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What is Functional Movement?

Have you heard me mention "functional movement" or read about it online and wondered, what is it? Well, let's break it down. We will look at what functional movement is, why it is important, and a few examples to start incorporating it into your life!



1. So what is functional movement?

Functional movement is movement that helps improve our day to day life. Functional fitness simulates common movements we might do at home, at work or in sports. It is movement focused on helping us strengthen and stretch our bodies in ways that will improve the way we feel and function in our normal activities. Functional movement focuses on utilizing the body as a whole, integrated tool, since thats the way we mostly move in our lives, and it aims to create pain free, effortless movement. Movement dictates the way we live, how we feel, and even the way we show up and interact with others.


2. Why does Functional Movement matter?

Exercise and working out are great for our bodies and minds, AND the way we workout matters! Functional movement focuses on moving the body in multi-joint, multi-muscular ways because that is how we move in day to day life. Sometimes when working out in a gym or with a certain type of workout program, we can overtrain and isolate our movements so that we are only working one range of motion, one muscle group, or joint at a time--which makes our body less efficient when we step back into the real world where we move in multi-dimensions in our movement patterns and habits.


For example, carrying groceries into the house requires you to carry weight, walk, adjust to open the door, step up, and then place the groceries down on the counter. Well, working just biceps curls, or just running, or just lunging won't help you with this activity. But putting different movements together will! For a better fit for "training" for the hum-drum experience of carrying our groceries in, incorporating a front raise while stepping into a lunge, or twisting weights to your waistline while lateral lunging, will help your body learn to move more efficiently and effectively when carrying the groceries.


In functional movement we want to engage our WHOLE body in a variety of ways that wake up our muscular and nervous systems and remind them to work as a unit. It helps increase our coordination, balance, flexibility and strength. Functional fitness exercises also emphasize core stability because you are moving multiple body parts at the same time, possibly in multiple directions!


4. How to squeeze it in!

In functional movement we want to engage our WHOLE body in a variety of ways that wake up our muscular and nervous systems and remind them to work as a unit. It helps increase our coordination, balance, flexibility and strength. Functional fitness exercises also emphasize core stability because you are moving multiple body parts at the same time, possibly in multiple directions!


You don't have to change up your entire workout regime to get functional movement in, or give up your favorite form of exercise, but you can add in moves to help your day to day activities! I always incorporate functional movements into our Pilates and Yoga classes to help improve the way we feel afterwards as we step off our mats and into real life scenarios.


Great functional fitness movements:

  • SQUAT: Basically sitting and standing up are a form of the squat

  • LUNGE: climbing stairs is a moving lunge

  • HINGE/DEADLIFT: bending over to pick something up (which is all the time if you are cleaning up after a toddler)

And with these simple movements we can add in:

  • SIDE BENDS + LATERAL REACHES: think grabbing something off the passenger seat while driving

  • FRONT/OVERHEAD LIFTS: think grabbing something off a high shelf

  • TWISTING: think carrying, lifting, setting down objects

And the list goes on! Functional movement doesn't have to be boring or plain; the cool thing is we can get creative to find ways to mirror actions we do daily in our lives to help increase our efficiency and decrease our pain.


The bottom line:

Get moving! Move well, AND move more! You don't have to always commit to an hour class to feel and see results--try incorporating a few moves into a coffee break or lunch break and see how the results add up over time!

Pilates and Yoga are a great way to incorporate functional movement into your life. Both are centered on strengthening and stretching the body in therapeutic ways to help decrease pain and increase overall health. And therapeutic doesn't mean easy--it means healing! So you will still get stronger, you will still be challenged, and it will be in the name of FEELING BETTER in your body! :)



New this month to Nflow Fitness: a subscription service! The perfect way to enjoy livestream AND on-demand videos. I am excited to add this opportunity to the site! Check it out if you are interested!

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