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6 Functional Movements Used in Exercise

Functional movement in exercise may refer to fitness activities designed to mimic daily tasks or actions that help us perform them more efficiently and safely. The aim is to use multiple muscle groups together rather than isolating them as traditional weight training often does. These movements are based on real-world biomechanics and can significantly improve strength, flexibility, coordination, and balance. Here are six functional exercises you can integrate into your workouts:

1. Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers are excellent full-body exercises that strengthen various muscle groups and enhance cardiovascular fitness. To perform this functional movement, start in a high plank position, placing your hands directly under your shoulders. Your body should form a straight line from head to heels. Bring one knee towards your chest, then switch and bring the other forward. This functional movement targets the core and works the shoulders, hips, and legs. You can improve strength, endurance, agility, and cardiovascular fitness by performing mountain climbing regularly.

2. Box Jumps

Box jumps are plyometric exercises that build explosive power and agility. They’re also an excellent way to improve leg strength and cardiovascular fitness. Start by standing in front of a sturdy box or platform. With feet hip-width apart, lower into a half-squat, swing your arms, and explode upwards onto the box. Land softly with knees slightly bent. Step back down and repeat. The goal of this exercise is muscle control. Try to land softly to absorb the impact and protect your joints. As your strength and confidence grow, you can increase the height of the box to challenge yourself further.

3. Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebell swings provide a dynamic, full-body workout. This move primarily targets the posterior chain or the muscles running down the back of your body. It also works your core and shoulder muscles. Stand with feet hip-width apart and hold a kettlebell in front of you with both hands. Bend your knees slightly, hinge your hips, and swing the kettlebell between your legs. Then, thrust your hips forward, straighten your knees, and swing the kettlebell to chest height. Let the kettlebell swing back down as you hinge at the hips and bend your knees slightly. Performing kettlebell swings can significantly improve your power, cardiovascular endurance, and metabolic conditioning.

4. Planks

A plank is an effective core exercise that engages your core, glutes, and shoulders. They can be modified to suit all fitness levels. To perform a basic plank, start in a push-up position but rest on your forearms instead of your hands. Keep your body straight from head to heels, and make sure your elbows are directly under your shoulders. Planks can strengthen your entire body and enhance stability and balance. They’re also a great way to improve posture and can help reduce back pain.

5. Deadlifts

The deadlift, often known as the king of lifts, is another fundamental functional movement. This exercise engages the entire posterior chain, from your head to your heels. Strengthening these muscles through deadlifts can contribute to better posture, improved athletic performance, and a lower risk of back injury. Performing a deadlift may initially seem intimidating, but with care, attention, and practice, you can master this powerful move. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, keeping your feet flat. The barbell should start on the ground over the middle of your feet for optimal balance and power. Bend at your hips and knees to reach down and grip the bar. Before you lift, try to set your back into a neutral position and engage your glutes.

6. Shoulder Presses

The shoulder press is a functional exercise that mirrors the overhead lifting motion. This movement strengthens the shoulders and triceps while engaging the core for stability. Whether reaching for something on a high shelf or participating in an overhead throwing activity, shoulder presses help prepare your body for everyday movements. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart for stability, and keep your knees bent to protect your lower back and engage your core. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder level with an overhand grip and palms facing forward. Your elbows should be bent at ninety degrees and directly under your wrists. Press the dumbbells upward until your arms are fully extended above your head. Keep your wrists straight, and avoid locking your elbows at the top of the movement.

Incorporate Functional Movement Into Your Workouts

Integrating these functional movements into your workout routine can help you build strength and stability. They can also improve your balance and boost overall fitness while preparing your body for the demands of daily life. Consider following a guided online fitness course focusing on functional movement if you are unsure where to begin.

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