Functional Fitness

8495395314_b1800da12b_z“I climbed a mountain last summer, Mt. Saint Helens to be exact. A hike like that uses every muscle and joint you have -and some you didn’t know you had- trust me, they all hurt like crazy the next day. There were a lot of fellow climbers who remarked on how they thought they were in shape, avid gym go’ers even, but couldn’t physically finish the climb.”

This comment from one of our members illustrates exactly what we mean by “Functional” fitness and training. Functional fitness is the ability to perform activities of daily living with more ease and less pain. Functional training means doing exercises that teach your muscles how to work together instead of isolating individual muscle groups.

The key to functional training is to improve your flexibility, mobility and stability so you have the best formula to keep your joints healthy and moving well.  Although these three terms may seem similar, each one is unique:

Flexibility: (Muscles)  This usually refers to the length of a muscle and what most people think of when talking about improving a joints range of motion. It is best addressed through stretching.

Mobility: (Joints) Mobility essentially means that you have proper muscle tension and good tissue quality in a joint- basically, it works properly.  Your joint can move through its full range of motion with ease. When there is adequate mobility in a joint, your nervous system has an easier time controlling the function. On the flip side of that- when you have poor mobility, your muscles are tense and your nervous system has a hard time controlling the joint. A great way to increase mobility is to use a foam roller (Which we talk about here).

Stability: (Bones) If you lack adequate mobility you will try to compensate by using muscles, tendons and ligaments to take up the slack, which increases your risk for injury. It is basic engineering – a joint that can get into proper alignment so the bones are taking most of the stress will be more stable than a joint that can’t. If you can get your joints to line up properly then the bones will take the stress, keeping your body injury free.

So really, Functional Fitness and Training means getting your muscles, joints, and bones to work together WELL. Not just focusing on one muscle group or “target area.” Functional fitness truly can transform your daily life, causing you to be able to lift up children, carry heavy loads, regain your balance if you slip and fall, go hunting or hiking, and even climb a mountain, with greater ease and less risk of injury.

A Certified Personal Trainer (we talked about those a few weeks ago) is your best resource in building a functional fitness plan. Share your goals, areas you would like to see greater range of motion/less pain, and your trainer will help you develop a strategy for reaching those goals!

We wish you good health,

Columbia Basin Racquet Club

Photo credit: Victor via Flickr

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