Trainers Say These 3 Sets of Exercises Make Moving Through Life Way Easier
So it makes sense that by the time Friday night rolls around (hallelujah!), getting horizontal becomes wildly appealing. But instead of relying on that couch time to give your body time to recoup, why not integrate some "functional fitness workouts" into your routine to make that regular wear and tear on your muscles slightly more manageable?
"Functional fitness is a method of physical training that helps people move more efficiently, prevent injury, improve their balance and flexibility, and build strength to improve the way they perform every day activities," says Mackenzie Banta, a certified personal trainer for Trainiac "Functional training is important because it improves our overall efficiency with almost everything we do." Think: Carrying your laundry up five flights of stairs in a New York City, pushing a stroller, or even just sitting in the same position all the time.
In short, you're using your workout as a way to make your body better at every other movement you do in your daily life. The exercises use compound movements that work multiple muscle groups—plus your brain—all at once, instead of targeting one muscle at at time. "The efficiency lies in training your body to use multiple muscle groups, including your core," says Banta, noting that functional training also improves your balance, coordination, and overall body awareness, which can ultimately help you prevent injury.
Functional fitness is one of those workouts you can do literally anywhere, because there are no bells and whistles required—all you need is your own body. "I love this style of training because it is accessible to all, and instead of relying on equipment you are forced to rely on your biomechanics to work together," says Aaptiv master trainer Jaime McFaden. "Functional fitness is a great place for anyone to start, because you only need bodyweight for resistance. You'll be training your core in almost every move which is great because all movement radiates from the center of our body, and training this way will help your body to move as one unit."
For sitting at a desk: Strengthen your glutes
Sitting all day may seem like the easiest and most mindless thing you can do, but in reality, it's actually really, really hard on your body. "When we sit, we are in hip flexion, meaning our knees are level to our hips. In this position our glutes are disengaged, so long periods of sitting means we're neglecting our glutes," says Banta. "You also run the risk of your hip flexor muscles tightening due to sitting in flexion for long periods of time."
Reverse lunge: Stand on your right foot and lift your left knee to hip level. Step your left foot back and bend both knees until your left knee is hovering a few inches off the floor. Push through your right heel to bring your left foot off the ground and left knee back to hip level. Switch legs.
Single leg hip thrusters: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Push into your feet and lift your hips into a bridge. Extend your left leg out. Slowly lower your hips toward the ground until your glutes touch and then drive into your right heel and lift your hips back into a bridge, keeping your pelvis level. Do 10 on each side and switch legs.
Squats: Stand with your feet at hip-width distance. Bend your knees and push your hips back to lower into a squat. Lower your hips until they are about level with your knees. Push into your heels to rise to standing.
For carrying your groceries home 15 blocks: Build upper body and core muscles
This might be an exclusive-to-big-cities problem, but schlepping things like laundry and groceries a mile back to your apartment isn't exactly easy work. "It's important to use good form when picking up or carrying large or heavy external loads, so you don't strain any muscles and cause an injury," says Banta. "You want to make sure to use good squat form and maintain a neutral spine and engaged core when you pick things up like groceries or laundry."
Weighted squats: Stand with your feet at hip-width distance. Hold a kettlebell or a dumbbell lengthwise at your chest. Bend your knees and push your hips back to lower into a squat. Lower your hips until they are about level with your knees. Push into your heels to rise to standing.
Weighted deadlifts: Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart. Holding a kettlebell or a dumbbell in each hand, hinge forward at your hips while you slightly bend your knees and push your butt backwards. Keep your shins vertical and hips squared forward. Push through your heels to return to standing.
Farmers: Holding a weight in either hand with your arms straight down by your side, walk briskly and maintain great posture without moving the weights.
For climbing up a whole lot of stairs: Increase leg strength and endurance
Going up and down stairs, whether it's one flight in a suburban home or six in a New York City apartment, requires some leg and knee work.
High knees: Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart. Lift up your right knee as high as you can and raise your opposite arm. Then, quickly switch so your left knee is up before your right foot lands. Continue pulling knees up quickly for 30 seconds.
Walking lunges: Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart. Step your right foot forward into a lunge. Drive into your right foot to lift your left foot off the ground and step your left foot forward into another lunge. Continue for 10 reps on each side.
Step ups: Standing on the floor in front of a bench or chair, place one foot on top of the surface and step up. Straighten your standing leg, and pull the other leg toward your chest. Step both feet onto the ground, and repeat on the other side for at least 30 seconds.
For more equipment-free moves, try Charlee Atkins' core workout (which you can get done in under 10 minutes), or Emily Turner's plank series that will leave your entire body burning.
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