Functional training at home

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I thought it was about time I wrote a blog post on the fitness side of my life.

It’s an understatement to say that my training has changed significantly since I had children. For many years BC (before children!) I would wake up and be at the gym at 6am most mornings…except maybe the weekends. Saturday would be a little later and Sunday was my rest day. When I travelled for work, I’d always pack my gym gear and do the same routine wherever I was staying. It always worked better for me to train early and first thing. It was done, set me up for the day and made everything much more managable for me. It was exercise for my mental health too. I was never a person who could train after work or in the evenings.

Although getting out in the fresh air is a better choice, I’ve always had issues training in the dark on my own and never seemed to be able to find a training buddy. And when I was running, it had to be done in daylight hours which is tricky in Winter. So the gym option was what I felt to be safest for me.

So what’s the key to an efficient and effective workout?

I was very fortunate to have an amazing personal trainer for many years who taught me the basic fundamentals of training. And it’s not just going to the gym, doing some basic moves and hightailing it out of there. The fact that I’m a personal trainer myself doesn’t mean I don’t need one for me! They always seem to push you that little harder than you think you can go yourself.

The key actually is functional training. It is a bit different to looking at a list of muscles and choosing an exercise for each one. It does more than strengthen and tone your muscles. Our bodies were made to move and functional training exercises train you for what you do in your everyday life. The approach looks at everyday movements and chooses exercises to strengthen you in the same way. Not only does it strengthen your muscles, but it teaches muscle coordination and simultaneously trains the core to help protect you throughout these typical movement patterns.

Everyday movements

So what are these everyday movements?

Your body has what is known as seven ‘primal’ movements:

  • Squat
  • Lunge
  • Push
  • Pull
  • Bend
  • Twist
  • Gait

They are coined ‘primal,’ because back in caveman times, if you couldn’t perform these movements, you were a dead man!

They also work all three ‘planes’ of your body movement:

  • Sagittal – front to back
  • Frontal – side to side
  • Tranverse – rotational

What does a functional training workout look like?

If you watch people in a typical gym setting, you will notice the everyday, primal movements are largely absent from how people train or they just incorporate one plane of movement. A functional training workout should include as many of the primal movement patterns as possible and in the different planes of movement. And try to combine multiple movement patterns to make them full-body exercises. Then if time permits, throw in some exercises that you love, to target your favorite muscle groups individually.

If you work hard, it only takes 20 to 30 minutes (plus a warm up and cool down/stretch). Effective and efficient!

If you’re a bit lost as to what type of exercises you can do take a look at this handy list. The exercises are divided into the different planes of movement. Pick a couple from each and you’re set. And if you’re looking for a great resource of demonstration videos for some of these exercises and many more functional movements, check out these.

And back to my training. I’m lucky enough to make it to the gym twice a week now, and its never at 6am anymore. But when I go I always do functional workouts to make it count. I also walk everyday (pushing upwards of 35kg in the double pram most of the time) and incorporate incidental movements as much as possible in my day. Incidental movements are things like taking the stairs instead of the lift. Or in my case, squatting down to pick things up of the floor a hundred times a day!

It’s interesting though. Even though I don’t train as much as I use to, I actually feel healthier.

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