Take a second to think about your daily routine, occupation, and the tasks you often perform throughout the day. Do those tasks include sitting and standing, carrying items like grocery bags, walking, bending over to retrieve items on the ground, or reaching to put items in a kitchen cabinet? Chances are, you answered yes to quite a few of the actions mentioned. Each are considered activities of daily living (ADLs). Considering ADLs occur frequently, it is important that they are executed with proper form. Unfortunately, for some individuals, these tasks are difficult and may even result in injury.
How can we improve our body’s ability to move more efficiently and safely? The primary solution is the addition of functional training to an individual’s daily exercise routine. This type of training is vital to improving quality of life because it aligns with the types of movement patterns commonly executed during the day. For example, sitting on a shoulder press machine with the back supported and feet flat on the floor will mainly isolate the deltoid muscle group. However, a more functional exercise for the shoulders is an overhead, standing, dumbbell press. This requires effort from the entire body as it stands upright, engages the core, and challenges balance, all while simultaneously working the shoulders. The second example is a better replication of a daily task such as putting away groceries in a high cabinet.
Functional training allows an individual to perform multi-joint movements that engage more muscle groups; therefore improving their ability to work together more effectively. An important benefit of functional training is enhanced balance. According to the Center for Disease Control, fall injuries are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries (CDC). Our sense of balance decreases with age; it is imperative to continuously perform exercises that strengthen our base of support and test our balance. Another benefit of functional training is that it strengthens the abdominals, especially the transverse abdominals and obliques. The transverse abdominals are the deepest abdominal layer, running horizontal and protecting the lumbar spine (low back), acting almost like a girdle. The obliques run diagonally along the side of the abdomen and aid in lateral flexion (side bends) and twisting of the trunk. The bending, twisting, pushing, and pulling movements we frequently perform need to incorporate the core abdominals. If the abdominal muscles are weak, the back muscles will try to compensate, which can result in serious injury to the erector spinae muscles of the low back.
A phenomenal example of functional training is TRX suspension training. The body can train movements in all three of the anatomical planes; sagittal, coronal, and transverse. The sagittal plane divides the body into left and right parts and consists of forward and backward movements, such as alternate lunges. The coronal plane divides the body into front and back parts and consists of movements, such as lateral raises and upright rows. The transverse plane divides the body into top and bottom halves and consists of twisting movements, such as oblique crunches or a medicine ball diagonal chop. Other types of equipment that allow for functional training are free weights, resistance bands, medicine balls, and stability balls. Do not underestimate the power of using your own bodyweight either!
It is undeniable that functional training adds tremendous value to an individual’s quality of life. From improvements in muscle efficiency and balance to the refined ability of the body to move in all three of the anatomical planes, functional training is an essential piece of an exercise program. Take your fitness and overall well-being to the next level with the addition of this training. The enhanced mobility experienced during seemingly simple daily tasks will be indisputable.
Author: Alex Barrett
From the Roots Fitness President, Exercise Specialist, Certified Exercise Physiologist, Personal Trainer
Just imagine if every person who ever walked into a health club, since the history of health clubs, actually achieved their goals, and improved their wellness.
Isn’t this the very purpose of the health and wellness industry – to provide a vehicle by which people can reach their destinations – to teach people how to achieve their goals in a healthful way – to promote healthy lifestyles?
If this – or rather, if these – are our goals as an industry, why is it program attendance, adherence and drop out rates trump retention; fitness and wellness myths still exist; the word ‘obesity’ has such a common place in our language?
There exists no simple answer to why this common goal hasn’t been achieved, as is the case with most problems. One can point to countless facets both within and outside the industry that have contributed to individuals’ current health states. As a burgeoning wellness entrepreneur – with an un-jaded perception, a passion to learn, and a keen eye for human relations – I believe the difference between fitness and wellness boils down to two things:
Education. Fitness is hopping into the driver’s seat with no license and heading out onto the highway during rush hour for a joy ride. Wellness. Well, let’s be honest, wellness is doing the same thing, with a license. But not quite – let’s take the analogy one step further.
You have your license, and you’re a great driver. One day, your beautiful car decides to stop working, and it’s not because you didn’t fill the gas tank. Which one of the car-parts stopped functioning correctly?
If you haven’t figured out the analogy yet – the car you are driving is your body, and that gas you put in it is the food. And that car piece that isn’t working, that’s your sprain, strain, high cholesterol, low HDL, insulin resistance, frozen shoulder, arthritis…just to name a few. I don’t know about you, but I typically go to the mechanic to get my car fixed. And the mechanic, well he usually visits me at the gym shortly thereafter – our conversation about his health (while the car received it’s hours-long tune-up) provoked him to pay us a visit.
Everyone has their expertise, and no one is an expert about everything.
As we all know, everyone drives differently. This brings me to the second difference between fitness and wellness...
Individualization. Remember that magazine cover, the one where you couldn’t stop staring? You just have to look like THAT. You bought the magazine. You tried the workout inside of the magazine, and bought the supplements your neighbor told you to buy. You’ve been at it for months. The magazine cover hasn’t changed, and you haven’t changed too much either. News flash one – you will never look like that magazine cover. The person on the magazine cover doesn’t even look like the person on the magazine cover. News flash two – if you choose to embark on a healthy path of living, your path needs to be yours! – tailored to your needs, limitations, desires, and schedule. Moreover, the tangible actions you take must be educated!
Certainly the saying that one can only move forward is not true. You can move in a plethora of directions – saggital, coronal, transverse, and everywhere in between. However, I believe this montra to be true: the only time you should look back is to see how far you have come. It is time for science and coaching – biomechanical knowledge and encouragement - wellness, education, and program individualization – to conjoin. So that wellness can be offered to everyone who wants and needs it, not only those who can afford it.
It is time to take what the founding gym class heroes have created, and keep going.
Author: Julia Anthony
B.S. Exercise Specialist, CSCS, NASM CPT