Working out for Real Life Functions

Functional fitness gets you fit -- and ready for real-life situations

By Gina Shaw
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD

Yesterday you had a great workout at the gym. You're bench-pressing more weight than ever before, and pulling enough weight on the seated rowing machine to try out for the Olympic sculling team.

Today, you lift a 60-pound suitcase to carry it downstairs -- and throw your back out. What happened? In all likelihood, you're not paying enough attention to your functional fitness. You might be toned, tight, and ready for the beach, but are you ready to lift your toddler out of his car seat or hoist the spring-water bottle onto the dispenser?

Functional fitness and functional exercise are the latest gym buzzwords. They focus on building a body capable of doing real-life activities in real-life positions, not just lifting a certain amount of weight in an idealized posture created by a gym machine.

Making Muscles Work Together

"Conventional weight training isolates muscle groups, but it doesn't teach the muscle groups you're isolating to work with others," says Greg Roskopf, MS, a biomechanics consultant with a company called Muscle Activation Techniques who has worked with athletes from the Denver Broncos, the Denver Nuggets, and the Utah Jazz.

"The key to functional exercise is integration. It's about teaching all the muscles to work together rather than isolating them to work independently."