A practical alternative to a traditional workout routine.
Guest post provided by James Zachary. See below for more information about this author.
Functional training, unlike other paths to fitness, focuses on improving the entire body, including coordination, strength, flexibility, speed and balance.
In comparison, strength training target specific body parts. Because functional fitness routines target an individual’s physical requirements, they support improved work performance.
Individuals in all walks of life–teachers, warehouse foremen, elderly people and parents of toddlers–gain improved function needed to perform daily tasks.
For example, a Marine Corps combat soldier must focus on the General Physical Preparedness (GPP) to support highly specific duties and performance.
He must maintain the ability to perform duties (although he might not know when he will be called to perform).
Functional fitness vs. traditional strength training
In traditional strength training, the client sits at a special machine or lifts progressively heavier barbells to achieve results.
In this example, the body is specifically trained to sit at equipment or repetitively lift heavy weights.
Isolating muscles builds strength, but the value of overly developed biceps does not help the clients perform in daily life.
Functional fitness protects against injuries caused by dysfunction.
Conversely, weight training may cause physical problems, according to the U.S. Fire Administration in “Physical Fitness Coordinator’s Manual for Fire Departments.” (2012)
Yoga and stretching exercises considered beneficial to the whole body may cause ligament and joint problems.
Better work performance
In comparison, functional fitness training works by performing exercises based on the individual’s real life movements.
A teacher needs to walk up and down stairs, bend, and reach. A traditional fitness trainer encourages use of the leg press machine to build lower body strength.
To strengthen the upper body, the fitness trainer recommends dual-band pulldowns and kickbacks.
After eight weeks, the teacher’s aching muscles demand another regimen.
In a functional fitness program, the teacher performs toe raises, wide-leg forward bends, and stair drop exercises, writes Paul D’Arezzo, M.D. (“Functional Fitness: Look Younger, Stay Active Longer,” 2005).
He performs the exercises at school and at home: he does not need a gym. After eight weeks, the teacher’s ability to perform his job improved, according to before and after tests.
Desk jobs: aches and pains
Office work equals aches and pains for many modern office employees. After a long day of sitting, even gentle movements can cause soreness.
Sedentary workers may avoid movement to avoid pain, but inactivity only exacerbates the problem.
Functional fitness supports office workers’ performance, say authors Jane Clapp and Sarah Robichaud in “Working on the Ball: A Simple Guide to Office Fitness.” (2009)
Office workers sit at a desk for most of the work day. Sitting in an office chair, the employee reaches above, at, and below the desk; twists in his seat; and uses his legs to push backwards and forwards.
A personal trainer recommends running on a treadmill and using a series of exercise machines to train the abdominal muscles, legs and back.
After using the treadmill for a couple of weeks, the employee develops a knee and quad injury. Excruciating lower back pain from a herniated disc prompts him to call in sick.
Performing work while seated on a flexible exercise ball (instead of a desk chair) encourages good posture.
The stability ball is likely to move, so workers use core muscles (strengthening the abdominal area as well as the back) to continue sitting and working.
Leg muscles get stronger, too. “Active sitting” as functional exercise helps sedentary office workers achieve greater strength and posture while alleviating physical stress.
According to Mayo Clinic, headaches and low back pain plague about 70 percent of the U.S. population every year. Active sitting helps employees get stronger and feeling better.
Work-related injuries and functional fitness
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 37 percent of reported workers’ injuries involve the back and shoulders.
The injuries account for the most employee work days lost every year. The mix of these employee injuries includes workers performing active labor and workers with desk jobs.
Bad posture for desk workers may ultimately trigger conditions such as kyphosis or swayback/lordosis,report authors Esther Gokhale and Susan Adams (“Eight Steps to a Pain-Free Back,” 2012).
Performing simple tasks and functional fitness
Sore backs, hips, necks and knees prevent people from performing necessary daily tasks, including daily chores, household maintenance and gardening.
Using a vacuum requires pushing, twisting, pulling and walking motions.
Simple functional fitness training to perform these tasks negatives the need for ibuprofen or other painkillers.
Work-related play and outings
Functional fitness supports better sports performance.
Swinging a golf club requires certain strength and motion, explain Pete Draovitch and Ralph Simpson in “Complete Conditioning For Golf,” 2007.
Author Larkin Burnett (“Functional Fitness: The Ultimate Fitness Program For Life On The Run,” 2006) says that functional fitness routines benefit Pilates or gym enthusiasts, Pilates, dancers, runners, tennis and golf players.
Past core training
A strong “core”–the body’s trunk, including every connective tissue and muscle from the rib cage to hips, spanning the back and spine–works to achieve almost every human movement.
Functional training does not isolate core strength but includes the core while orchestrating upper and lower body movements.
About the Author:
James Zachary is the founder of Security Guard Training Guide, which helps security guards both pursue excellence in career and in life.