Why incorporating functional fitness exercises may help with daily life.

Say you’ve gotten into a good fitness routine, and you’re getting pretty good at what you do. Maybe you are resolute about going on your morning run or getting in a long bike ride every evening after work. Then, a friend asks you to go ice skating or cross country skiing and it turns out to be a lot tougher than you imagined. It leaves you wondering, am I as fit as I thought?

Or, perhaps you’re a rock-star at the rower and faithfully log in 30-minute sessions on your lunch break. Then you playfully toss your 2-year old into the air and your back muscles are left feeling tweaked.

As stated in the article “Get Stronger and Leaner with Cross-Training”, all of these scenarios show what can happen when you think fitness means mastering a single sport or activity. According to Todd Schlifstein, DO, a sports medicine rehabilitation doctor at New York University Medical Center’s Rusk Institute, “When you only do one fitness activity, like running or weight-lifting, for example, and you only work on the muscles involved in one thing, you may discover that you are far less fit than you think. Using just one set of muscles repeatedly can also increase your risk of repetitive injury.”

When an athlete cross-trains, they are moving and strengthening the body in all planes of movement doing a variety of moves at different speeds. “Cross training takes into consideration the fact that many muscles in different parts of the body contribute to a single activity. So to get the most out of any activity, and to do it safely, you must pay attention to all the muscles in your body that are involved, not just the ones directly related to that activity.” says professional athletic trainer Jim Thornton, MA, ATC.

In addition, cross-training improves what is known as functional movement, or in other words, it can help us with the daily tasks of our lives and jobs. Functional fitness is defined as doing exercises that mimic the things you may do in real life or your sport.

James Herrera, MS, CSCS, director of coaching with Carmichael Training Systems and Trainright.com says “Climbing stairs, working around the house or yard, or taking the dogs for a walk takes much less effort when you’re functionally fit. It’s also easier to avoid injuries related to those everyday activities.”

The Mayo Clinic defines functional exercises, as those that “tend to use multiple joints and numerous muscles”. Instead of only moving the elbows, for example, a functional exercise might involve the elbows, shoulders, spine, hips, knees, and ankles. This type of training, properly applied, can make everyday activities easier, reduce your risk of injury and improve your quality of life.

At Prism Fitness Group we believe in the power of movement in the development of mind and body. We are committed to spreading greater understanding of the human body, and the safest and most effective ways to prepare the body for challenges ranging from everyday functional movements to amateur sporting events to a professional-level competition. We strive to create simple-yet-innovative training equipment that can be used to achieve transformative results.

Just like anything else in life, finding activities that bring you joy will increase the likelihood that you will do them consistently. So, run, bike, and swim if you enjoy it, and add a little cross-training into your routine.

Here are a few easy ways to incorporate some cross-training exercises into your routine that may improve your functional fitness.

1. Build leg and upper body strength:

Squats to overhead press with dumbells

2. Strengthen muscles of the back and shoulders:

Shoulder raises with resistance cables

3. Increase foot agility for trail-running (and children chasing):

Ladder-down shuffles with an agility ladder


Bouchez, Colette “Get Stronger and Leaner with Cross-Training”, Using the technique favored by pro athletes can get you better results and fewer injuries. WebMD; 2008 

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