We already know that exercise reduces our risks of serious illness and boosts our mood, self-esteem and sleep quality. But what if we told you that you also need workouts to breeze through your household chores and other seemingly mundane activities?
Meet functional strength training or what we call exercise with a purpose—to help us in our daily activities, that is. Unlike bodybuilding, which focuses on enhancing muscular development, functional strength training amps up the body for “normal” movements like standing, walking, carrying heavy objects and picking up items from the floor.
Why should we do functional strength training?
Functional strength training typically requires total body coordination instead of focusing on one specific muscle group. So nope, no bicep curls or sit-ups in our routine (we can all collectively sigh in relief now). Because we’re exercising several muscles at the same time, we encourage our bodies to operate as one full unit. This helps in boosting overall balance and endurance.
It also emphasizes muscles we often use, and it places importance on building our core to stabilize our body. According to research, exercises that help enhance core stability are essential in protecting the joints and muscles when moving around. This means we can run faster, jump higher and lift heavier things while lessening the chances of injury (like accidentally pulling a muscle, yikes).
Since it’s also about “mimicking daily activities”, this type of exercise can be done with just our body or minimal equipment like dumbbells or medicine balls. We can also use household items like large water jugs or heavy books.
Which exercises are considered functional strength training?
Most compound exercises, where we use several muscles together, can be incorporated into functional strength training. Squats, for example, will help us in picking up something heavy (like groceries) from the floor or a low shelf. We can upgrade this exercise to a goblet squat, which sees the involvement of our quads, glutes, calves and abdominal muscles. When paired with deadlifts, it saves us from potentially straining our lower back muscles when lifting heavy suitcases, too.
Lunges are also pretty helpful for things as mundane as tying our shoes or taking big steps, while step-ups will benefit activities like climbing stairs. Overhead presses effectively strengthen our shoulder muscles, which we need when reaching for the top shelf in the kitchen.
Why should we start doing it right now?
Since it aims to help make daily activities easier, functional strength training is beneficial for everyone—no matter what our fitness levels are. It’s good for people who work from home, especially if they live alone and have to do chores on their own. For example, a simple set of squats helps prevent muscle strain after sitting the entire day, while doing loaded carry exercises strengthens our grip and upper arms. And if you think we’re not ready, we can easily sneak these exercises during our 15-minute breaks away from the computer or do a full routine after clocking out.
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