When I began to work out and lose weight in 2007, I had two main goals that I desired to achieve. These two goals were to improve my health, and to remove the excess weight from my body. I was not overly concerned about how my workouts were going to help me function every day.
However, within my first week of doing daily exercise, I found that my lower back was hurting when I did simple things around the house, like moving wet clothes from the washer to the dryer. It was important for me to ensure that I worked on my functional fitness.
Functional fitness exercises mimic real-life activities. Instead of the traditional exercises that are found at the gym, functional fitness utilizes multiple muscles and focuses on balance, core stability, endurance, lifting, and twisting. Exercises can be done using individual body weight, or by using various tools like stability balls, kettle bells, and medicine balls.
Why are these types of exercises vital for women to incorporate into their fitness routine? First, women are very busy creatures who are always moving their bodies in various directions. Think about all of the activities that our mothers and grandmothers used to do in a typical day when we were children.
My mother stayed at home with me, and she did the cooking, washing, ironing, floor scrubbing, grocery shopping, plus she still found time to play and dance around with my active self! Also, women can be more susceptible to muscle strains and injuries.
Some great functional fitness exercises that are effective for women include:
1) Squats with bicep curls.
Think about reaching down into a cabinet under the sink to grab the dishwashing liquid or to get the shampoo and conditioner. To perform this exercise, place feet shoulder width apart. Hold a weight in both hands.
Bend knees and push the behind back as if taking a seat in a chair or on a sofa. As the knees bend, straighten the arms toward the floor. Slowly lift the body up while curling the arms toward the shoulders. Repeat this exercise at least 8 – 12 times.
2) Overhead press with side leg lift.
Think about lifting a baby over the head or pulling a box from a high shelf, while trying to hold a cabinet door open with the foot. (Yes, I know, it does not sound feasible, but believe me, this type of move does happen.) To perform this exercise, hold a dumbbell in each hand, fingers turned away from the body.
Move arms to a T position, then bend the elbows up to the sky. Slowly press the elbows up until weights are almost touching as the left leg slowly lifts from the ground to the side. Lower both the weights and the leg. Repeat exercise, using the opposite leg. Repeat the set at least 8 – 12 times.
3) Arm and Leg Raise.
Think about lifting and holding a young child, or carrying groceries from the car to the house. This exercise helps build a strong core and lower back.
To perform this exercise, lie on the stomach (it helps to lie on a mat or towel) and stretch arms over the head. Slowly lift the left arm and right leg off the ground. Hold for three counts, then lower. Repeat move with right arm and left leg. Repeat the entire set at least 8 – 12 times.
4) Stability ball exercises.
Core stability is the purpose of this fitness tool. My personal favorite move with the stability ball is to lie across the ball and push the body back and forth slowly across the ball. This particular exercise provides an incredible massage for the lower back, plus the abdominals are receiving a good workout as well.
Every woman should consider adding functional fitness exercises to their routines in order to perform their daily functions even better!