again taking the arm out at waist height this time, away from the body.
Keep alternating with every rep.
Do 10-12 reps and switch sides.
Stretch out your muscles after you are done.
Image: Side bends with arm reach middle and down