By Brandon Richey
I define functional fitness as the ability to possess the strength, skill, and ability to execute movements that mimic real life and sport activities with confidence and without inhibition.
So if your functional strength program is not up to par, then you’re losing chances for major physical breakthroughs, performance, and even injury-prevention.
If you’ve been struggling recently, or have in the recent path, with generating PRs on a level that satisfies you, it’s highly possible there are crucial elements missing from your training.
Here are 4 elements that you might be missing causing you to miss out on optimal results.
1) NOT ENOUGH MULTI-JOINT MOVEMENT
Multi-joint movement is basically what it sounds like. This basically involves movements that utilize more than one joint which in turn challenges more than muscle group driving up the intensity and amount of work output you can include in your strength training.
Don’t get me wrong—there’s nothing wrong with bicep curls. There is definitely a need for bicep curls, but this coupled with the triceps kickbacks shouldn’t be the staple of your entire program.
If you’re looking to enhance your functional fitness you’ve got to include movements that utilize more than one joint. Push ups, pull ups, squats, lunges, and sprinting (as well as multiple variations of these) will help you to optimize your functional fitness.
2) NOT ENOUGH PUSH/PULL
One great method for training is designing your program to include the element of push and pull in combination during a superset. This is great because it helps you to develop your body for greater symmetry and balance during a working set.
The push/pull method can be performed a couple of different ways:
Superset: The push/pull can be done in the form of a superset where you perform a push movement and then with little to no rest immediately perform a pulling movement.
A good example of this would involve you doing a set of bench press and then immediately doing a set of pull ups. Just get ready to do some work if your implementing this method because it will get your heart rate up…which is great for time efficient training.
Alternating set: This is done when you perform a push movement and wait 2 to 3 minutes. Then perform a pull movement and wait 2 to 3 minutes. Then go back to performing the push movement. Continue this until you complete the designated number of sets.
By incorporating this form of push/pull, you’re going to find that your strength will soar as you get into your working sets. You’ll also find that the second set will be much stronger on both your push and pull movements.
So with this method you can generally go a bit heavier to expect bigger strength gains.
3) NOT ENOUGH MULTI-PLANE MOVEMENT
We live in a three dimensional world which means you are capable of moving in three planes of motion.
Not incorporating movements in your regular programming to encompass all three of these planes of motion means you’re limiting your functional fitness.
The sagittal plane Imagine this plane as it divides your body in right and left halves. Anything that moves along this
plane (front to back) is in the sagittal plane of motion. Some examples of a sagittal plane movement would be a squat, a forward lunge, and a straight ahead sprint.
The frontal plane Imagine this plane dividing your body into front and rear halves. Anything that moves along this plane (side to side, up and down) is in the frontal plane of motion. Some examples of frontal plane movement would be the pull up or lateral agility shuffle.
The transverse plane Imagine this plane dividing your body into upper and lower halves. Anything that moves along this plane (rotational) is in the transverse plane of motion. Some examples of transverse plane movement would be the bench press, push up, or Russian twist.
Many people don’t realize that just getting up from the couch and walking into the kitchen to grab a beer involves 3-dimensional calculations and perceptions (including balance). 4-dimensional if you include time/distance—meaning you are automatically calculating the speed of your gait and the distance you must travel. This is also part of what’s known as proprioception: Perception or awareness of the position and movement of the body.
This is something we all have to learn how to do. If you watch a baby just learning how to walk, they bump into walls and tables, fall down frequently, misjudge speed/distance. Even depth perception must be learned. A new level is learning as the baby begins to figure out all of that while carrying an object.
If you’re weak in a particular plane of motion and suddenly have to perform in that plane during an intense situation in a sporting event, a physical demanding scenario, or at your job you are more likely to incur an injury.
The more you (retrain) yourself to do this within your fitness programming, you will not only become stronger physically, but you will strengthen your perception and command of your personal proprioception. This then leads to the ability to have fewer injuries in both daily life and life at the gym.
4) NOT ENOUGH PLYOMETRICS
These are exercises that involve short burst forceful muscular contractions. Plyometrics are generally seen in training that involves various athletic communities as they are great for helping you to express your strength better in the form of athletic movement.
There are varying degrees of intensity when talking about plyometrics, but plyometrics involve anything from skipping, to hopping, to bounding. Some examples of general plyometric exercise involves jump rope, skips, sprinting, and jumping.
As you can see, these moves demand different effort from you and will stress your neuromuscular system in a much different way than just lifting heavy weight.
Plyometrics fill the gap of human performance and will allow you to develop greater athleticism which will in turn enhance your functional fitness.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
SEALgrinderPT coach Brandon Richey is a certified strength and conditioning coach, author, and founder of Brandon Richey Fitness.
He has worked with thousands of athletes over his 17 years of experience, developing fitness training programs for beginners to professional and D-1 level collegiate athletes at the University of Georgia.
He also trains MMA and Muay Thai athletes, both professional and amateur.
QUESTION: How can I start getting some new PRs? I’ve hit a wall.
ANSWER: Check out this article: 10 Tips to Breaking Through Training Plateaus.
QUESTION: I’m finally getting serious about my training, but I’m sort of still drifting. Do you have some suggestions for me so I feel like I have a plan?
ANSWER: Yes; check out this article: Workout Training Log Improvement Tips.