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Tuesday, September 04, 2018

As we age, our bodies lose flexibility, and functional training can help to bring it back, says Meera Bangera

As children, we could do chakra asana or touch the floor with our palms when bent forward, we could keep jumping up and down and turn and twist throughout the day but as an adult, these tasks seem fairly impossible. Ever wonder why?  

As we age, our body starts degenerating, we lose our flexibility and mobility. Our muscles start becoming tighter, due to the ever-changing modern lifestyle with its luxuries making the body stiffer and stiffer as we age.

Our body is a single unit and is meant to move in all directions. In our day-to-day life we do a lot of activities that require us to move in sagittal, frontal and transverse plane all at once. For example, you squat and pick up a book fallen on the ground and then rotate your torso to keep it on the side shelf or when you’re playing squash with friends, you move side to side or run front and back and also rotate  your body to hit that perfect shot.

Hence when training in the gym or outside, we need to incorporate such movement-based workouts which will in turn help us lead better lifestyles. As Kenneth H Cooper says, “The reason I exercise is for the quality of life I enjoy.”

Functional training focuses more on movement of the body and not a specific muscle or muscle group. A lot of movements like pushing, pulling, jumping and crawling are included when doing functional training. It not only helps in burning calories but also increases the mobility, hand-to-eye coordination and reduces the reflex time of an individual which, in turn, reduces the chances of injury while performing any activity.  

Equipment such as the agility ladder, cones, kettlebells, medicine balls, obstacles, TRX and mats can be used when designing a workout programme.

Traditional strength training focuses more on building muscle strength and toning the body. The workouts are single-planar, mostly in the sagittal or frontal plane. Though traditional workout gives good toning and hypertrophy to the body, the fact that it trains your muscles as parts and not in a single movement tends to make the body stiffer and more prone to injuries.

I personally believe that the best way to train is to strike a balance between both types of training. A mixture of traditional strength training and functional training in a single workout session can do wonders. For example,

  •     If it's legs and core day, then you can do one exercise of back squats with barbells workout and one exercise of squats with rotation on cable cross. Exercises like Burpees and Mountain climbers can also be incorporated.


  •     Or you can do full body strength training on one day and functional training on another day.

The benefits of incorporating  both types of training regime in your workouts are

  •     Increase in muscle hypertrophy / toning;
  •     Increase in mobility;
  •     Reduction in reflex time as coordination between body parts improve;
  •     Calories are burned faster.
  •     It lowers the rate of injuries.

Meera Bangera is Regional Fitness Manager (South), Talwalkars Better Value Fitness Ltd.

Short Takes

  •     As we age, our body starts degenerating; we lose our flexibility and mobility.
  •     Traditional strength training focuses on building muscle strength and toning the body.
  •     Functional training focuses on movement of the body and not a specific muscle or muscle group.
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