What is functional movement? You may have heard the term, as it has become a major buzz word in both the fitness and rehabilitation industries. Of all the exercise trends to come and go, this one actually has a lot of scientific backing, practical use, and physical and mental benefits to those who train using it. There seems to be a broad general interest and development of functional movement training, however a particularly fuzzy definition of what it is and what the actual benefits are. So what is functional movement training, and why has it become so popular?

According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), functional movement can be defined as “integrated (total body), multi-planar movement that requires efficient acceleration, deceleration and stabilization capabilities.” In other words, it is exercise that includes simultaneous whole-body movements such as combinations of pushing, pulling, bending, twisting, shifting, squatting, lunging, and lifting. It is the things that your body is required to do daily in order to accomplish tasks in your everyday life. The idea is that by training multiple parts of your body to work together and developing more strength, stability, and power in these kinds of movements, you will ultimately be able to do more, achieve more, and be more as these qualities carry over into your life outside of the gym. In addition to providing ultimate benefits in physical fitness, the characteristics of functional training itself provide many other physiological and cognitive benefits, making it superior over many other training methods. Here are 5 reasons (in addition to the ones given above) why you need to integrate functional movement into your workouts:

1.) Increased caloric expenditure

When you perform exercises involving multiple body parts at one time, you will require more energy (calories) to perform these tasks. Meanwhile, you will also have to stabilize yourself and maintain your balance. This increased demand on the body means you will burn more calories performing functional movements versus performing exercises seated and/or focusing on strengthening only one muscle or group of muscles at a time.

2.) Less risk of injury

Because functional movement patterns involve multiple parts of the body moving together to perform a complex movement, the result is less isolated use of one joint, muscle, or muscle group at a time and therefore less risk of injury to any one part of the body. Functional movement patterns focus on distributing the forces of gravity, body weight, and resistance more evenly across the muscles, spine, and extremities, which decreases the likelihood of common exercise-related injuries such as muscle strains, ACL tears, shoulder separations, spinal disc herniations, etc. This will not only prevent injuries and create a current healthy exercise environment, but also prevent injuries that can limit your ability to exercise and function later in life.

3.) A more efficient workout

In addition to burning more energy, exercising more areas of your body at one time increases the efficiency of your workout. You will strengthen more, stabilize more, and burn more in less time than performing seated and/or single isolated muscle strengthening exercises one at a time. In a world where many people have difficulty finding time for a workout during their busy day, exercising using functional movements will help you get a better workout in less time.

4.) Increased bone and brain stimulation

Exercise reduces stress and age-related health issues, and lessens the physical functional decline that naturally occurs with age. Functional strengthening’s focus on weightbearing exercise and help to slow the progress of or even prevent conditions such as osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, as providing compression and resistance against gravity can help to strengthen bone tissue. Functional exercise can be even more valuable, as coordinating simultaneous movements of different parts of your body also requires an increased level of brain function when compared to performing isolated muscle strengthening. The brain and sensory system have to work harder to communicate and react to the different feedback they’re receiving to achieve the desired movement or movement pattern. The increased “mental sweat” has also been proven to prevent and even improve current diagnoses of dementia, Alzheimer’s, or Parkinson’s disease. Functional exercise will not only improve your current quality of life, it will also contribute to a high quality of life for years to come.

5.) More application to everyday life

Functional movement patterns are practical in that they mimic activities of our daily lives. Nobody every lifted a toolbox into their truck bed, or picked their young child up to hold them, or lifted a car part onto the conveyor belt on the assembly line at work by simply shrugging their shoulders or flexing their elbows. So why would we exercise using only one muscle, one movement exercises, when we can perform and repeat these movements as a whole and be able to live more fully in every other aspect of our lives? When your body knows how to squat and lift, push and pull, bend and extend, shift and rotate, as a whole, you’ll spend less time being sore from helping your buddy move into his new apartment or even better, less time at the doctor’s office after. You’ll spend less time struggling to climb stairs and more time socializing with your friends and families.
Integrating functional exercises into your workouts can provide you with a variety of physiological and physical benefits as well as an overall improved quality of life. The rising popularity of the functional movement trend has led to the development of many exercise tools to assist people in performing these types of workouts. ActivMotion Bars are quickly rising as one of the most valuable tools in performing a functional exercise program. ActivMotion bars are hollow and partially-filled with weighted ball bearings that shift dynamically depending on the movement of the person using them. This dynamic resistance provides a more real-life experience when compared to traditional weighted fitness tools, whose resistance is constant and independent of the user’s movements. Whether you are attempting to maintain control of the resistance shifting in the center of the bar (as if you were maintaining your balance while going up stairs) or swinging the bar dynamically (as if lifting an object from the floor), the ActivMotion Bar’s resistance will mirror your own movement and mimic real life reactions between movement and gravity to provide you with auditory and sensory feedback. This feedback will help you to perform the exercise in a controlled, stable way and further improve your movements in and out of the gym. ActivMotion Bars are used by world renowned organizations for training functional movement exercise, including the MAYO Clinic, Functional Aging Institute, National Academy of Sports Medicine, and thousands of fitness facilities, physical therapy and corrective exercise institutions across the world.

For the first time ever, ActivMotion Bar (AMB) will be offering a full 60-day functional training program for people in their homes. The program, titled, “IGNITE”, will be launching globally on March 1st. Please make a comment below with questions or feedback.

Thanks for reading!

Nicole Bushong, PT, DPT, RYT-200

Master Trainer, ActivMotion Bar

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