Regular exercise should be more than just time consuming. It should be fun, effective, and safe. While most people are aware of the importance of safety and the necessity of incorporating “fun”, few ever ponder the effectiveness of their work out routine. Most people assume that strengthening or stretching a muscle will prepare that muscle to perform better. While doing some exercise is usually better than doing nothing, people commonly exercise their muscles in ways that aren’t very useful. For example: bilateral hamstring curls (prone). Although it will increase the size of the hamstring muscles, this exercise will not improve your ability to run or jump. It may actually interfere with those activities. That’s because there are very few activities that involve using the hamstrings in this manner (I can only think of two: potato sack racing and dolphin swim kick). How you train is the most important element of any exercise program.

In order for an exercise to be effective, it should mimic motions you perform in your daily activities or in playing your favorite sports. It can mimic an entire movement or just a part of it. A good example of a functional exercise that simulates an entire movement is chair squats. This exercise strengthens the same muscles we use to stand up and sit down and is one of the basic exercises given to most C.O.A.S.T. patients. Performing chair squats requires muscle activation of many muscle groups-a key element of functional exercises.

Almost all sports activities utilize whole body movements, the coordinated efforts of multiple joints from the toes to the neck. Exercises that incorporate whole body movements are the most effective way to prepare the body for sports. Since most sports involve standing, exercises should be done in a standing position (to make them more functional). Also, since sports involve constant balancing skills, adding an element of instability to an exercise will increase its effectiveness. Examples of this include standing on one leg, standing on a balance board, sitting on a Swiss Ball, and jumping.

Most exercises can be made more functional by varying position, intensity, duration, and/or frequency. In general, the more muscle groups involved, the more functional the exercise. The more similar the exercise is to the activity/sport you are training for, the more effective the exercise. Functional exercises are the most effective way to train.

Get the most out of your workout by participating in our supervised fitness training for Santa Cruz program.