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Functional Fitness: Four Exercises for a Stronger Tomorrow

Functional exercises are movements that train your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by simulating everyday movements you might do at home, at work, or in sports. They often use multiple joints and numerous muscles. Unlike traditional weight training that typically isolates one muscle or muscle group, functional training integrates various parts of the body to work in unison.

Incorporating functional exercises into your routine can offer numerous benefits, including improved balance, agility, muscle strength, and coordination. These exercises can significantly enhance your performance in daily activities or sports while reducing your risk of injury.

Here are four functional exercises that can keep you agile, strong and reduce your chances of injury.

1. Barbell Squats

Squats are powerful functional exercises that mimic the actions of sitting down and standing up. They strengthen your legs, glutes, and core, providing a solid foundation for your body.

Position the barbell at chest height on a squat rack. Stand under the bar, placing it on your upper back. Grab the bar with hands wider than shoulder-width.

Lift Off: Lift the bar by straightening your legs, then step back from the rack.

Position: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly out. Keep your back straight and chest up.

Squat Down: Bend at the knees and hips as if sitting back into a chair, going down until the thighs are parallel to the floor.

Rise Up: Push through your heels to stand back up, keeping your chest up and core tight.

Remember to keep your knees in line with your toes, the weight over your ankles and maintain a straight back throughout the exercise.

Barbell Squats
Barbell Squats

2. Lunges

Lunges are excellent for improving your balance, coordination, and the strength of your legs and hips. They simulate the action of climbing stairs or stepping forward.

Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart. Take a big step forward with one leg.

Lower Down: Bend both knees to lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the ground and your back knee is close to the floor. Ensure your front knee doesn’t go past your toes.

Rise Up: Push through the heel of your front foot to return to the starting position. Keep the trunk of your body upright. Most of your weight should be on the heel of your front foot as you move back up. Your rear foot should be used primarily for balance.

Switch Legs: Repeat the movement with the opposite leg. Repeat 2-3 times.

Keep your upper body straight and core engaged throughout the exercise.

Lunges
Lunges

3. Push-Ups

Push-ups are a classic exercise that strengthens the chest, shoulders, triceps, and core. They mimic real-life pushing actions, like pushing open a heavy door.

Laying face down, toes flexed, place the palms on the ground slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, with the heel of the hands in line with the lower chest. Retract and depress the scapula (shoulder blades) and contract your core.

Lower Down: Bend your elbows to lower your body towards the floor. Keep your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body.

Push Up: Press through your hands, extending your arms to lift your body back to the starting position. Stop just short of locking the elbows.

Don't lift your hips too high or drop too low. Don’t roll or externally rotate the shoulders. Avoid locking the elbows. Choose a spot directly in front of your eyes on the ground and stare at it to avoid lifting your head.

Push-Ups
Push-Ups

4. Step-Ups

Step-ups work on your legs and glutes and can improve your balance. They replicate actions like climbing stairs or stepping onto a high platform.

Stand in front of a bench or step, feet hip-width apart.

Step Up: Step onto the bench with one foot, pressing through your heel to lift your body up.

Rise Up: Bring your other foot onto the bench to stand up fully.

Step Down: Reverse the movement by stepping back down with the leading foot, followed by the other, to return to the starting position.

Switch Legs: Repeat the movement with the opposite leg leading. Alternate legs for the desired number of reps or time.

Keep your back straight and core engaged throughout the exercise. You can make this more challenging by holding onto dumbbells while performing the exercise.

Step-Ups
Step-Ups

By adding these exercises to your routine, you can enhance your physical fitness and ensure your body is equipped to handle the daily rigors of life. This will keep you active and help you reduce your chances of injury for years to come.

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3/6/2024