Sunday, June 29, 2014

Fun Tools for Functional Fitness

Three weeks ago, I introduced information about functional fitness. This type of workout uses more complex, integrated body movements involving coordination, balance and brainpower to complete the exercise. I discussed some of the advantages of this workout style two weeks ago. Today, I want to share a few fun workout tools that might be used in functional fitness.

Many functional moves are performed on an unstable surface. One example of this is a stability ball, also called a Swiss Ball, a physio ball, or an exercise ball. Lying prone, supine or laterally on the ball causes the core to engage in each movement and recruits multiple muscles with each exercise.

The Bosu is another tool that creates an unstable surface. Squatting, lunging, sitting or standing on the rounded top adds challenge to each move. The Bosu can be combined with handle bands or Pilates Balls to recruit coordination as well.

Plyo Boxes vary in height and are typically used for plyometric and jumping moves. I have a bright green plyo box in my workout studio and will use it as part of the Back To School Bootcamp in September for killer cardio moves.

Kettlebells are more unstable than a dumbbells because all of the weight is below the handle. This means you have to use more balancing muscles to control the movement.
I'm looking forward to using these tools and more to help you get a killer workout in a shorter amount of time while improving balance & coordination and challenging all the large muscle groups . 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Workout Studio Progress

We have been steadily working on the exercise studio in my home. The bright orange & green colors exude energy. The jump box is painted and ready to go. The dimmable light is perfect for working hard to push the limits or relaxing and stretching. The mirrored wall and retro chrome oscillating fan are next on the list and then we get to the fun part: choosing more equipment for variety and challenge. No machines in this room. I always like to focus on Functional Fitness. We will host an Open House soon to celebrate the official opening of the exercise studio.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Advantages of Functional Traning

Last week, I introduced information about functional fitness, the hottest new exercise trend in 2014. This type of workout uses more complex, integrated body movements involving coordination, balance and brainpower to complete the exercise.

One advantage of functional fitness is that you can work every muscle in a shorter amount of time. We are all in a hurry and looking for an efficient workout that hits every area of the body. Each functional exercise targets multiple muscle groups and requires them to act as stabilizers or prime movers, in their turn, throughout the move.

A functional workout improves balance and coordination. Improved balance will enhance sports performance, such as water-skiing on the weekends, as well as everyday function, such as leaning over a wall to pick up your child's lost ball. Coordination also improves sports performance, such as kicking the soccer ball with your kids, and helps prevent those crazy accidents involving spilled coffee.

Another advantage of functional fitness is that you can do it anywhere: at home, in the park, or in a small workout studio. Expensive, space-hogging machines are not required to get an amazing workout that challenges your cardio fitness and muscle strength.

Finally, functional fitness is a brain & body exercise. Instead of sitting passively on a machine, you must understand the exercise, be aware of the body part it is focusing on, pay attention to form and connect with the muscle pattern. Your brain is engaged and working the entire time you are exercising. This is a wonderful break from thinking about home and work issues and it stimulates the synapses in your brain to extend and grow on new pathways.

Functional fitness is an amazing way to get the workout you need to challenge your body.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Cutting Edge Workouts with Functional Traning

Is this machine extinct? Functional fitness is the new exercise trend in gyms nation-wide. In a previous post in February, I wrote about the three main approaches to strength training. Foundational fitness is represented by work on machines, such as Cybex machines, in a gym setting. Here, muscles work on a fixed path focusing on one muscle at a time. Fundamental strength training is performed with free weights and less body support. This requires multiple muscles to work together. Functional fitness facilitates freedom of movement and uses unstable conditions that require all your muscles to function as a unit, as they do in real life.

A 2008 study found that exercisers using a free-form cable machine became 58% stronger than those doing similar moves on fixed-path equipment. Functional strength equipment requires you to move in all sorts of directions, which means your body must recruit both the primary muscles and stabilizer muscles to keep the load traveling in a certain path. William Kramer, Professor of Kinesiology at University of Connecticut, says, "It's a more complex movement than doing an exercise on a fixed-path machine, involving more coordination, more body parts and more brainpower to direct all that action."

The good news is you can get rid of the machines completely. Doing toning exercises without any form of machine will give you similar advantages to those in the afore-mentioned study. On the downside, going machine-free calls for more know-how on the exerciser's part. And if you don't understand what you are doing, you can increase your chances of getting hurt. Kinesiologist Paul Juris points out, "Anything that involves more of the body and incorporates more dynamic elements, like waving battle ropes or swinging a kettlebell, may put you at a greater risk for injury if you don't know the proper technique." Your best bet is to build your skills in a small group class or invest in a session or two with a personal trainer.

The bottom line: If you are looking for a way to challenge your body and see changes in your fitness level, ditch the machines and mix up your routine.

Next week: Advantages of Functional Fitness