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What is (Fun)ctional Fitness

Functional fitness swept America about a decade ago, and every new years it makes a comeback. Gyms started putting in a functional area with dumbbells, kettlebells, med balls, battle ropes, bosu balls and people flocked to it for all their weird looking balancing workouts. I too, as a personal trainer, loved the idea. I regularly used the space but not for stability ball back squats. Now I look back and ask myself, "was it really functional or just the same fitness with a different look?"

First, I had to look at the fitness industry's definition of Functional Fitness. According to common thought, Functional fitness is exercises that trains your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily use by simulating common movements you might do at home, work, or play. Functional Fitness also emphasizes core strength and stability. So to my earlier question, is this view of functional fitness actually Functional? Functional by definition meaning, having special activity, purpose, or task; relating to the way in which something works or operates. Does functional fitness train your body in the way it works or operates?

How does the body operate or work together? What muscles work together in everyday movements at home, work, or play? Well lets look at walking. What muscles are used to make you walk? Calf, hamstring, glute, lat, and obliques. Lets look at jumping. You have to use your calves, hamstrings, glutes, lats, abdominals, rear delts, and triceps. How about to sitting? Not that anyone trains to sit, but an argument could be made that they should. You would use your erector muscles, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominals, obliques, and your mid traps.

I know when you look at the definition of functional, it makes you think: are burpees rope slams really functional for how my body works? Do the muscles activated in a jump squat or jump lunge really reflect how the body operates when jumping, or is it just another learned movement just for movement sake. DO NOT get me wrong, movement is great. The body requires movement to stay healthy. However, functional fitness is supposed to be different from other fitness trends from before, when we just worked out for bigger muscles.

Functional fitness is supposed to have real physiological applications. Through this series I'm going to look at Functional fitness by definition and some of the exercises to see if they actually fulfill the functional part of functional fitness.

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