What is functional fitness?

Dr. Mike Clark, DPT
Functional training is a method of training that strives to get your body stable, in balance and capable of performing at its peak. Functional training incorporates moving in all positions (staight ahead, side/side, and turning), using different bases of support (2 legs, stagger stance, one leg), and implementing unstable environments (airex pad, bosu ball) to challenge the muscles that control your joints.
Functional fitness refers to performing exercises that closely mimic activities of everyday life. It is not often that we lie on our back and push a large amount of weight off the top of us, therefore the bench press exercise would not be very “functional.” Some examples of functional exercise include:
o Standing cable press
o Standing cable row
o Squats
o Bench step ups
o Shoulder presses
Bob Greene
Bob Greene on behalf of The Best Life

Functional fitness refers to how well you’re able to do all the physical tasks you need to do each day. For example, if you’re functionally fit, you can carry a bag of groceries without strain, bend down to pick up laundry from the floor without pulling a muscle, lift a child without injuring your back or even perform regular exercise. A large factor in functional fitness is flexibility - and staying active can help. Movement helps loosen up the body, keeping muscles limber.

Before beginning any fitness program, it’s important that you get functionally fit first. This means that you should be in shape enough to safely and effectively perform everyday activities, like bending, lifting, twisting and walking. After all, if you can't reach into the back of a closet without pulling a muscle, how can you safely lift a dumbbell several times? But it’s also important to stay functionally fit even after you've been active for a while to keep key muscles in ready-shape. These muscle groups include your abdomen, back and shoulders, and lower legs (quads, hamstrings, calves). Below are some exercises that can condition these muscles:

1. Stretches (hamstring, quads, upper calf, lower calf)
Stretching your lower leg muscles improves your flexibility as it helps your muscles and joints move through their normal range of motion. Increased flexibility can also reduce the risk for injury and prevent post-exercise soreness.

2. Abdominal crunches (basic, twisting trunk curl, upper abdomen)
Crunches help to develop a strong core, which stabilizes your body and protects your back, whether you bend over to pick up a piece of paper or a dumbbell.

3. Back and shoulder stretches and exercises (middle- and low-back stretch, arm and leg raise, shrug roll) A strong back and shoulders improve your posture and help you perform walking and running exercises safely and more efficiently.

4. Lower leg (heel raise)
It's important to strengthen your lower legs for activities like walking and climbing stairs because it reduces your incidence of shin splints, an inflammatory condition that can derail your workouts. Heel raises are ideal because they strengthen both your calves and shins.

You can do an entire series of these exercises in 10 minutes. You should perform them at least three times a week for at least one week before you embark on any aerobic or strength-training routine. Afterwards, weave functional fitness exercises into your regular workouts to keep these key muscles in shape.

Mr. Donovan Green
Athletic Training
Functional training is when your body has been conditioned to a point where you can handle your normal everyday physical activities with out causing harm to yourself. For example, if you are an at home Mom who really loves to clean and shop then you will need to do some functional exercisies that will help  keep your muscle moving not only strong but efficiently such as:
Squats- Cleaning the Bathroom
Lunges- PIcking up the garbage or the kids socks
Shrugs - carryng the groceries from the store
Those are some Basic ideas on what functional training is and why it is important to train functionally during your workouts.
Functional fitness can be looked at as practice for what our everyday lives ask of us. For instance, walking up and down stairs asks the body to be strong on the way up and very controlled and stable on the way down.  Simple stepping exercises built into an exercise routine can help to get that much needed practice for when everyday life puts a staircase in front us.
Functional fitness is training multiple muscles, nerves and joints together to prepare your body for the specific activities and demands of everyday life. These activities include squatting, bending, twisting, walking, jumping, climbing etc. Our bodies need to work in a controlled and coordinated fashion to perform these movements effectively. Exercises such as squats, lunges, standing rows, and trunk rotations require different muscles groups have to work together rather than in isolation. Some of the important benefits of functional training include:
* helps correct poor movement and postural patterns
* improves flexibility
* helps prevent injury
* improves balance
* increases muscle and joint strength

Functional fitness is being in shape to successfully perform the movements you encounter during work, sport & life.  I often contrast exercises that develop "function vs. fashion".  Athletes & the elderly seem especially interested in developing functional fitness.

Functional fitness can be described as the body's ability to manipulate movement needed to perform every-day tasks with the least amount of stress placed on the nervous, skeletal, and muscular systems. Your body will move and perform better when the skeletal system is properly aligned. This is commonly refered to as the Kinetic Chain. Poor posture can result in movement dysfunctions that may cause imbalances throughout the Kinetic Chain. This basically means that your body may start to move less efficiently and with greater stress placed on the joints and spine as well as the muscles moving with less coordination. Training programs that focus on improving poor postural patterns, core stability, balance, muscular strength, and cardiorespiratory efficiency have proven beneficial in improving the efficiency of the Kinetic Chain. You can then start to train your body to improve in areas needed to perform and tolerate the forces needed to carry out daily activities with minimal stress.
Integrated type of training with multi-dimensional exercise that requires slowing down and speeding up, balance and stabilization in all three planes of motion.
Functional fitness is based upon the person, the task, and goal.  Once this has been established functional fitness must have elements of training that move the body in three-dimensions, utilize gravity to enhance moves, create dynamic body movements, moves should start in various positions of life (standing, one-leg, sitting, kneeling, supine, prone, side-lying...), and move in different angles & heights.
Functional fitness is achieved by practicing functional training. Which is simply fitness that directly relates to whatever you do in everday life. Let's face it, many of our lives are reaking havoc on our bodies. Being in seated positions all day, working on computers, driving in traffic, and the shoes we wear can have a dramatic impact on the function of our bodies. It is important to develop an exercise program which can work to offset some of these tendencies. An example would be to develop a glute and abdominal strengthening program for someone who is in a seated position for many hours per day. 
Statistics tell us that 80% of the population deals with low back pain, and being seated for more than 4 hours per day increases your change of low back pain by up to 300%!! I believe it is important to note that many people do not encounter this pain while they are seated. It is when they are up, trying to perform a simple task which they have probably performed thousands of times (such taking out the trash) when their back suddenly "gives out". This is where functional training comes in. In what is commonly known as "traditional training" an emphasis is placed on how much weight one can move while in a stable position and only moving in one plane of motion. How many times does taking out the trash only involve one plane of motion and how many times are you supported while you are lifting the trash out of the can?  Probably never!
A functional training program is going to involve the appropriate flexibility exercises combined with cardiovascular training and resisitance training. While performing the resistance portion, think of exercise which will mimic everyday activities. For example, lunges very closely relate to going up and down stairs; squatting is necessary for individuals to get up and down out of chairs; performing pressing and pulling motions with a cable machine or tubing will also require the trunk to coordinate movement between the upper body and stability of lower body which is essential in everday activities. In addition to these activities, if your feeling nice and stable, try adding a twisting motion to introduce additional planes of motion or combine some exercise. My most favorite functional exercise is performing a squat while rowing with cables or tubes. 
To find additional information contact a local trainer and perform a movement assessment.
JC Pinzon
it is being fit enough to perform a function either work related or sports specific. One can train the back muscles during the winter to shovel snow efficiently without getting hurt or you can train to play tennis with more power. The muscles in both cases are similar and the exercises can simulate these movements using different speeds and angles.
Functional movement patterns are basic to our activities of daily living. Proper posture, body alignment, and muscle tone are prime ingredients for functional movement.  Some problems may occur when there are imbalances with in the body's three main components for movement, the skeletal, muscular, and nervous system.  It is important in functional fitness to focus on movement patterns in all three planes of motion, frontal (side to side), saggital (front to back), transverse (rotational), for optimal flexibility and strength to facilitate proper movement patterns and functional fitness. 
Functional Fitness Is Words that you're starting to hear more and more of in and out of gyms. Single plane exercises are becoming a thing of the past.You need to be able to move in all three planes of motion(sagittal,Frontal and transverse).You need to be able to pick up that suit case or lifting your child up without injuring yourself.

While most injuries occur in the transverse plane this is often neglected in training regimens.The core muscles are extremely important for all movements of functionality. Back,shoulders, and legs (hamstrings,Quadriceps, calves,ankle complex) all need to be strong.Balance training should always be the first step to any exercise program.

Flexibility and joint mobility exercises are another thing people overlook. We know as we age that flexibility and joint mobilization decreases. We need to keep that just as much of a priority as exercise itself.

Mark Levine

Functional fitness is defined as activities that prepare you for your every day life. For instance, a functional exercise might be a lunge with a rotational twist. This helps the everyday person who might go grocery shopping and have to reach for a large box of detergent.

On the other hand, a bench press would be a functional exercise for an offensive lineman. This helps them in their job of keeping large defensive linemen from the quarterback.

Functional fitness refers to exercises which enhance an individuals ability to 'function' in a greater capacity on a daily basis.  Functional fitness exercises usually imitate day-to-day motions and activities creating an increase of strength and mobility.  Age, athletic activity and lifestyle usually play a vital role in developing the proper functional fitness routine.

Functional fitness programs are designed around exercises and activities that closely mimic the activities of daily living. Throughout our workdays, time spent playing with our children, and activities performed with our friends and families we move in a variety of different ways, it is not often that we sit on a bench and push something forward, lie on our backs and push something up, or shrug our shoulders up and down repeatedly. However, bending, twisting, changing direction, and lifting at various speeds in multiple settings are a part of our daily lives. While working out on machines or performing a typical bodybuilding routine do build strength, endurance, and burn calories, they do very little to prepare you for the movements of life. In fact, most common injuries occur while performing activities outside of the gym. Functional fitness exercises can increase strength, endurance, flexibility, and balance by using exercises that mimic real life movement patterns. Some examples of functional exercises are:

1.      Cable Chop Downs or Twist Ups

2.      Walking Lunges

3.      Push Ups

4.      Bench Step Ups in Multiple Directions

5.      Dumbbell Squats into a Dumbbell Overhead Press

Remember, life is a sport and we are all athletes of life. Train for it!!

Heather Kerr

Functional fitness is based on exercises that are specific to your personal functions or daily movements.

You could be unconditioned or an athlete and both be using a form of functional fitness as your way to become further conditioned within your exercise regime.

Functional fitness many times is used to engaging and strengthen certain muscles that you use everyday in order to decrease the risk of injury. 

Exercises for each individual are different based on the demand that one places on their body and for their specific goals.

A good personal trainer is one that specifically asks the right questions in order to determine the best exercises for any functional fitness program.  Many times these exercises would include increasing strength, power and endurance in order for ones body to become more efficient within its current daily functions.

Other forms of functional fitness based on goals could include.

Sports-specific functional fitness

Sports specific functional training typically supersedes functional movements in complexity. Yet both sports and functional movements are dependent on the body's core and the goal the individual is trying to master within their sport.

Muscle-specific functional fitness

Muscle-specific functional fitness exercises could incorporate many variables depending on the need and want of the individual's function to move certain muscles.  this is also determined by ones goal or muscle demand, in order to balance, use multiple joints, or move through multiple planes of movement.  Sometimes these exercises might work to decrease the load on the muscle while increasing the complexity of motor coordination and flexibility which are used based on the functional needs and wants from each specific individual.


Functional fitness is utilizing movements that are functional for day to day activities. For example, squats are a functional movement, every time we sit, we are performing a functional squat. Fitness should include movements that are functional in nature, to enhance mobility and improve wellness. 

Functional fitness is being able to perform everyday activities such as climbing stairs, open and closing jars, getting up and down from a seated position, carrying groceries, and tying your shoes.  The key to maintaining your functional fitness well into your golden years is to take care of your body by performing aerobic activity to keep your endurance up and resistance training to keep your muscles strong.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.