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8 Simple Strategies To Optimize Your Functional Fitness Workouts

8 Simple Strategies To Optimize Your Functional Fitness Workouts

 

  1. Are you hitting plateaus in your training? 
  2. Have you been disappointed in your recent progress concerning your workouts? 
  3. Do you experience difficulty in movement and with joint pain? 
  4. Are you looking for optimal time efficient training? 

If you’re disappointed in your training and your results you need to evaluate the optimization of your functional fitness workouts. In other words, you need to look at how you can go about making the adjustments you need in your workouts to get more bang for your training buck! Surely you like the sound of this and if so then you need to read today’s article and apply these strategies.

Optimize Your Functional Fitness Workouts 

In today’s society everybody is looking for immediate gratification. Everyone wants results and they want them now. The truth is that results ONLY come from consistency and commitment. However, as frustrated as I get about this mindset of instant results the truth is that there are efficient ways of doing things and inefficient ways of doing things. This is true in every aspect of life.

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This is exactly why today I want to list 8 top strategies to optimize your functional fitness workouts. I promise I’m getting down to brass tacks here. I assure you I won’t piss down your leg and tell you it’s raining.  So make sure to read and apply these to your training if you’re serious about getting results.

1. Perform more multi-joint movements: If you’re looking to get faster and more functional results from your workouts then you need to spend less time on single joint movements and more time on multi-joint movements. Yes, this involves basically what it sounds like. A multi-joint movement involves exercises that incorporate more than one joint in the movement. As a result you stimulate more than one muscle group.

An example of a multi-joint movement here would be like a push-up, or squat, whereas a bicep curl, or leg extension would be a single joint movement.

With multi-joint movement you’re integrating more muscle groups to execute a movement. Therefore this will optimize your ability to learn and develop better functional movement patterns.

2. Perform more bodyweight exercises: Bodyweight exercises can always deliver results. Firstly, the beauty of performing bodyweight movements is that it’s convenient. You can train bodyweight at anytime and at any place. It’s automatic as your gym is with you everywhere you go…literally.

In addition to this you can quickly and easily apply foundational movements to your bodyweight training to work on optimizing your function. For example you can immediately start improving your push-ups, squats, pull-ups, and lunges to build a foundation of strength. As a result, this will be easier for you to apply once you start doing this while carrying a load.

3. More loaded carries: Speaking of carrying a load there’s no better way to build and optimize your function than by performing some farmer’s carries, or sled drags. By dragging a sled while holding a strap, or by carrying a pair of dumbbells you’ll quickly develop some functional fitness.

What you derive from either one of these is a stronger grip, core stability, ankle mobility, knee mobility, and shoulder stability. Most importantly the stronger grip and core strength will also help to bulletproof your shoulders from injury. It’s as if it’s nature’s way of building you into a Terminator.

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4. Train opposing muscles: One of my biggest strategies for helping my students to build strength is by helping them to develop proper posture. These days I see way too many people with postural imbalances and believe me this will kill your strength gains. This will also cause more dysfunction throughout your body leading you head first into an injury!

There are a couple of ways to approach training your opposing muscle groups. First, you can perform a superset which I generally do in a push/pull format. This basically involves you performing a pushing movement and a pulling movement in combination with little to no rest.

For instance, to do this you might perform a dumbbell bench press and with little to no rest immediately perform a set of rows. Since both of these movements involve a push and pull in the same plane you’re developing symmetry around the joints involved. Greater symmetry equates to better posture and a better posture results in a functionally strong body.

Another way you can implement this is by performing an alternating set. An alternating set would be done the same way as the superset, but the biggest difference being the emphasis of a greater rest interval so you can emphasize greater strength. The key with alternating sets is that you want to perform a push and pull movement, but rest for longer periods of time between the two movements.

An alternating set would involve you performing the dumbbell bench press, resting for 3 to 5 minutes before performing a set of rows. From here you’d rest 3 to 5 more minutes before going back to perform another set of dumbbell bench press. The idea is to continue this back and forth for the desired number of sets and reps.

Obviously with such rest time you’d want the working sets to be heavier loads. Trust me, you’ll notice your strength gains soar from doing this which will in turn enhance your functional fitness.

5. Get proficient with the Turkish Get Up (TGU): The TGU is one of the most powerful functional fitness movements. Talk about getting a lot of bang for your training buck! This exercise is incredibly valuable because it involves three of the foundational human movements in order to pull it off.

With the TGU you have to be capable of pressing, bending, and lunging. These three foundational movements are pretty standard for physical function. The best way to make the transition to the TGU is to make sure you can do these well. From here you can combine the movements for the full TGU.

Black and white image of a man dumbbell bench pressing.

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Like any quality functional fitness workout the movement should be seamless. Each transition from one movement to the next should be smooth and not forced.

6. Create more intrathoracic bracing: So what is intrathoracic bracing? Well, this is the simple reflex that your body will experience when you exert yourself during movement and intense lifting.

To better explain this I want you to imagine that you’re about to take a punch to the gut. Now if you take this hit to your gut while being relaxed you’re going to fold up like tent as you double over into a world of pain. However, if you push air out while creating tension throughout your trunk you can better take the hit to your gut.

The thing is that you can still do this while still managing to breathe behind this tension in your trunk. In the martial arts community we refer to this as breathing behind the shield.

One way to emphasize this bracing is by performing planks, but to force this a bit more I prefer plank dumbbell drags. The reason for this has to do with how you must brace to perform the dumbbell drag portion of the movement.

Keep in mind a typical plank demands that you maintain your body’s alignment by maintaining rigidity from your shoulders to your feet. With the plank dumbbell drag you want to resist the urge to twist your torso as you drag the dumbbell. Understand by doing this you MUST brace and you’ll find out in a hurry that if you don’t you’ll collapse.

7. Mobilize your hips: Functional fitness demands that your joints be mobile. If you move like Frankenstein then you’re killing your gains. To truly make gains in functional strength and to improve your fitness you MUST unlock your tight hips.

Tight hips are an epidemic. This is exactly why I have a 4 point hip stretch series that is designed to unlock your hips so you can move in a full range of motion (ROM).

The 4 point hip series addresses the 4 areas of your hip joint so that we cover all the bases to mobilize your hips. These include…

  1. Adductors: Your inner thigh and groin.
  2. Abductors: Your outer hip.
  3. Hip flexors: Your thigh and front of your hip.
  4. Posterior muscles: Your glutes and hamstrings.

4 point hip series videos: 

Adductors:

Abductors: 

Hip flexors: 

Posterior: 

8. Mobilize your shoulders: In addition to the hips the shoulders are the other mobile joint that I see as a big problem area. This is due to many people possessing poor posture, but it’s also due to poor programming to reinforce that poor posture!

On top of this if you pile on a restricted ROM it’s like throwing gas on a fire. Poor shoulder mobility is a death sentence for your strength, function, and overall quality of life. It doesn’t take much to optimize your shoulders, but you’ve got to invest the time to do so or you will find your function coming to an abrupt end.

Many of the problems I see concerning shoulder issues has to do with people getting too much internal rotation and not enough external rotation at the shoulder joint. In addition to this I see a lot of poor flexion due to tight lats which restrict overhead movement. I’m also willing to bet whether or not you experience shoulder issues that you probably lack in practicing shoulder extension as well.

Here are some simple shoulder drills to help you to improve your flexion, extension, and external rotation.

Downward Dog Yoga: Improves shoulder flexion (overhead movement)

Thoracic bridge (Crab to reach): Improves shoulder extension

Elbows in band pull apart and pause

Optimize Your Functional Fitness Workouts: The Takeaway

If you’re serious about getting results in your strength and fitness program then you’ve got to get your functional fitness workouts dialed in. If you’re frustrated with your progress I get…I promise. Trust me, the more things you work to do correctly the more optimal your gains will be! It’s that simple.

Which one of these areas do you need to work on? 

Are you optimizing your functional fitness workouts? 

Post up and share in the comments here below. 

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Man holding an atlas stone on his shoulder displaying functional fitness

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30 Introductory Bodyweight Exercises here below.

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Brandon performing dive bomber push-up for a unique core stabilizing exercises

Related Articles:

5 Functional Fitness Workouts For Head To Toe Strength 

5 Simple Ways To Measure Your Functional Fitness

3 Functional Strength Drills For Fitness And Performance

4 Guaranteed Ways To Get A Functionally Strong Body

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Brandon

I'm a Certified Strength And Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and author. I have had over 17 years experience in MMA fitness, strength and conditoning, and athletic performance for most every sport. As an author and specialist I've written close to a million words on fitness and strength. I'm also a Muay Thai practictioner and enjoy helping others to reach their peak potential through fitness and performance.

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