There are a million different exercises you could be doing. How do you decide which ones are best for you?
There are no right or wrong answers. In fact, I believe 100% that the best exercise routine is the one you do, period.
What is Functional Fitness?
Functional fitness is all about preparing your body to accomplish everyday tasks.
Most people don’t exercise for fun. It’s a task that you do for your health (and waistline). Functional fitness isn’t trying to make you better at exercise, it’s trying to make you better at life.
Functional exercises are often compound exercises – that is, they involve multiple muscle groups working together to complete them.
The 6 Functional Movements
There are 6 basic functional movements – squatting, lunging, hinging, pushing, pulling, rotating.
Squatting is a movement pattern, not an exercise. The exercise was named because of it’s nearly identical to the movement pattern.
How many times do you think you’ve done the squatting movement today?
You’re using the squatting movement pattern every time you sit down or stand up. You might squat down to pick things up. Maybe instead of sitting or standing around, you drop into a squat and hang out that way (probably not, but good on those who do).
Back before the advent of the chair, people did “sit” around in the squat position. Which would you have preferred? To sit on the dirty ground or to squat there? In many parts of the world, squatting instead of sitting/standing is still regularly practiced.
Squatting for Functional Fitness
You shouldn’t be surprised to learn that the squat is the ideal squatting exercise.
Once you master how to squat, you can start experimenting with squat variations. And there are so many squat variations – plie squat, back squat, goblet squat, front squat, dumbbell squat, jump squat, the list goes on and on. You’ll never be bored squatting.
Lunges are not usually on the favorite list for exercises. Yet the lunge movement is a requirement functional movement.
Lunging is a balance movement that involves moving one leg out of sync with the other. We often use small lunging patterns in daily life. Walking is a tiny lunge motion that we engage in a lot (ideally 10,000+ steps a day).
Lunging for Functional Fitness
Another unsurprising exercise – the best way to practice lunging is to do Lunges!
Lunges also have a lot of variations – static lunges, reverse lunges, walking lunges, reverse walking lunges, curtsy lunges. Try ‘em all and you won’t be bored with lunges.
How many times do you bend over in a day? I’m guessing it’s a lot. This is your hips hinging – unless you’ve lost the ability, which is possible.
The ability to hinge at the hips can affect lower back pain/tightness, flexibility, and more. A lot of people have lost the ability to effectively hinge at the hip, but it’s not too late!
Hinging for Functional Fitness
The deadlift is the best hinging functional exercise. The benefits of the deadlifts are immense. Contrary to what you may have heard, done correctly the deadlift is totally safe.
Pushing exercises are some of the most common exercises you’ll hear about. Pushing is an overemphasized exercise. Stop doing too much pushing and spread your exercise love around to the other functional movements, too.
Pushing for Functional Fitness
The best exercise you can do for pushing is the pushup. Anyone can learn to do a pushup.
The amount of time you spend pushing, you should equal it in pulling. If pushing is an overemphasized exercise, pulling is an underemphasized one.
Pulling for Functional Fitness
My arch nemesis: the pull-up.
Unlike the other exercises on this list, pull-up progressions do not start with modified pull-ups. It starts with hanging. Yeah, that’s right. It barely feels like exercise. And then it gets hard. Like SO HARD.
With a pushup, you can quickly see progress in the pushup itself (because you’ll reduce the angle). But with a pull-up, you don’t get to see that. Don’t let yourself get demotivated by pull-ups – you will eventually get there.
Twist it. Spin it. Move it. Shake it.
Our bodies do not just move forward and backward, up and down. They rotate and scrunch and move in a lot of directions.
Rotating for Functional Fitness
Any exercise that rotates your core will be a good choice. My personal preference is the Russian Twist. My second choice would be to add a rotation to lunges, but this is an advanced move that shouldn’t be tried until you master the static lunge.
Functional Fitness Workout
Easiest workout plan you’ve ever had. Twice a week, choose an exercise for each functional movement. Do 8-12 reps and 2-3 sets of each. Add some cardio once (or twice) a week.
Here’s an example:
Monday & Thursday
- Squats, 12 x 3 sets
- Lunges, walking forward 12 x 1set
- Lunges, walking reverse 12 x 1set
- Deadlifts, 12 reps x 3 sets
- Pushups, 12 reps x 2 sets
- Pull-ups, 12 reps x 2 sets
- Russian Twists, 12 reps x 3 sets
You can do a functional fitness routine with anyone! It’s time to convince your spouse, child, bestie, whoever to get fit with you.
Share your struggles. Brag about your accomplishments. Worried? Unsure? Want feedback? A fitness friend will be there for it all and more.
Nobody in your life willing to take part? Let This Bitch be there for you!
Like PB & J
Functional fitness exercises go together like peanut butter and jelly.
You really can keep it this simple and still get totally fit.
What’s holding you back? Try a functional fitness routine and start changing your life (and body) today!
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