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Functional exercises will help with strength, balance and more

Exercise is great for losing weight, but it also helps improve your daily life by making it easier to go up and down steps, put boxes on high shelves, carry heavy bags of groceries, get out of a chair or bend over to pick something up.

Functional fitness, a popular fitness trend, focuses on actions such as those with movements that emulate real-life activities. Instead of working an isolated muscle or muscle group that works independently, functional fitness uses compound movements to integrate many muscles, all working together.

A squat is a good example of a compound exercise because it targets many muscles in the lower body: front and back of thighs, calves, glutes, lower back and core. A good functional fitness program should integrate a variety of exercise movements that include strength, endurance, flexibility, balance, core strengthening, posture and agility.

This is not to suggest eliminating exercises that isolate a specific muscle to strengthen. Both functional and isolation training are needed in your fitness tool box.

Functional exercises

• Burn more calories by using more muscles and joints to perform compound exercises.

• Add variety to your workout.

• Keep heart rate up, providing cardio benefits.

• Provide an "express workout," allowing a full-body workout to be done in less time.

• Train core muscles because you have to contract abdominals to stabilize your body.

• Challenge your balance and will include rotational and bending movements.

• Improve coordination, helping you to move better.

• Offer great training for golfers and tennis players.

Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program. Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but can't respond to individual inquiries. She can be reached at

Repeat eight to 12 times, working up to two sets.

Diagonal reach strengthens shoulder, arm and leg muscles needed when you reach for something on a high shelf. Hold a medicine ball at chest level. With your weight on the left foot, extend your right leg slightly to the side. Reaching with both arms, lift the ball diagonally to the opposite side.

Downward wood chop strengthens core and shoulder muscles needed for swinging a golf club. Standing tall, feet shoulder width apart, hold a medicine ball in both hands. Begin with the ball over your right shoulder, torso slightly turned to the right, keeping arms as straight as possible without locking elbows. Bend knees into a squat, bringing the ball diagonally across your body, toward your knee.

Rotational lunge with medicine ball targets hip mobility, needed in tennis and golf, by increasing range of motion in the lower body. Holding the ball with both hands, step your right leg forward into a lunge position, keeping your back straight, abdominals contracted and knee over ankle; the back knee should be pointed downward. Extend straight arms forward at chest level. Rotate your arms to the right side at shoulder height; pause, then repeat the rotation slowly to the left side. Bring your arms in and return to the original standing position; repeat lunging with your left leg.

Functional exercises will help with strength, balance and more 06/23/14 [Last modified: Monday, June 23, 2014 7:49pm]
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