You might ask yourself what functional movement patterns are and how they can improve your body and life.
So complicating exercise has never been more straightforward. From blood flow restriction exercises to sprint-interval training and kettlebell flows, there seems to be a newer, more complex trend in the fitness industry every few weeks with a sure-shot label of guaranteed results. But let’s not get carried away with all the hype every time a new exercise plan is out. After all, nothing can substitute for mastering the basics as far as exercise is concerned. Of course, that makes you wonder what these basics are. The short answer? Functional movement patterns!
From mainstream gyms to fancy boutiques, functional training has created a buzz in all fitness hubs. But what is it, and can it provide you with all it promises?
This article will explain everything about functional movement patterns and how you can perform them to boost your daily workouts. The best part? You don’t need to join a trendy workout class to become a maestro!
Functioning training – digging into the basics
Functional movement patterns are a range of movements involving large joints with a collaborative effort from every body part. This new trend in the fitness industry has a purpose that well-translates into an activity to go beyond your typical workout.
The keyword to pay attention to is “function.” Consider function as a purpose that makes your functional fitness goal a group of movements with a meaning behind them. In most cases, this purpose is to help the exercisers get better at everyday activities; for example, pushing a revolving door, squatting to pick up something they dropped, or simply walking.
The advocates of functional training strongly agree on how these simple yet highly effective movements can make up for a healthy, well-rounded, and pretty straightforward fitness routine. Moreover, this exercise regimen has also been gaining much traction because of its expected benefits on overall health and fitness.
Following is a sneak peek of all the goodness expected to come out of an exercise routine based on functional training movements:
- Improvements that you can feel in your daily life activities
- A much better posture leads to a long-due farewell to all the problems accompanying it
- A perfect combination of a leaner and an equally healthier body
- Mental stimulation by attempting to do something new
Functional movement patterns are much more than handstands, battle ropes, or flipping tires
Contrary to what you come across on the internet, functional training movements are much more than pushing a sledge or performing a handstand to adopt this way of workout. As described by the experts, these movements are not too challenging or dangerous and do not require an elite skill level to perform adequately.
Starting from the most basic level, around six functional movement patterns add to your workout routines or fitness program. These are easy, fun to perform, and can maximize functional mobility and strength.
1 – Hinge
Don’t know where to begin training functionally? Start hinging now!
Hinge is an essential foundational movement pattern when it comes to functional training. However, it is also a widespread movement we perform daily, so improvement is possible.
Imagine if a coin accidentally slips from your hand right onto the floor. What do you do to pick it up? You either squat (another functional training movement discussed shortly) or bend over to get it back. This bending over is what hinging is, and in most cases, we do it wrong.
Training functionally with hinge technique
To ensure you don’t bend over and hurt yourself the next time you get down to pick up something from the floor, try performing glute bridges, deadlifts, or kettlebell swings in your next workout session. This functional movement pattern strengthens the muscles of your hip and back and makes them strong enough to get through all the hinging you need without any risk of injury.
A head-start on the hinge
Keep your flat back as you try hinging at home—direct most of the force towards your glutes to keep your back clear from unnecessary pressure.
2 – Squats
Who doesn’t love to squat? Even if you don’t, chances are you still perform it daily, even without thinking about it. Don’t believe us? Pay more attention to your body when you sit down, get up from a couch, pick up your baby from the floor, or lift a box.
Whoever you are or whatever you do, squatting is an essential part of your daily life which is precisely why you must include it in your daily functional fitness regime.
Training functionally with squat technique
Now that you know how essential squats are, place them at the forefront of your exercise. This functional movement pattern targets your lower body strength, mainly focusing on the calves, glutes, hip flexors, and hamstrings. You will come across unlimited variations of squats out there, and you can try any of them (or even all of them!). Some examples of the most common squat variations include goblet squats, box squats, and overhead squats with medicine balls. We will leave the rest to you and your research skills!
A head-start on squats
Squatting seems easy but carries a significant risk of injury. So, whenever you squat in a gym or in everyday life, ensure your knees and big toes are in line. Don’t let your knees extend beyond your feet; you will never hurt yourself, no matter what.
Related –> 5 health benefits of squats
3 – Rotations
Rotating or twisting is a basic core-activated functional movement pattern. We rotate our bodies when we run, kick, throw, swim, or even walk. For example, we subtly rotate ourselves when we turn around to look at something or someone who’s not right in front of us. Even if rotating sounds like a low-impact movement, it carries a risk of injury, which can be minimized by incorporating it into your functional training.
Training functionally with a rotating technique
Despite carrying immense importance in your daily activities, you will likely forget to pay attention to rotating movements in your exercise routine. So, add lots of side plants, windshield wipers, and oblique medicine ball toss to your regular workout scheme to strengthen your core muscles functionally.
A head-start on rotations
A common problem faced by a lot of people is limited upper-body rotation. If you consider yourself one of them, consider strengthening the muscles that support these rotatory movements. An exercise worth giving a try is a side-lying thoracic spine rotation. All you need to do is lie on one side with your hips and knees bent at 90 degrees. Next, bend your elbow, place your top hand just behind your head, and try rotating your upper body away from the knees. Make sure you don’t lift your knees in the process.
4 – Lunges
Lunges as a part of your everyday functional training movements sound like a weird idea at first. When do you lunge in your daily life anyway? Allow us to explain.
Imagine going upstairs and focusing on your exact body movements as you do them. The movement pattern you follow during this simple everyday routine resembles a lunge. However, the fact is that many simple daily activities, for example, bending down to tie your shoelaces, can benefit from lunges as these functional movements help you stabilize and strengthen one-sided movements.
Training functionally with lunge technique
Lunges are a fantastic functional movement to improve muscle imbalances because they are one-sided. Unfortunately, muscle imbalances are common these days and carry a considerable risk of injury, especially in activities where we use one side of the body at a time.
Another problem we commonly face is a discrepancy in mobility and strength between the right and left sides of our bodies. Because most of us prefer using the right side, you will notice that it is much easier to perform lunges with this dominant side. But as you start functionally training yourself with bilateral lunges, this discrepancy will likely diminish and even disappear someday.
A head-start on lunges
Don’t feel too confident with your lunge workout? Try using a chair or a wall as support. Rely on your hand to maintain balance as you build strength and stability using various lunge exercises.
5 – Pushing
Aiming at your upper body strength and pushing movements are great for everyday chores. For example, putting dishes away, getting up from bed, or opening a door requires solid muscles. And to attain this strength, use the push technique in your daily practical training sessions.
Training functionally with a pushing technique
The push movement mainly targets your chest, shoulders, and tricep muscles. It can be broken down into two sub-movements: horizontal and vertical. The horizontal push movement includes the classic push-ups and bench presses, whereas the steep push includes techniques like Arnold and shoulder presses.
So, whenever you feel like including the push technique in your daily exercise schedule, target both vertical and horizontal ones.
A Head-start on Pushing
Remember that our shoulders are highly mobile and equally delicate, which makes them extremely vulnerable to injury. So make sure you start slowly and gradually with the push technique and focus on proper engagement and good practice before advancing.
Related –> Guide to Adopt a Healthy Lifestyle
6 – Pulling
Pulling is essential, whether you are pulling your body toward something or pulling something toward yourself. It’s the opposite of pushing, another functional movement we discussed, and if you invest your time in it, you’ll be thanking yourself every time you take out the trash from the trash can.
Training Functionally with Pulling Technique
Just like pushing, pulling can be categorized as vertical and horizontal. A pull-up is a characteristic example of a vertical pull movement, whereas a barbell row or any row for that matter, falls under the horizontal pull movement. Some valuable exercises you can perform to strengthen your upper body muscles include pullovers and lat pulldowns. These movements mainly target your lats, deltoids, biceps, and other muscle groups, so your daily activities can improve.
A Head-start on Pulling
Forward posturing is a common problem among many people today and can be painful. Make this functional movement pattern to overcome these problems while making yourself more robust and with a fantastic posture. Good riddance and a win-win situation for you!
Related –> Street workout 101 – Exercises and programs
A functional movement pattern training program
To summarise, functional training patterns include a simple exercise routine that can directly benefit your day-to-day activities. For example, you can do these six functional movements to make a training program to help you get more balance, mobility, and strength.
So follow them, as the hype is accurate, and the concept is worth exploring. And while you are at it, keep the following take-home points in mind:
- Are you using these functional movement patterns in your life already? Explore how you follow them and notice if there is room for improvement.
- Training your body functionally will feel different from all the workouts you have tried so far, so don’t feel confused.
- Explore the various exercises under these five functional movements and try as many as possible for a better and more comprehensive training routine.