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By Letshego Zulu


Why you should be doing functional training

Choose one exercise or stretch to do every morning and every night. Your body will thank you.

The message I always share with people is exercise is anywhere and everywhere you are. If you can clear a square metre around you, anywhere you are, that can be your own little gym.

While on a trip in China a few years ago with my PopUpGym partner, we started doing walking lunges and squats while waiting for a train. Many people are unaware that these kinds of exercises can essentially be done wherever you are. So the truth is we really have no excuse at all to avoid exercise.

Bodyweight exercises (also known as functional training or calisthenics) are one of the oldest and most common types of exercise around. These are exercises that solely rely on the body’s function and require minimal to no equipment, hence we did them at the train station.

Whether you spend all your time in a corporate office, a mine or you are a cabin attendant who flies everywhere, there is always an opportunity to squeeze in some exercises in your work environment.

Functional training exercises incorporate important movement patterns used on a daily basis. Movements such as lifting things, bending down to pick up items, moving things from one place to the next and so on.

Picture: iStock

These movement patterns include a variety of:

  • Squatting exercises
  • A variety of lunges
  • Deadlifts
  • Pushing exercises (such as push-ups)
  • Pulling exercises (such as pull-ups).

Although all five movement patterns are interconnected within the body, the squats, lunges and deadlifts predominantly target the functionality, strength and conditioning of the lower body whereas the pushing and pulling exercises are more focused on the upper body.

For example, an exercise such as a push-up improves the muscle strength of one’s upper arm and chest muscles. When performed with the correct posture and alignment, it targets most muscle groups in the body (legs, core, upper back and shoulders) because they need to all function together for the successful execution of the exercise.

The great thing about push-ups is that once you master the standard push-up, there are many more variations to help improve your strength even further.

Picture: iStock

I have personally become a huge fan of functional training because not only can it be done anywhere, anytime but because the strength and conditioning gained from it has positively affected my running, cycling and swimming.

When I have incorporated at least two sessions of functional training per week in my training schedule for a triathlon, my speed, strength and endurance improve dramatically. These exercises are also great for toning up one’s body.

Cardio exercises are great for shedding the kilograms but what really tones the body and gives you definition is bodyweight exercises and weight training.

These are also exercises that on those busy days when one is unable to find their way to a gym facility, they can be done in your personal space at home or any other open area.

To name a few such exercises that can even be done in any space that you create:

  • Push-ups
  • Squats
  • Burpees
  • Mountain climbers
  • Sit-ups

Picture: iStock

If you performed a minute of each exercise three times, it would be a 15-minute full body workout and all you need is an open space, a yoga mat and some energy.

As a parting note of inspiration, when I wake up I do 10 push-ups next to my bed and before I jump into bed at night I do 10 push-ups because I want strong arms. This is a little habit that I’ve created for myself and I’m reaping the benefits with nicely toned arms.

Why not start a similar habit? Choose one exercise or stretch to do every morning and every night. Your body will thank you.

Zulu is a qualified biokineticist and co-founder of PopUpGym. Follow her on Instagram: @letshego.zulu; Twitter: @letshegom; Facebook: Letshego Zulu

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