We all talk about functional fitness – but what do we really mean? It is quite simply preparing the body for daily life – developing muscles to make it easier to live an active lifestyle unhindered by areas of weakness, muscle imbalance or inflexibility.

It isn’t about training to perform the perfect deadlift or squatting your own bodyweight. Rather, it’s about training muscles to work together effectively when performing common, daily living movements, like carrying and reaching, especially in awkward positions such as lifting the kids car seats out or putting boxes in the loft while balanced on ladders.

Functional exercises usually involve multiple joints and multiple muscles in a single movement or series of movements. So, a squat is a functional exercise because it trains the muscles used when you stand up from a chair or pick up objects from the floor; add in an overhead press as you rise out of your squat and you instantly make the exercise more functional. By training your muscles to work the way they do in everyday tasks, you prepare your body to perform well in a variety of common situations. So, think about your exercises replicating the actions of your sport, whether that’s a golf swing or up-hauling your windsurf sail.

When you’ve been training consistently for several weeks on a functional fitness programme you will start to feel the difference. You’ll notice improvements in overall strength, endurance, posture, balance, flexibility and agility. You’ll also find it’s easier to dig the garden, clean the car and run around with the kids or grandkids without the old aches and pains.

For everyone, the benefits can be felt at work, whether that’s an office worker achieving better posture as their desk, a nurse or care worker lifting patients safely and with relative ease, or mechanics and builders performing bent over tasks or overhead work. In all of these professions there are different but equally important requirements to protect the body from both repetitive activity and overload. Embarking on a functional fitness programme can help you realise this.

And for sports enthusiasts, you’ll see real improvement in your ability, endurance and overall performance in your chosen disciplines. This, teamed with a regular sports massage is the perfect recipe for keeping in tip-top shape as well as recovering from and mitigating against future injuries.

Written by: Jo Gaskill

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