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  • What Is Functional Training?

    We are still in the depths of the holiday season with New Year’s Day less than a week away. So I must ask ---> How are you feeling? Have you kept up your workouts? How about the overindulgence factor? Whatever you have or haven’t done….and may continue through the end of this year...I want to shift gears. For the past month or so, I have focused my blogs on making the holiday season as healthy as you can.

    Today, I want to talk about a personal passion of mine. Functional training.

    Functional training is a big buzz word in the fitness community. It personally is the only way I train myself, my personal training clients and in my boot camp classes. If you have ever come to Lacey Lee Fitness and taken ANY of the classes I offer, trained with myself, Nick or Darrell - you have done functional training.

    By definition - Functional training is a classification of exercise which involves training the body for the activities performed in daily life.

    Whether we are talking nutrition or fitness – I like to look at the big picture. By “big picture” I mean - creating a lifestyle that is realistic to adapt for a lifetime. In my opinion, many people have it all wrong when it comes to working out. The focus should not be about how much you can bench press or how long you can run - rather the focus should be on building a body that is capable of doing real-life activities in real-life positions. Don’t get me wrong - running and/or using strength machines are still good for you but it's also good to condition your body so you can excel in life.

    Here’s a scenario:

    Yesterday, you had a great workout at the gym. On each of the strength machines, you lifted more weight than ever before and ran at a faster pace on the treadmill.

    Today, you lift a 20+ pound suitcase to carry it downstairs -- and throw your back out.

    What likely happened is this: You go to the gym 3 times a week, go through a circuit of strength machines and either head to the elliptical or treadmill. While all that is great, you are not focusing on your functional fitness. You have strengthened certain muscles by using machines but you have not taught your muscles to work together. By laying or sitting against a pad/bench – you do not activate your core or any stabilizing muscles. You might be toned and ready for the beach, but are you ready to lift your toddler out of his/her car seat, carry a suitcase or any other “real” life motions we make daily?

    Working out has evolved beyond just cardiovascular and strength. While these are certainly important components to fitness, workouts are now being done with the Bosu, kettlebells, stability balls,etc. These apparatus not only help with our strength and cardiovascular fitness but our balance, flexibility, agility, speed – all while shaping our bodies to its optimal state.

    At the end of the day – people want results and when incorporating functional tools – you get results.

    Let me share the beauty of my favorite workout tools. You have most likely seen one or more of these where you workout (I KNOW you have #4) but may not know what to do with them. I not only want to help educate you on these fitness tools but help ensure you are getting the very most out of your workouts! After all - we all lead busy lives so why not get the most out of your workouts?

    #1. BOSU

    The BOSU (both sides up) consists of two sides – an inflated, blue dome and a flat, platform. You can perform strength and cardiovascular exercises with the Bosu. By standing or kneeling on the BOSU, your body learns how to compensate for times when optimal body positioning is lost. Traditional strength exercises can be performed when standing or kneeling on the BOSU such squats, push-ups, bicep curls, tricep kickbacks, bent over row, shoulder presses, etc. These then become total body exercises because of the instability of the BOSU. To take your workouts to another level you can flip the BOSU so the flat side is facing up. By standing on the flat surface you created even more instability. Performing the same exercises listed above will activate even more muscle groups. Any exercise you do standing up - can be performed on the Bosu.

    Jogging on the BOSU, for example, activates the entire leg from the ankle through the calf, thighs and pelvic floor. The muscles of the core are activated in order for you to maintain balance. The soft domed side of the BOSU provides just enough instability to make squats up and over the dome, toe taps, hill climbers, etc. more challenging. Flipping the BOSU so the flat side is facing up will provide even more of a challenge while activating even more muscle groups. when performing numerous exercises.

    #2. Kettlebell

    The Kettlebell is a cannonball with a suitcase handle welded to the top. It focuses on muscle integration rather than isolation. Nearly every drill recruits multiple muscle groups to work in unison. The body is trained as a whole and particular emphasis is focused on the core and back muscles. When your body is forced to recruit more muscles – you not only incorporate cardiovascular but you will burn more calories.

    #3. Stability Ball

    The Stability Ball is a heavy-duty, inflatable ball. Most people think only ab exercises can be performed on them but in fact you can perform upper and lower body exercises also. Maintaining proper alignment on the ball stimulates the body's natural motor reflexes and encourages the body to react as a whole, integrated unit. You will see a variety of stability ball sizes. If you opt to purchase one – on the back it will guide you to which ball suites you best based on your height. I’m not a fan of going by this guide. I recommend choosing a small one. The smaller the ball – the more your body is forced to balance the harder your body has to work which in turn has you burning more calories.

    #4. Your own body weight

    Our body provides us with one of the best “machines” – and the best part is – it’s free. By doing body weight exercises you are allowing your body to move in its preferred path of motion. You will learn how to move your body in a controlled and efficient manner and provide you with the skills you will need once you graduate to more advanced forms of working out.

    Now, next time you hit the gym, grab one or all of the above and apply it to your workouts. To make things a bit “easier” and to ensure you have proper form, do the same exercises you do on a bench, standing up, etc. but on either a Bosu and/or stability ball.

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