Functional fitness refers to practical exercises that keeps us fit for daily, real-life activities such as toting bags of groceries, lifting laundry baskets and hoisting toddlers. The exercises below use compound movements, which train muscles to work together. Improving core strength not only makes physical tasks easier; it greatly reduces the risk of strains, sprains and other injuries. Do them three or four times a week.
1. Start in pushup position, using hands and toes. Keep head, back and legs in a straight line with arms straight underneath shoulders.
Thanks to Teresa Casey for modeling proper form, and to Women's Fitness Co. in Medford for providing the equipment and space for this month's column.
2. Using abdominal muscles, lift rear to the ceiling, lengthening arms and legs to form a pike position.
3. Return to plank position and bend elbows against your sides, lowering torso and legs to the floor.
4. Keeping lower body flat on the floor, use your arms to push chest and head up toward the ceiling (similar to "cobra" pose in yoga), stretching out the front of your body. Lower down and push body back into plank position. Repeat five to 10 times.
1. Standing with feet wide, hold a light medicine ball in front of you with both hands.
2. Keeping head up and back straight, squat down, moving your rear back.
3. Position knees over ankles as you lower ball to the floor.
4. Return to starting position and lift ball overhead.
5. Repeat squat and lower ball to the ground. Perform three sets of 10 repetitions. Increase weight of the ball as you get stronger.
1. Holding weights in each hand, step back with the right leg into a rear lunge. Back leg should be straight, front knee behind the toe. Keep abdominal muscles tight.
2. Tip from the hips, keeping back flat, and pull elbows up to torso level into a row.
3. Lower weights and step back to starting position. Perform one to three sets of eight to 16 repetitions on each side. Do all repetitions before switching sides.
1. Get on your hands and knees, hands wider than shoulder-distance apart.
2. Extend right leg straight back. Support the back by tightening abdominal muscles.
3. Keeping leg lifted, lower chest to the ground until each elbow is at a 90-degree angle, then push up. Repeat 10 to 15 times for each leg.
1. Sit on the floor with knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Hold a medicine ball with both hands at chest level.
2. Keeping back straight, lean your torso back away from your thighs, increasing angle at your hips. Keep torso and abdominal muscles tight.
3. Maintaining hip angle, rotate torso to the right, moving right elbow toward the floor behind you. Return to center and rotate to the left. Repeat 10 to 15 times for each side.