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Functional Training Can Improve Daily Movements

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Man stretching using TRX straps

Did you know you perform functional movements every day? Sitting down in a chair, walking up and down the stairs and bending down to pick something up are all examples of functional movements. Functional movements are when multiple muscle groups and joints work together. So, what does this have to do with exercising? 

Functional training mimics your daily movements; they are exercises that help you strengthen your muscles to perform daily activities or sports smoothly. Incorporating functional training into your exercise routine can help in your daily life by improving flexibility and general movement. Whatever your exercise or physical goal may be, adding functional training into your routine will surely benefit you. Cooper Fitness Center Professional Fitness Trainers Aaron Feldman, MS, and David H. Williams share recommendations and exercises to incorporate functional training into your routine.

TRX functional training 
TRX straps are equipment used for functional training. This full-body strength training system is secured to a stable point of contact and then used to make your exercises easier or harder, depending on your personal goals and fitness level. Feldman recommends warming up with the following three stretches before a strength or functional training workout. 

  • Open body chest stretch. Place one handle in each hand and face away from the anchor point of the TRX straps. Raise your arms into a Y position, shoulder-width apart and take a step forward. You should feel a stretch across the front of your chest. Take a step back and switch legs. Repeat the stretch five to 10 times. 
  • Lower back stretch with rotation. To begin this stretch, hold onto both handles of the TRX straps, facing the anchor point. Sit back into your hips, as if sitting in a chair, and rotate your upper body to the right side and then to the left. Perform this movement on each side of the body for a total of five to 10 times. 
  • Hip flexor stretch. Stand on one leg and place the other foot in both TRX handles with the top of your foot facing the ground. Carefully take a small step forward, holding onto a bar for stabilization. Slowly bend forward at the hips and then raise your chest back up slowly. Perform this stretch for a total of five to 10 times.

For a video demonstration of these exercises, watch the Exercise Move to learn how to properly use TRX straps to stretch before a workout.

Other functional exercises
If you don’t have TRX straps or specific equipment, body weight movements are a great place to start for functional training. Williams says many exercises are considered functional training, without the straps. “A squat, lunge and hip-hinge—such as a deadlift—are all functional exercises you can do at home, with or without weight. For upper body, any form of push or pull, push-ups and core exercises are functional training as well,” says Williams. You don’t need any fancy equipment to get a good workout in. 

A deadlift involves the same muscles used when bending down to pick something up. In a deadlift, be sure to drive the hips back and use your lower body to do the work instead of your back and arms. The same goes for bending down to pick up a package from your front porch. Similarly, squatting uses the same muscles as sitting down in a chair and standing back up. Performing squats can help keep your lower body strong and stable, which can ensure you can safely get up from a chair as well as sit down as you age. 

Beginner tips
Keep it simple. Pick a couple of movements such as a squat, lunge, push-up and core exercise to start out. Focus on and perfect your form with these movements so you do not hurt yourself. Have someone who knows the exercises and the correct form watch you perform the exercises, whether that be a personal trainer, fitness instructor or an experienced exerciser. Having someone with you will help reduce your risk for injury and correct improper form. Performing the movements in front of a mirror can also help ensure you’re using proper form. 

Also be sure you are challenging yourself enough. “I usually suggest my beginner clients perform three to four sets of 12-20 reps for their exercises with light to moderate weight. This will maximize their benefits and help them build strength,” says Williams. 

Your training routine is going to be dependent on what your goals are. Select movements that involve multiple muscle groups and joints working together. Your functional training should mirror what you want to do in real life. We all squat and lunge in everyday life but our hobbies and activities will vary from person to person. An athlete may have a more individualized strength and functional training routine to gain the most benefit for their specific sport. On the other hand, those who are not athletes may only focus on functional training to make their daily life easier. Adding functional training to your routine can help improve your everyday movements, flexibility and overall muscle strength.  

For more information about professional fitness training at Cooper Fitness Center, visit or call 972.233.4832.