Why is functional fitness so good? Functional fitness programs can benefit every person regardless of fitness level, age, exercise experience or time available for training. Functional training programs can help improve definition, burn calories, enhance aerobic capacity and promote muscle growth. The key component of a functional training workout is simply moving; more specifically, to move in multiple directions, at a number of different speeds and using a wide variety of exercise equipment in order to engage every muscle in the body. Read on to learn 8 specific benefits of functional training workouts.

1. Improved Movement Patterns:
The human body is made to move. Functional training means that exercises are based on movement patterns, not isolated muscle actions. The human body is specifically designed to function most efficiently when moving in an upright position with the feet on the ground. Human movement can be organized into specific patterns, specifically, the hinge, squat, lunge, push (both overhead and towards the front of the body), pull (from the overhead position and from the front of the body) and rotation. The Nautilus HumanSport cable strength-training machines allow for all the movement patterns to be performed from standing positions to help users achieve optimal results from their workouts.

2. Improved Movement Efficiency:
Functional strength training methods are used to help athletes perform at the highest levels of their sport. Many strength and conditioning coaches design exercise programs based on movement patterns to help their athletes function more efficiently in competition. Coach Mike Boyle, the author of New Functional Training for Sports and the owner of Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning located outside of Boston, Mass., has used this methodology for years with his athletes, many of whom compete in top tiers of collegiate and professional sports. “Functional training is best characterized by exercises done with the feet in contact with the ground and, with few exceptions, without the aid of machines,” writes Boyle. Using this definition, many of the barbell exercises using a landmine attachment on a Throwdown XTC Rig are extremely functional because they require individuals to perform the lifts from a standing position.

3. Improved Physique:
Functional training uses multiple muscle groups at the same time which could help develop a leaner, more athletic-looking body. The reason why many athletes and dancers have great bodies is because they are performing movements that use the entire body. Performing functional, movement-based exercises on the Nautilus HumanSport machines could help users develop the same lean, muscular appearance as people who get paid to move for a living.

4. Improved Coordination and Mobility:
Functional training exercises could help to reduce the risk of injury by improving overall coordination and mobility. Mobility is the ability to control movement through an entire range-of-motion; when muscles on one side of a joint shorten, they cause the muscles on the other side to lengthen which means that many integrated movement patterns like squats or doing pushes and pulls from a standing position can improve joint mobility while enhancing overall muscle coordination. When the Olympic bar station on the Throwdown XTC Rig is used for a bent-over row, it focuses on the pulling pattern which can improve range-of-motion of the shoulder joint, especially when using a palms-up grip, while also enhancing coordination between all of the deep core and lower-body muscles responsible for keeping the body stable.

5. Increased Calorie Burn:
Functional training can help burn more calories when compared to traditional strength training. The body burns about 5 calories of energy to consume 1 liter of oxygen. Any time you are using more muscles, you are consuming more oxygen and burning more calories. Think of it this way, which will use more muscles: doing a seated row on a bench or doing a standing squat-to-row using a cable machine like the Nautilus HumanSport Freedom Trainer?

6. Improved Aerobic Capacity:
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) could be considered functional training for cardio. Doing a 4 minute Tabata protocol on a StairMaster HIIT Rower or HIIT Bike requires performing 8 intervals of 20 seconds each at the highest intensity possible. In a recent study, research compared results from a 4-minute Tabata cycle to those running on a treadmill for 30 minutes. The participants completing the Tabata intervals were doing HIIT for 12 minutes a week while the 30-minute group was running at a moderate level of intensity for a total of 90 minutes per week. At the end of the study, the Tabata group had improved their aerobic capacity and time-to-exhaustion more than the 30-minute treadmill group.

7. Increased Lean Muscle Mass:
Functional training programs using the Throwdown XTC Rig for explosive medicine ball throws or heavy barbell lifts, in addition to HIIT on a StairMaster HIIT Rower, could help active agers maintain strength and lean muscle mass well into the later years of their lifespans. Muscle fibers work on a ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ basis. When the type II muscle fibers responsible for strength and definition are not used in exercise, they can atrophy which results in losses of strength and definition. High intensity exercises recruit and engage the type-II muscle fibers which are often not activated during lower-intensity exercise programs. Yes, high intensity exercise can be hard, but so can aging. A well-designed workout program could help to reduce the effects of the aging process allowing individuals to stay strong and fit well into their later years.

8. Ease of Class Design:
Designing workouts for a small group training program on either the Throwdown XTC Rig or the Nautilus HumanSport line could allow participants to receive the benefits of functional training while adhering to current social-distancing guidelines. The stations on the Throwdown XTC Rigs can be configured in a way to allow for multiple users without having them to be in close contact. The Nautilus HumanSport machines can be laid out in a way to allow for appropriate distancing.

When used correctly, the human body can perform a wide variety of tasks. To be truly functional, an exercise program must feature a variety of different movements so muscles are properly engaged and stimulated. Equipment like the Nautilus HumanSport, Throwdown XTC Rig or StairMaster HIIT circuit can be used to design exercise programs that not only challenges the body to work in a variety of different ways, but they can be arranged with appropriate distancing to create truly functional and effective workouts.

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Pete McCall is a Core Health & Fitness Master Instructor, author of Smarter Workouts: The Science of Exercise Made Simple, host of the All About Fitness podcast, an ACE and NASM-certified personal trainer, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), international fitness educator and fitness blogger. In addition, Pete holds a master’s degree in exercise science and has been educating fitness professionals for more than 15 years.

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