I am obsessed with the idea of functional fitness. In other words, exercises that strengthen the fundamental movements you need for a healthy, pain-free and enjoyable life.
Admittedly, my 16-year old javelin thrower son’s everyday life requires different strength and movements than his somewhat older-than-that Pilates instructor mother’s, but the basic actions are the same in both of our lives.
Functional fitness (also known as “primal movement training” ) means exercising to strengthen your body in ways it needs for everyday activities, like bending, hinging, squatting, twisting, lifting, pushing, pulling, etc. Think cave-people movements. Our most rote movements are actually super complex and the body works at its most efficient (and least painful!) when muscles, joints and firing patterns work together seamlessly.
You may see more functional fitness classes pop up this year; this type of training is at the top of several national and international 2023 top fitness trend lists. So, keep your eye out for functional fitness options this year and maybe even give one a try!
You shouldn’t be shocked to hear me say that Pilates is a great example of functional fitness. The foundational exercises in the original Pilates mat progression incorporate all the functional movements listed above. The Rollup includes bending, pushing, pulling. The Saw is twisting and hinging. The Single Leg Kickback is lifting, pushing and pulling. Every Pilates movement is intentional.
Even your small hard-to-reach muscles get stronger during Pilates exercises because they act as stabilizers during each movement. Unlike traditional weight training, Pilates focuses on strengthening all the muscles involved in your full movement rather than strengthening individual muscles responsible for only part of the movement. In other words, you don't have a leg day one day and a back day the next in Pilates; instead, you use your back and legs (and many other muscles) in multiple exercises throughout the entire mat progression.
Make the commitment in 2023 and see how functional fitness and Pilates can help you live your life to its fullest and healthiest.