The benefits of incorporating functional fitness training into your regular exercise routine are many (See our section on the benefits of Functional Training Methods).
To get started, I have included a brief overview of some of the more popular forms of functional fitness training equipment. A description of their uses and common exercises associated with each.
Points to consider when thinking of functional fitness? Perhaps to make it specific to the needs and requirements of you the individual. Namely you. Who are you, what activities do you do in your life? What training methods do you enjoy? What activities do you want to do better? Functional fitness methods are like a buffet for exercise. So take what you like (take some of what you don’t like if its good for you!). Find your own way and have fun!
A Medicine ball is a strategically weighted ball that is useful for building strength, balance, stability and coordination. They vary in shape, size and appearance so what you purchase will depend on what your specific needs are. For example, some have handles for grip and are great for balance exercises. Other Medicine balls are smooth for tossing and passing. Whilst some are simply meant to slam onto floors to increase the explosive power of throws.
Once you have selected a ball, it can be used for both aerobic/anaerobic training and incorporated as a strength-training tool.
Popular exercises with the medicine ball include:
- Oblique Twists
- Reverse crunch
- Wall Toss
- Sit-up Passes
- Russian Twists
Battle ropes are essentially one thick and heavy piece of rope roughly around 40 or 50 feet in length. They aren’t dissimilar to the ropes used to tie ships up when they are in harbour!! The rope is looped around stable support until the start and end of the rope are roughly equal lengths.
To use the battle-ropes in a workout all you have do is grab the rope in each hand and move the ends up and down as fast as you can. This workout strengthens your abdominals, arms, and shoulders while forcing you to engage your legs and core. A very effective workout that is simple to undertake, and one that has become vastly popular from everyone from the average Joe to professional athletes.
Popular exercises with Battleropes include:
- Double Wave
- Alternating Wave
- Shoulder Circles
- Snakes on the Floor
- Power Slam
The BOSU ball
BOSU is short for ‘both sides up’ and is used for balance, core strengthening, and reflex improvement. The ball can be described as an exercise ball that’s been cut in half with a platform on the bottom. The domed side up is used to make aerobic exercises and athletic drills more challenging.
Inverting the BOSU ball makes things much more challenging. Its unstable nature becomes ideal for core, balance, and upper body exercises, like push-ups or core moves (such as planks). The ball requires you to maintain your centre of gravity over a constantly changing surface. Just standing on the inverted ball can be incredibly challenging. When the body moves and struggles for balance, you are forced to use more (often unused) stabiliser muscles. The result is improved overall core strength.
Further benefits of the BOSU include improved kinaesthetic awareness (aka muscle memory, the awareness of our own movement); improved proprioception (the ability to sense the orientation of your body in relation to your environment.)
Popular Exercises with the BOSU Ball include:
- Balance and Dumbbell Curl
- Boat Pose
A Swiss ball is constructed of soft elastic approximately 35/85 centimetres (14 to 34 inches) and filled with air. Air pressure is altered by removing a valve stem and either filling with air or letting the ball become deflated.
The name of the game with Swiss balls is instability. Using the Swiss ball makes all your stabiliser muscles work much harder to maintain your balance. They build functional full-body strength, improve posture and help provide support for heavier compound lifts such as barbell squats.
Popular exercises with the Swiss ball include:
- Incline Press Ups.
- Crunch twist
- Russian twist
- Swiss Ball Roll-outs
- Incline Planks
Although swinging around big metal spheres with handles may seem bizarre to some kettlebells provide incredible workouts. Adding kettlebell strength and resistance training to weekly routines helps tone your muscles more quickly. They also burn an incredible amount of calories!! Post-holidays, they burn through more fat quicker than any other form of training I am aware of!! The amount of calories you can burn whilst you use kettlebells burns is amazingly high (the average person burns 400 calories in 20 minutes!). See our Way of the Kettlebell section for more on this excellent functional fitness tool.
Another benefit of using kettlebells is they are versatile and many areas of fitness can be challenged depending on what your goals are from strength, endurance, flexibility and cardiovascular improvement. Training can be adapted for those wishing to add muscle tone and not bulk, or if your goal is to become stronger than heavier kettlebell training is definitely worth considering. Finally, kettlebell workouts are quick and convenient (no messing around with adjusting weight).
Popular Exercises with Kettlebells include:
- Kettlebell Swings
- Turkish Get-Ups
- Kettlebell clean and press
- Kettlebell Goblet Squats
- Russian Twist
- Lunge Press
Suspension training is a relatively new concept, developed in the ’90s by former Navy SEAL Randy Hetrick (who developed the well established TRX System of suspension training). Randy’s research into improving his own exercise routine involved him experimenting with equipment readily available to him in his military role, equipment that would be easy to carry, extremely versatile and simple to set up. The TRX system was born, and the rest is history. There have been many other suspension training systems set up since, some very good ones if the reviews are anything to go by, although TRX very much remains (by a large margin) the top dog of suspension trainers out there.
Suspension trainers are a great strength and flexibility tool that typically consists of two adjustable bands, straps or webbing that attach to a fixed point based above your head and act as support during exercises or as a greater resistance. Instead of using stacks of weights and rows of machines, suspension training uses just your own body weight and angles to engage and isolate muscle groups in your body. Plus, because it requires constant balance, using suspension training gives you a bonus core work out on top of whatever other muscles you are working on. Check out our section on the benefits of suspension training.
You can build muscle, burn fat, and improve your mobility with this easily portable equipment that you can use at home or on the go. From inverted rows to chest presses to squat jumps, the list of exercises you can do is impressive… most impressive.
Popular Exercises with Suspension trainers include:
- Chest Press
- Back Rows
- Pistols Squats
- Core Pendulums
- Single-Leg Burpees
- Quad Forward Jump Squats
Resistance bands are exceptional when it comes to strength training. Unlike weights, they allow muscles engaged to maintain tension throughout a repetitions full range of motion, resulting in a more complete stimulation.
Just like free weights, resistance bands come in a variety of “strengths,” but the difference is you are lifting your own bodyweight rather than additional weight when you use them. Picking the right resistance band can be as confusing as disarming a bomb (blue one? Green one?). Which colour? A general guide is yellow=light resistance (beginner), green=easy resistance (beginner-intermediate), red=medium resistance, blue=heavy resistance, black=hardest resistance. Please note that is a general guide, some manufacturers have opted to go off the reservation and come up with their own colour codes so be wary!
The most common types of bands include tube bands with handles, loop bands (that look like giant rubber bands), and therapy bands. Each type of band performs a slightly different function, but they all work towards increasing your strength and toning your muscles, shop around and find bands that work for the exercises you have in mind.
Resistance bands are highly portable which makes them a great addition to any workouts outdoors or away from the gym.
Popular Exercises with Resistance Bands include:
- Front Squat
- Leg Extension
- Glute Bridge
- Lateral Band Walk