- Are you curious as to how functionally fit you are?
- Do you know the definition of functional fitness?
- Do you evaluate the strict execution of your movements during your training?
- Are you interested in improving your functional fitness program?
If you are looking for a good simple way to measure your functional fitness then I’m hoping this article will give you some good insight on how to go about doing it in a practical manner. Sure there are functional movement screenings, physical therapists, and a boatload of other professionals on the internet that have a whole bunch of technical savvy methods to explain function, but in terms of practical day to day application I’m going to provide you with a few simple drills and exercises to both test and train your functional fitness abilities.
Test And Measure Your Functional Fitness
In today’s article I want to try to offer some simple exercises that you can use to both assess and use to build on your functional fitness ability. In terms of human function most people tend to experience mobility and stability issues either in the shoulders, or the hips. There are other factors that can impede function, but for the sake of today’s article many of these measures are going to revolve around those variables.
First of all what is functional fitness? I define functional fitness as the ability to possess the skill and ability to execute movements that mimic real life and sport activities with confidence and without inhibition. This obviously covers a broad spectrum, but it does cover most aspects of day to day physical living.
With that being said here are some exercises and ways you can go about assessing your functional fitness ability…
This is a pretty quick and simple test that you can perform on yourself assess a very basic level of function. Can you stand up straight and bend over to touch your toes while keeping your legs straight? This is a basic function, but if you’re lacking in this area then the bad news is that you are more than likely setting yourself up for an injury due to this restriction.
For instance, a trainee that is unable to perform this move may try and perform a deadlift movement which should involve a great deal of stress on the posterior muscles involving the glutes and hamstrings. However, if these areas of the body are tight this typically causes a huge compensation in the lumbar spine resulting in a pulled low back muscle, or worse. Make sure you can bend over and touch your toes.
This move pretty much involves you being able to sit in a saddle stretch. This involves sitting on the ground and widening your legs out (like a “V”) as far as you can and holding this position without assistance. You should be able to do this while keeping the backs of your knees flat and pushed firm into the ground along with keeping your ankles dorsiflexed (toes pointing to the sky).
You should be able to sit in this position without placing your hands on the ground to hold yourself up, without leaning with your back against a wall, or without using a counterweight such as a kettlebell as you see me doing in the picture. If you can do this without all the assists I mentioned here then your hips and hamstrings are mobile enough to support you in this position without any assistance.
However, if you’re incapable of sitting in any of these positions without the assistance of the tools I mentioned then using those methods to get into this position is a great way for you to train your body to get into saddle stretch. By using these tools and methods to assist you’ll eventually be able to hold the position without the need, or the help of these other passive forces to hold you in place and force the stretch.
The Goblet Squat Test
The goblet squat is an exercise that you shouldn’t underestimate. This is a strength test that I adopted from Dr John Rusin which involves being able to perform the goblet squat for 25 straight repetitions with a kettlebell, or dumbbell that is half your bodyweight.
The idea is that if you can’t perform half your bodyweight for 25 straight repetitions then you’re not ready for the barbell. I like this test a lot. This drill forces you to activate your core midsection to support the the weight which is more anteriorly loaded.
In addition to this the goblet squat also a great movement at prying your hips open as you descend into the base of the squat position. I’m not performing the test in the video, but rather demonstrating the goblet squat technique itself. I use this exercise on a regular basis and have obtained tremendous benefits from doing so. Trust me the test will humble you .
The Strict Pull Up Test
Once again this is more of a basic test of your functional fitness and ability. The pull up is one of the most challenging strength movements you can perform. However, with that being said the pull up exercise is also another great strength movement that is frequently butchered in many gyms, health clubs, and CrossFit boxes all over the world.
This test of your functional fitness involves you being able to demonstrate strict execution of the movement much like the goblet squat test. To perform the pull up test you want to grip the bar with your hands at about shoulder width distance. From here you want to start out with your arms fully extended and your shoulder girdle almost completely relaxed.
Next, you want to pull yourself all the way up until your neck is at bar level and return back to a full dead hanging position with your arms completely straight. The key to this movement lies within the strict technique. The strict technique is where you gain all the benefit of strength. The idea is to be able to perform at least 5 strict pull ups with solid ability.
This test involves you being able to demonstrate stability in your scapula and throughout your midsection when performing the push up movement. When performing push ups many people have what I call breakage along the link of the kinetic chain when performing push ups.
This may involve several areas of the body, but one common area of weakness that you can spot is at the scapula (shoulder blades) during the descent of the push up. This break in the chain involves a collapse of the scapula and a trainee will tend to drop, or reach with their head towards the ground.
This technical flaw is what I like to refer to as roostering because the head bobbing up and down resembles a rooster bobbing its head when it’s walking around strutting. If you look at the first picture you’ll notice that I’m purposely collapsing my shoulder blades and dropping my head to identify the roostering involved in a flawed push up.
Of course the second photo demonstrates a proper push up posture with the shoulder blades being stable and secure. The idea is to maintain the stability in the shoulder blades throughout the push up movement. The purpose of the push up test here is that you should be able to perform at least 10 strict push ups maintaining rigidity and a straight line along your body while moving in a full range of motion (ROM). You should be able to move from a fully locked out position to about a fist height of above ground measuring at the base of your sternum (chest bone).
Measure Your Functional Fitness: The Takeaway
Regardless of your fitness goals you have to place emphasis on being able to perform movements that you would encounter in day to day life. If you’re restricted, or inhibited in some of your basic function then you’re going to be limited and possibly even subject yourself to an injury. An injury is only going to sideline you and make it a more difficult journey for you in terms of obtaining your goals.
Are you currently doing anything to measure and test your functional fitness?
Are you able to perform these movements as they are defined here?
What other functional strength movements do you incorporate into your current training program?
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