Can We Talk Functional??

Talking with a friend about my workout philosophy I tried to explain that I’m about every day functional fitness.  It confused her, as I’d just bragged about Monday’s workout.

“What is there in your life that resembles deadlifting 120#?”

A LOT!  My bad-hipped dog Katy need picking up and lifting into the car.  Katy is about 65#- far short of that 120#- but she also wiggles and waggles as I lift her.  Also? grocery bags and laundry baskets and dog food bags, heavy cast-iron casseroles, bags of dirt.  While few of these things are the exact shape and weight as a barbell loaded with weight plates, they are all lifting.  And, because I can lift heavier weight, I CAN lift Katy up.  I can pick up friends’ kids who have fallen, and carry grocery bags from the car to the house without needing a nap afterward.  The heavy lifting makes the rest of my life easier.

That is the essence of functional fitness- exercises to make your day-to-day life easier.

Besides lifting heavy objects, I also make myself workout in controlled but unstable ways – working with stability balls and air cushions and 1/2 foam rolls.  I used to use the BOSU at the gym before it broke.

Do I like these workouts?  Not particularly.

Do I do these things well?  Nope

However, we’ve all read and heard the stories of people who’ve fallen and broken bones.  People whose injuries have made them alter their life forever; older folks who’ve died from a broken hip.  In many of these circumstances, the person didn’t know how to recover.  By training my body and mind in these “predictably unpredictable” situations I am training my brain and body to recover.  To fall without doing too much damage.  To catch myself and stay upright.

That too is functional fitness.

Some of the most “functional” exercises you can do?

1. deadlifts (you guessed this one already, right?)

2. lunges (work those glutes and the abductors/adductors/ obliques)

3. squats (strong glutes/hammies/quad and a different plane from lunges)

4. pushups. Your whole body working as one unit?  And getting yourself up off the ground?  Hello!

5. pullups.

6. step ups.  Yeah.  step on a bench and hold it.  Don’t fall or dip a hip or shoulder while stepping up.  Your whole body works this to get coordinated.

7. side shuffles. Balance, adductors, obliques.

8. Farmer’s carries.  Basically pick up something heavy and carry it.  Because we do this ALL THE TIME.

What physical (functional) challenges do you face every day?  And what exercises make it easier for you do these things?

4 responses to “Can We Talk Functional??

  1. I take a strength training class once a week, and we do “functional drills”. I think she just dreams of ways to torture us. This last week she brought these little ladders she lays on the ground, and we have to walk like crabs, then sprint to other side of room and back, and crabwalk back. Then pushup walk. Then burpees using weights, and on the bottom we have to roll to side, lift weight, then other side. Mountain climbers. Jumping in air and clicking our feet together. I don’t know what’s so functional about half this stuff, yet I go back every week.

    • Julie,

      I haven’t a clue what those things have to do with functional fitness either. They are different – and she might have a different definition of functional fitness than I do.

      (some consider mostly body-weight activities functional… but what do we do in real life that resembles crab walking?)

  2. This is actually really funny. I was trying to explain functional fitness to some family members several days ago and you just did it WAY better than I ever could. I’m totally forwarding this link, if you don’t mind. :)


    sending my parents your way today to read this….

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