Any True Blood fans out there? If your out of the loop, the character Jason Stackhouse (Ryan Kwanten) gets a bit of attention for his physique. It turns out my fellow bootcampers and Kwanten have a bit in common, we have the most effective fitness routine on the planet, ”real world” fitness! Kwanten is proud to admit his famous physique does not come from a gym. Rather, he focuses on functional fitness, performing basic exercises such as push-ups, pull-ups, jump-roping and playing team-sports, competing in triathlons, and practicing yoga.
The idea behind “real world” or “functional” fitness is simple. It focuses on full body movements that require only your body weight. No gym or machines are necessary. ”Real World” fitness is about playing in the world around you. Functional exercises strengthen muscle chains, not individual muscle groups. This allows our bodies to optimally move and function in the real world. In turn, we are able to safely enjoy and further strengthen our bodies through outdoor play–biking, team sports, kayaking, surfing, etc.
Let’s break down an example of two different exercises. The traditional stationary seated shoulder press and the functional “woodchop”. In the seated shoulder press, we isolate only the muscles around the shoulder joint as we push weights above our head and back to shoulder height. There are very few instances we would ever use this movement in our daily lives. On the other hand, the woodchop, or lifting a weight from the ground, across our body and overhead, requires a chain of muscles that extends from our heels, to our hips, to our core, to our shoulders, to our head. This movement is repeated several times a day as we load and unload our car, pick things off the ground, and put away clothes and groceries. This movement is also used in almost every sport from golf, to basketball to surfing.
In essence, traditional weight-lifting revolves around simple movements that isolate small muscle groups. But in the “real world” these movements are rarely used. You would need to do about 10-15+ individual exercises to hit all your major muscle groups with traditional weight training. Meanwhile, functional training strengthens chains of muscles that are used over and over again in our daily activities and “real world” play. As few as 3-7 functional exercises will hit every muscle in your body.
Not only does functional training make us more agile, quick and strong but the mix of cardio and strength movements keep us trim and add definition to muscles (think David Beckham) in a short amount of time . Our bodies quickly become a fat burning machines, which keeps us strong and healthy well into our 80′s and 90′s.
The caveat to functional training is the learning curve. It takes some time to figure out and perfect the exercises that train our major muscle chains. In addition, form is important. If we don’t engage the right muscle groups, other muscles may overcompensate or try to take over. By properly performing functional exercises, we can work out a lot of the muscle imbalances that come from a sedentary lifestyle or over training a particular muscle group. It is not uncommon for chronic knee or back pain to diminish or disappear altogether once people begin to move the way our bodies were designed. Participating in a class such as bootcamp is a great way to learn and properly execute the most effective “real world” exercises out there.
Challenge. Commit. Conquer!