Spring is here… this week we’re going to talk about functional fitness, because a whole lot of people on the internet don’t know what it really is. So we’ll discuss functional fitness by definition, why it’s good for you, fitnessing outdoors, and some examples of outdoor workouts you can rock this spring and summer.

WHAT IS FUNCTIONAL FITNESS?

  1. Functional fitness by definition is “exercises that train your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by simulating common movements you might do at home, at work, or in sports.” Functional fitness also focuses on core stability by using multiple muscles in the upper and lower body at the same time.
  2. There are five types of functional training, core stabilization, plyometrics, isometric exercises, metabolic training, and unilateral training.
    • Core stabilization, is just that… working on strengthening your core to keep you more balanced.
      • a strong core protects the spine, reduces back pain, enhances movement patterns, and improves balance, stability and posture.
      • Some great examples of these types of movements are bosu birddogs, supine toe taps, marching hip bridges, and side planks with shoulder rotation. We can link these movements in our show notes at meatheadtestkitchen.com
    • Plyometrics, aka “jump training,” has a goal of exerting maximum force in a short amount of time, which will translate to more power.
      •  Plyometrics are exercises that involve a jumping or explosive movement. For example, skipping, bounding, jumping rope, hopping, lunges, jump squats, and clap push-ups are all plyometric exercises.
    • Isometric work is good if you’re looking for simple techniques to build muscle. Iso exercises are all about contractions of certain muscle groups, and because they’re all done in one position without moving, the improve strength in only one specific position.
      • is also referred to as static strength training. Examples of these movements would be  planks and side bridges, wall sits and most yoga poses. These movements don’t include movement. They are held positions 
    • Metabolic training, or metcons, maximize calorie burn and increase metabolic rate during and after a workout… to learn more about metcons, see episode 36.
    • Unilateral training is all about working one limb at a time. We really love it because it makes you, literally, a more balanced athlete.
      • Unilateral upper-body exercises examples: Single-arm lateral raises or shoulder presses, SA chest press and rows, anything that is only moving one limb at a time.
      • Unilateral lower-body movements would include pistol squats, weighted or un-weighted box step ups, lunges (forward, back, side)
  1. Is Crossfit functional fitness? Are they the same thing? They are not the same thing… Crossfit uses some functional fitness methods, but that’s about it. Functional fitness came from the Crossfit movement, but it’s based on the concept of moving away from machines that simulate exercise towards movements that use the entire body.
  2. If you want to learn more about functional fitness, we highly recommend checking out the book Becoming a Supple Leopard.

WHY IS FUNCTIONAL FITNESS GOOD FOR YOU?

  1. It uses your body effectively. By using compound movements, it engages all parts of your body with more efficiency. Functional movements aren’t isolated exercises like a bicep curl where you’d only be working your arms.
  2. It increases your coordination and balance. Since functional fitness promotes using your own body weight to perform a range of movements, your body becomes more stable as it works against external forces… because nothing’s gonna catch you if you lose your balance!
  3. It prevents injury, who doesn’t want that? Functional movements help keep your joints active and stable… and that’s great news for all of us, because nobody wants crappy knees at 35. If you’re using good technique, using your own body for stabilization and incorporating joint strengthening exercises into your workouts; you can work on injury prone areas and help them withstand high impact movements.
  4. Strengthens your core. You use your core for everything, we’ve mentioned this before… engaging your core is very important to keep you stable, it also protects your organs and central nervous system, and reduces back pain.
  5. Improves your posture, which will also reduce back pain. I kissed back pain goodbye once I finally had a stable core and good posture… what a game changer. Functional training will help keep your back muscles and spinal cord supported and stable. All good things.
  6. Makes you faster! If you wanna train for the zombie apocalypse, functional training is your jam! You can gain more explosiveness, muscle control, and agility.
  7. Makes you more flexible, this again leads back to avoiding injury, but also just feeling better… when you have a full range of motion, you don’t have those annoying aches and pains anymore. Functional training uses a ton of movements that require you to be flexible and have good mobility.

FITNESSING OUTDOORS!

When we talk about functional fitness we have to give a shout out to some of our favorite outdoor methods of staying fit, because who doesn’t wanna enjoy life and scenery while getting stronk?

  1. Hiking. There’s something so magical about wandering through nature on a path for a several hours. Just make sure you’re using well marked trails and that you have a map just in case… nobody wants to get lost out in the middle of the forest.
    • In Nebraska, there are a ton of awesome hiking trails that come to mind:
      • Schramm State Park in Gretna
      • Keystone trail
      • Ponca State Park
      • Fort Robinson State Park to name a few
  2. Paddle boarding. This does require some extra equipment, but you can find a pretty reasonably priced paddle board for a couple of hundred bucks… and all else fails, you can rent them when they’re in season. Paddle boarding requires a ton of balance and muscle control. It can be frustrating at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s one of the best ways to take in mother nature’s beauty while also sneaking in a workout.
    • There are quite a few paddle boarding places in Omaha that you can look up and make reservations at!
  3. Open water swimming. Like with hiking, you’ll need to know exactly where you’re going, because getting lost isn’t any fun. This can be just a straight open water swim, or snorkeling/scuba diving… snorkeling is a fantastic workout, if you ever get the chance to do it. You get to incorporate breathing exercises into your swim so you don’t hyperventilate.
  4. Trail running. Just like some of the other methods mentioned, know where you’re going, and make sure you have good shoes.
  5. I love trail running. I think my favorite two spots in Omaha are Lake Zorinsky, Standing Bear and Chalco Hills. They’re all beautiful for their own reasons. And each independently challenging.

EXAMPLES OF OUTDOOR WODS
We mentioned that Crossfit can be functional fitness, so we came up with a few ideas for you to use this year when it’s nice outside and you wanna get your fit on.

  1. 5 push ups – 10 sit ups – 15 squats – 20 second sprint for 3 rounds
  2. 10 burpees – 20 squats – 30 push ups – 40 alternating lunges – 50 step ups for 4 rounds
  3. 20 alternating jump lunges – 20 sit ups – 20 push ups – 20 squats for 3 rounds
  4. Sprint intervals are also a great outdoor training method!

Functional fitness isn’t as complicated as some people make it out to be… like we’ve been told many many times in our lives: keep it simple, stupid. If you have questions, we often have answers – hello at meathead test kitchen dot com. Find us on social media, everywhere… meathead test kitchen on IG, FB, and tiktok… mtkstaff on twitter. Now that the spring weather is upon us, get outside and enjoy it while you become a fitter badass.

To learn even more about functional fitness:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/functional-fitness/art-20047680

https://www.outsideonline.com/2421895/app-future-ai-workouts

https://www.shape.com/fitness/workouts/10-new-outdoor-workout-ideas

http://www.daclub.com/blog/how-is-functional-fitness-different-from-crossfit

https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness/functional-fitness-adults

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