Every gym and every trainer touts about Functional Exercises. Some know and most don’t know what functional exercises are about. The internet is filled with varied definitions of functional exercises. Many have a tendency to discard a whole group of exercises as non-functional and have a select few as functional. What is functional to one trainer may not be functional to another trainer. In such a case, normal folks find it difficult to understand and appreciate what is best for them.
Functional exercise should be able to perform a function – any function that serves an individual, his/her body type, his/her goals etc. For example, a housewife may want to get stronger to carry her baby. A golfer would want to stabilize and mobilize his trunk for a good swing. He does not have to carry a baby around. The housewife would not want to swing items in her house like a golfer. So exercises meant for a housewife should be different from that of a golfer. Yet, we see people jumping on boxes doing box-jumps because somebody told them that it is ‘functional’.
A bedridden elderly octagenarian might not have enough muscles and strength to squat. Her limiting factor for any exercise is her lack of strength. She would need a machine to either do a leg press or leg extension to build her leg muscles first. A machine exercise is functional for her as it is giving her exercise and strength to make her move.
So don’t go by fads of functional exercises touted by trainers. Use your common sense to check the following for any exercise:
1. Is the exercise helping your gain strength? Without strength neither the housewife, golfer or elder lady can do anything.
2. Is the exercise helping you attain your goal by addressing your limiting factor first? The elderly lady’s limiting factor is her leg strength, the housewife’s limiting factor is her ability to balance her baby on one side of her body and the golfer’s limiting factor would be his ability to rotate his trunk.
3. Is the exercise helping you move for a normal daily life? At the end of the day, the exercise should help you live a normal good life. If the exercise gives you injuries, then why bother? Case in points are exercises such as ‘box jumps’ or ‘muscle ups’ or ‘kipping pull-ups’. They are very injury prone if you are not trained well.
If any of the answers is no, then don’t even bother doing those exercises. If the trainer insists, then change the trainer.
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