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Most of the time, we train towards a specific physical goal, like fitting into a cocktail dress or preparing for a summer holiday of bikini-wearing. But what if we shifted our focus to a more sustainable one that sees us training to be fit and healthy all year round?

Functional fitness is precisely this. Focusing on challenging your balance and coordination while also strengthening your muscles and improving flexibility, it’s exercise that aims to improve your day-to-day activities.

It’s exercise that trains you for life, not events, by focusing on various areas such as:

Your sense of balance

Unless your personal trainer is yelling at you to do so, you generally don’t have to go near a BOSU ball in your daily life (touch wood). You do, however, have to bend down to pick up a toddler’s forgotten toy, stand on your toes to reach that packet of rusks you’ve been trying to hide from yourself, or squat down to examine the drought’s damage on your herbs, and so on.

That’s why it’s essential that you do simple, grounded exercises that improve your balance and stability. These lunges, step-ups, lateral and posterior movements, agility drills, and plyometrics.

This kind of workout will make you better able to handle a more substantial weight load, making you stronger and fitter.

Your strength

Functional exercises should ideally work both the upper and lower body, as daily activities use the entire body, not merely isolated muscle groups. No one pushes a trolley or loads shopping bags into a car with just their arms, after all. Focus on creating synergy throughout your body with full body exercises that strengthen your entire body, boost your cardiovascular fitness and improve your coordination by teaching your neuromuscular system to work several muscle groups at once.

Your power

Power is a surprisingly important part of your daily activity. You’re probably not even aware of how your body needs to work to stop you from falling over when running up a flight of stairs, or across a road. To improve your power, you need to do quick, explosive exercises like Olympic lifts (the snatch, the clean and jerk), upper body plyometrics (explosive pushups, medicine ball slams, medicine ball throws) and lower body plyometrics (squat jumps, jumping lunges and speed skaters).

Motion

We’re built to move backwards, forwards, up and down, and side-to-side. So why shouldn’t we include this full range of motion when working out? Choosing exercises that allow you to move in multiple ways increase your range of motion, strengthen your spine and core, and make you more limber.

Try to perform deep squats, (unless you have an injury) include reverse lunges with an overhead reach, rotational movements like lunging with a twist, rotational cable presses, and wood-chops to strengthen your muscles and work different planes of motion.

You may already be doing some of these exercises individually here and there at the gym, but to really improve your overall strength, stamina and performance, you need to add and combine two or more of them into your workouts.

Content from:

Greatist + Acefitness