Do we lose functionality because we get old? Or do we get old because we lose functionality?
This is a bold title and it may be taking a few liberties without knowing your personal circumstances. But if this sounds a bit presumptuous, consider how injuries and/or loss of functionality can affect your everyday life. In an era where exercises are more likely to be selected for how they will make us look rather than for what they will help us do, shifting at least part of our focus to exercises designed to prevent injury and improve function may just change your current and future quality of life.
Prerequisites: Quality Over Quantity
For many people, the biggest challenge is not the exercises that are featured here, but the mindset we have when approaching them. For functional exercises to reach their maximum potential, you need to let go of some common approaches. How much and how many is not as important as how well you perform them. If you are doing these exercises for the very first time and performing them with traditional fitness numbers, you are doing them wrong. This may also be a bit presumptuous (and I don’t use the term “wrong” often), but there is a fine line between a “functional exercise” that can enhance your life and a dysfunctional exercise that can cause injury. Not only is movement mastery the first priority in the beginning, it should be the only priority.
The following exercises are designed to improve functional strength, balance and range of motion. Incidentally, not only will these exercises not take away from general fitness and aesthetic goals, they can actually enhance them.
Learn How to Deep Squat
Purpose: Increased mobility of the ankles, knees and hips; increased functional range of strength; stronger glutes (butt), quads, hamstrings and calves; help protect the back and improve lifting mechanics
For decades, deep squats have been misrepresented as being “bad” for you, although nobody seems to be able to produce scientific evidence that deep squats that areperformed well are, in fact, dangerous. “Bad” is rarely found in the exercise itself and more in the way we approach and perform our exercises. Volume and intensity (quantity) that precedes good form (quality) can cause injury for any exercise and it will do little to improve function and performance. Chances are, you squatted quite well as a youngster, but may have lost your functional ability to perform a good deep squat. Rather than loading up a partial squat with resistance, reps and sets, instead focus on increasing the functional range of motion of the squat with your own body weight. A full body-weight squat alone can be a significant contributor to functionality. Whether you choose to incorporate resistance in the
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