Hi everyone, here are a few simple pointers that will develop and progress your training routine and daily schedule, to help you move, train, look and feel better. The key to successful functional training is using movement patterns to strengthen and refine our bodies, training ourselves to become more effective at the activities we do as part of daily living. Our body is designed as a highly effective and complex machine which has a series of systems that all work together for optimal results. It is therefore important that we train it this way, and do not look to only isolate ‘glamour muscles’. Isolation style training, can often build on muscular imbalances that already exist within the body. This may in turn compromise functional movement patterns. It is important to functionally prepare your body for the physical demands of your lifestyle. With that in mind, here are my top 5 tips!
- Foam rolling – You may have seen these guys lying around the gym but have not known what they are for. Basically these guys are a mini cost effective massage and are a great way to help improve your mobility and flexibility. Foam rolling is a form of ‘myofacsial release’, this essentially means releasing tension from your muscles and surrounding fascia. Fascia is the soft tissue component of the connective tissue that provides support for your muscles, as a result of every day activity this can become tense, using a foam roller will help to release this tension and develop a greater range of movement throughout that particular muscle. I use the foam roller before every session to help ease off tension in problem areas like my ITB or quads before going into my mobility drills and dynamic flexibility warm up. They are a great bit of kit and are quite cheap too considering the benefits. If you are an active sportsperson or generally suffer from muscle tightness, and you don’t have one of these, It should definitely be your next purchase.They are great for at home as well as the gym so you can repair your body whilst watching the voice on TV! Coming soon will be a blog series on how to use them effectively and greater detail in what they do.
- Mobility and flexibility is key – Many people come to the gym and spend little time preparing themselves for exercise. Their idea of a warm up is a light set of their chosen exercise, 200 metres on the rower or 5 minutes on the bike. Although this may increase heart rate slightly and warm up specific muscle groups. It doesn’t address tightness and muscular imbalances within the body. It is important to get the joints prepared before exercise by taking them through as full a range of motion as possible. Muscles may be tight and unprepared for exercise after being passively contracted whilst sleeping overnight or while sat for long hours at a desk throughout the day. Therefore it is important to warm the body up through a mobility and flexibility warm up. This should be addressing tight areas, quite often around the hips, thoracic spine and shoulders. As well as other areas of the body.
- Get up and get moving – When training at the gym the last thing you need is to be sitting on resistance machines for your workout. If you spend a lot of time at work sat at a desk or seated whilst commuting etc, the last thing you want to do is train seated. Get up, move around and work on movements and exercises that will help to help extend the body. All the time I see people in the gym using flexion exercises like crunches and ab machines thinking they are training their core, much of the time this could be doing more harm than good and exaggerating that office posture. For more information on office posture and extension exercises to combat it, keep an eye on the blog in the upcoming weeks.
- Its ok to train your whole body in a session – You don’t have to always follow the back and biceps, chest and triceps style split programs. Exercises like front squat and press, deadlifts, variations on the battling ropes, cable chop exercises, Turkish get ups with the kettle bells etc, train the whole body in one go and have a wide range of benefits apart from just looking a bit better. Remember that the body is designed to work as a system, so to perform better it should be trained as a system, not a collection of individual parts.
- Don’t copy, seek advice. There are lots of cool looking exercises and equipment out there that go under the name of functional fitness training. Many of the different tools and equipment can be found in your gym or easily bought online. Often though I see equipment being used incorrectly or by people who are not physically ready for that specific equipment. It is common for people to just copy what they see others doing in the gym, or after having watched a video on youtube. That doesn’t necessarily mean the person who you were watching was doing it right, and even if they were, it might not be the right exercise for you. Seek advice from a professional on how to use equipment and for movement assessments to find your level and what is right for you.