What Is Functional Fitness?

functional fitness portland

What Is Functional Fitness

I remember my first walk of shame. 

I walked down the driveway with my head down, my eyes pointed toward the floor, lower lip quivering, and both my hands holding all the groceries I could carry. 

Sadly, one trip wasn’t enough and I ended up walking back out to my car to make a second trip. After that I got into functional fitness and never made two trips again.

Jokes aside, today we’re going to break down what Functional Fitness is.

The Best Part?

You’re probably already doing some functional fitness movements without knowing it. I was!

What Is Functional Fitness

Functional Fitness is an approach to training in the gym that helps you perform better outside of the gym. By improving strength, coordination, and mobility through exercises that challenge us to control our body as a unit in all different ranges of motions. 

These exercises have demands that mirror tasks and positions we perform in our everyday lives.

As a result you’ll be left feeling stronger and more confident as you move throughout your day.

If I had to name a few of the things I repeatedly do throughout the day that are functional movements they’d be walking, squatting, pushing, pulling, bending over to pick things up, and twisting.

Examples Of Functional Fitness In Your Everyday Life

Here’s some functional fitness movements you may find yourself doing at the gym and how they’re going to carry over outside of it.

Goblet Squat (Squatting Down) – You’re already squatting every day whether or not you realize it. In ways such as sitting and getting up out of a chair, off the couch, and into your car.

Kettlebell Deadlift (Bending Over) – Is a great exercise to practice bending over and picking things up safely.

Here we are teaching our hamstrings, core, and back muscles how to work together.

Such as: groceries, pets, and grandchildren

Bent Over Row (Pulling) – Ever have to pull a 30 packs of water bottles toward your chest or a bag of mulch? 

If you have, then you’ve done a bent over row. It recruits a few different muscles on the back side of the body such as the hamstrings, lats, and shoulders. 

Split Squat (Kneeling) – The split squat is all about being able control your weight when it’s biased onto one leg. It challenges you to control your upper body and lower body as you lower yourself down toward the floor.

For most of us this is what we’re doing when we go down to pick something off the ground or lunge down to tie our shoes. 

Cable Chop (Twisting) – Chops are a great way to work on your core while having to stabilize your lower body. Grabbing a box off the top shelf of the kitchen and twisting to put it down on the table. You’re doing a chop. Here is an example of how we coach this exercise:

What Is A Functional Fitness Gym Going To Look Like?

Most Functional Fitness Gyms are going to have more open space than a commercial box gym. You’ll probably see a lot more kettlebells,dumbbells,plyo boxes, and weight sleds. 

No Machines?

Typically, a Functional Fitness Gym is going to be centered around how you move your body through space in an open environment vs having you in a locked position i.e machines.

What Makes Our Portland Functional Fitness Gym Different?

We look at the body as one integrated system vs thinking about muscles in isolation. Joints and muscles move together. So if the hips are stiff, we’re gonna look above and below them to try to improve mobility. 

One of the top priorities in our gym is also unilateral (split stance) movements. Big bilateral (both feet together) lifts like squats and deadlifts are great, but a lot of our day to day requires us to split the body in two. Whatever is happening on one side of the body, the opposite is usually happening on the other. We need to be able to alternate and rotate. 

If you walked into our gym in Portland on any given day you’d see members performing exercises like split squats and single leg deadlifts. These give them an opportunity to shift into one hip while shifting out of the other.

This picture of the sling system illustrates how joints and muscles don’t work in isolation. The left shoulder, left back muscles, and right glutes are all connected. The same goes for the side abs(obliques), lower hip, and quad muscles as shown on the left image. 

Individualization: Learning About Who You Are?

Functional Fitness can be great, but in some cases it can also be too generalized by not addressing who you specifically are and what your unique day to day looks like.

Let Me Explain

I’m a 26 year old personal trainer and my day to day isn’t going to look the same as a parent with 2 kids or someone who’s a sous chef. 

Everyone who walks through the door at our gym gets a consultation and assessment. We enjoy learning who you are and how we can work together to make you better in and outside the gym.

That’s why we ask questions like…

What do you do for work?

Are there any movements you feel weak in or unstable in?

What activities do you enjoy doing?

Any past injuries?

These help give us a snapshot of who you are. 

In Short

Functional Fitness is all about helping you get better in and outside of the gym. It’s going to help you feel stronger, more coordinated, and more mobile. In order to do that we believe the best approach is looking at the body as an integrated unit. Lastly, the best Functional Fitness program is one that’s tailored to you. 

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