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Functional Fitness: Beyond the Bench Press
Functional-fitness exercises focus on making everyday tasks easier. Check out Groupon’s basic rundown.
From shoveling snow to climbing stairs, people constantly carry out tasks that may seem mundane, but can lead to serious injury if the body can't handle the workload. Functional fitness targets groups of muscles throughout the body, conditioning them to work together so they can perform a range of simple tasks more easily and safely. Exercises commonly used in a functional-fitness regimen mimic such everyday movements: squatting to pick up a heavy object, lunging forward toward an out-of-reach ledge, balancing on an unstable chair as the shelf collapses.
Whereas a traditional curl targets the biceps by way of elbow movement, a functional exercise might incorporate the shoulders, spine, hips, knees, and ankles, which trains the upper and lower body to work in unison with the aid of a tightened core. This integration allows the muscles to grow at a similar rate, gaining strength in a way that complements the way a person lives rather than the way they simply work out.
One of the major pros of functional fitness is its ability to suit virtually any fitness goal. A report by the American Council on Exercise determined that functional fitness benefitted adults ages 58–78, while a study by the US Army concluded that CrossFit training increased the work capacity of its top athletes by an average of 20% and "characterizes the type of versatility required of US Army soldiers." Regardless of the intensity, it’s best to start slow. Beginning with exercises that only use the body’s weight helps teach muscles proper form and keep them safe from injury. Once prepared, exercisers can add more resistance with weights, tubing, ropes, elephant trunks, and other tools.