By David Jenkins
Functional exercises either mimic daily movements or engage muscle groups that aid in said movement. These movements are especially important as we age.
Simple tasks such as getting in/out of the shower or opening the refrigerator can become a hassle if muscles, tendons, and ligaments have become compromised. To avoid deterioration, consider incorporating some of my favorite functional exercises into your workout routine.
Illustrations by Cindy Luu
While a normal squat or deadlift is great, it doesn’t address the fact that humans move in different planes, often awkwardly. The Jefferson squat embraces this and takes advantage of different foot positioning to activate the entire lower body.
I tend to feel it most in my hamstrings, but you will likely hear from your glutes and claves the next day. This can certainly be done with no weight; rather than grasping a bar, go low enough that your hands touch the ground.
World’s Greatest Lunge
Images courtesy of Physigraphe
Coined the World’s Greatest Lunge, this next functional exercise is often used in athletics as part of a full body warmup and for good reason. It targets both lower and upper-body and when done repetitively it can provide a bit of cardio. What I like most about the world’s greatest lunge is its rotational aspect.
Many gym-goers neglect what is referred to as the transverse plane. Rotational exercises are performed within this plane of motion. Thus, this exercise can help with stability, posture and spine health. I advise searching the internet to find which variation best fits your physical abilities.
Image courtesy of Business Insider
Not often will I advocate for working out abs directly, as I believe in integration instead of isolation. However, sometimes it’s best to be specific. The sit-up hold focuses on engaging your core through static training, which doesn’t involve joint movement. This variation is great for your back.
From my experience, it’s usually a harder concept for clients to grasp that your abs contribute to maintaining the integrity of your spine.
David Jenkins is a certified personal trainer with a bachelor’s degree in sports and fitness. He specializes in weight management and sports skills and has experience in exercise for musculoskeletal injury prevention and rehabilitation. His fitness philosophy is "change your body, change your mind."