03.Functional resistance training
The latest trend in strength training is a move away from exercising muscles in isolation to exercising lots of muscles simultaneously with practical actions and natural movements – so-called functional training. Movements take place in three planes: front-to-back, side-to-side and rotational. Such exercises develop strength, balance, flexibility and coordination, training not only the muscles but the brain as well.
As an example, instead of building leg strength by lying down on a gym machine and pushing up weights with your feet, you do squats – as if you were sitting on and rising up from a chair. As you get better, you can increase the challenge by holding weights. This not only builds strength but helps develop balance and coordination – and it's important as we get older and find sitting and rising more challenging.
Use what you've got
Although you can do functional training with conventional equipment at a gym, many people use items lying around the house. A sledgehammer, old truck tyre, bricks, sand, sacks and duffle bags, shovel and rope are some of the many everyday objects that are used for a functional workout.
- Whacking a truck tyre with a sledgehammer involves full-body movement, exercises just about every muscle and is reportedly a great stress-buster. Shovelling dirt or gravel is another full-body rotational exercise.
- Home-made sandbags can be used for lifting and carrying.
- Shopping bags filled with large bottles of water, sandbags or bricks are used for the farmer’s carry, a traditional strongman event.
- Sled dragging is popular, where a smooth-bottomed sled (or similar) is filled with something heavy and pulled along grass.
- An old basketball or soccer ball filled with sand and sealed up becomes a medicine ball for throwing and catching - or simply held to create extra weight when doing crunches, squats and lunges.
- You could get a few friends together for tug-of-war and “wheelbarrow” races (the “wheelbarrow” walks on their hands while the operator holds their feet).
Although this equipment lacks the glamour of a shiny, expensive set of chrome and steel, it’s cheap, effective, novel and reportedly fun! If you’re interested in this type of workout, your best bet is to find information on the internet and use care and commonsense, or find a personal trainer who can guide you.
- Value for money
- If done properly, you will give yourself an excellent full-body workout that’s novel and fun.
- Provides practical skills and strength that are useful for everyday activities.
- Can be done solo or with other people.
- Technique is everything – if you don’t get it right it could be useless or harmful. Seek advice from a qualified personal trainer before you start.
- Some of the homemade equipment is pretty bulky, making storage and workout space an issue.