What is Functional Fitness

Functional fitness exercises use your body’s natural everyday movements, whilst either incorporating unstable environments, weights or resistance, to strengthen and support your body’s natural movements.

The purpose of functional fitness is to train your muscles in everyday tasks to enhance fitness, mobility and wellness. The exercises get your body moving and are designed to support and enhance your quality of life to perform everyday tasks safely and efficiently.

Everyone can do functional fitness exercises.


Examples of Functional Exercise

Bending over to pick something up, sitting down or rising up from a chair, standing on your toes reaching up for something overhead, gardening, vacuuming, walking up or down stairs; these are all tasks we might perform every day. Functional fitness exercises use these movements and incorporate resistance, weights or an unstable environment to help strengthen and stabilise your body’s natural movements.

Functional fitness exercises such as squats, sideways and backward lunges, single leg stability exercises and steps are some examples of movements designed to enhance your body’s stability and strength. These can then be combined with weights for a higher intensity to burn more calories and develop greater strength.

We train this way to enhance our ability to perform everyday tasks safely and efficiently, it strengthens muscles, increases balance and agility therefore reducing the risk of an injury and enhances quality of life. Functional fitness helps you to perform everyday tasks safely and efficiently. Ideally a functional exercise works the whole body, both upper and lower. Everyday tasks utilise the whole body and functional exercises aim to replicate these movements.

Functional fitness exercises increase stability, strength, power, agility and enhance range of motion; helping to create synergy with your whole body. Whole body exercises is also more efficient, you spend less time performing them and you see results faster.

Stability and balance exercises may include single leg balances or sideway lunges for example. Performing squats, push up or lunges on a BOSU ball or using weights and cables can also increase stability and strength.

Performing explosive movements help to increase power and strength. These will help you to move quickly in real life, when and if required. These may include power push ups using full range, jumping lunges, burpees are all examples of explosive movements. When performed correctly with proper form, will all help to develop speed and power.

Our body is designed for a full range of motion; frontwards, backward, side-to-side, up and down. Performing exercises with a full range of motion will enhance our everyday lifestyle. For example, when performing a squat, rather than stopping at 90 degrees, move all the way down into a low squat position. Like when you were a child and sitting on your haunches. Assuming you have no injuries, only if you are able and it’s safe to do so. This will increase the range of motion in your hips.

Instead of just front lunges, try performing backward and sideway lunges. Incorporating a rotational movement into your exercise will enhance your flexibility and increase your range of motion. We do this daily by turning around to pick something up or stretching to reach for something. By adding this to your exercise will help keep your spine healthy, increase core fitness and enhance your function in everyday life.

Whilst your range of function, your core fitness, strength and mobility may at first be limited, it will quickly increase and you will see improvements in your strength, power, agility and everyday performance.



Functional Fitness VS Traditional Gym

A lot of exercises performed at the gym target single muscle groups. You might be focussed on arms, abdominals, chest or legs. Exercises are then performed isolating muscle groups, such as bicep curls to exhaustion, to work the targeted area. Functional fitness exercises incorporate the whole body, mimicking everyday movements to increase performance, strength, agility, stability, movement and power. Functional fitness trains for everyday life and is designed to keep your body moving at its optimum level.

It may be hard to stay motivated to keep going to the gym unless you have a specific goal, such as to lose weight or build muscle. Your goal for the gym may be to look good for Summer, or an event such as a wedding or party. Then once our goal is achieved we may lose interest in the gym.

We need to change our focus from training just for an event, to training for function and performance. This shift in focus enhances your lifestyle and you keep fit all year round. You will look and feel good.

They both burn calories, increase fitness and build muscle.

Traditional weight training exercises may include building muscle mass and increasing strength. Increasing muscle burns calories which increases fat burning so may help those whose goal is to lose weight. A certain number of lifts or repetitions are performed on the targeted area and a specified amount is done in each gym session. Workouts must be regular in order to be beneficial, repetitive and are very time consuming.

Functional fitness exercises utilises the whole body, upper, lower and the core. Whole body exercises are also more efficient, you spend less time performing them and you see results faster. Understanding your body’s movements, incorporating these into a strength, stability or power training exercise will enhance your body’s function.

Gym equipment only allows you to move through a single plane, designed for safety. However our body does not function in a single plane. We are multi-directional beings. We move forwards, backwards, side-to-side, up and down. By tailoring our exercises to resemble these movements, we create a more functional body.

Weight training helps build muscle, increases bone mass and strength. It is important to incorporate this into your fitness regime. They need not be isolated. Resistance and weights can be incorporated into your functional exercises for added strength, power, stability and performance.

Incorporating functional fitness into your exercise routine will increase your stamina, range of motion, power and strength, enhancing your everyday life. Strength training can be done safely and effectively with functional exercises to increase fitness, whilst reducing the risk of future or further injury. This is a critical part of injury rehabilitation and prevention.


Functional Fitness for Injury Recovery and Prevention

Functional fitness exercises were originally created as injury rehabilitation. Exercises were designed to follow your body’s natural movement and rhythm, to restore your body back to its original function, if not better.

Rehabilitation exercises mimic body movements to repair the injured area and restore function. Active rehabilitation speeds up the recovery process. However, rehabilitation is all about breaking it down and starting slow. Getting your body simply moving is important. We have all heard the term ‘move it or lose it’. When you are moving again, then slow, gentle rhythmic motion and stretching with tissue resistance follows. After that, comes endurance; more repetitions to get your body comfortable with loaded movements. When you have recovered, strength training can then be incorporated. This process may appear slow, however it is the ideal process to get your body moving in its optimal condition after an injury.

It is important to have guidance and assistance during this process to ensure you are performing the exercises correctly and to prevent further injury.

One of the biggest points of focus to prevent injury is to get your technique right. Do not be tempted to sacrifice technique for the sake of heavier weights or so you can perform a complex move. Once you are comfortable performing the exercises, then more resistance, weights and unstable environments may all be added to increase your body function. Functional fitness exercises are designed to get your body performing in peak condition, reducing the risk and preventing injury.



Sports Performance and Functional Fitness

You may already be an athlete, go to the gym, play a sport or conduct some form of exercise. That’s great and you are already on your path for health and wellness. However, we have all seen or heard of professional athletes and the like, getting injured during a game, at the gym or whilst exercising. Functional fitness exercises are designed to develop strength, motion and power. They should be incorporated into your existing routine. They will not only enhance your performance, they will also reduce the risk and prevent further injury. These exercises can also be performed in the off-season to keep your body moving optimally. You will have a head start when competitive training resumes.

Functional Fitness can help you achieve the results you desire, get the competitive edge to train harder, faster, stronger for longer, all whilst reducing the risk of injury. Consider functional fitness a life-long journey, not just training for an event. You will be able to live life to your full potential.




About 4mths ago I was advised I had a pinched nerve, due to a combination of bad posture while sitting at a desk all day, no doubt holding a bit of stress in my shoulders and a lack of muscle strength in my lower to mid back, my right shoulder blade had rotated forward and pinched a nerve. I stared visiting the Optimum Movement Centre once a week, they were very accommodating with a variety of session times that I could choose from to fit in with my work schedule. I’m happy to say that my shoulder has not only made a full recovery but I’m also feeling stronger in my body in general, I’m no longer getting pins and needles during the day or pain down my arm and I can sleep through the night. Through strengthening my core and my back I have also noticed I’m no longer suffering from as many migraines as I used to. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to attend the Optimum Movement Centre and for the patience and knowledge from Nick who has educated me on the use of the machines and helped me improve my overall strength and fitness.

Jane Howie


Optimum Wellness, free from any on-going pain and restrictions

Get your complimentary session now!