Functional Movement Exercises are essential to full body fitness and performance
When it comes to functional movement and maintaining mobility throughout ones life, you have to practice dynamic quality movement regularly.
Some people think of the body as a series of hinges, but it's actually more like a spring that was made to bend and twist through multiple planes of motion....A LOT! That said, the more functional movement patterns and exercises you can incorporate into your workout routine, the better you'll feel and perform.
In fact, as you age these functional movement exercises should be your number 1 or 2 priority in the gym. Mobility truly is something you'll lose if you don't work at it regularly.
Most people simply accept the idea of joint pain and immobility as a natural part of the aging process, but this couldn't be further from the truth. Losing the ability to get up and down off the ground or move efficiently is a matter of not doing those activities, not age.
Think about Tom Brady: at 40 years old he still moves better than most quarterbacks half his age.
Why? Because he not only focuses on strength and conditioning, but on including functional movement exercises and joint mobility into his program. This keeps him lose and spry, while the other aging athletes harden up and get injured.
If you're interested in learning more about Tom Brady's methods, I encourage you to read his book, The TB12 Method, which outlines his specific movement protocols. Say what you will about Tom Brady and modeling in his underwear, the guy knows what he's doing when it comes to training.
Anyways, here is a quick list of functional movement exercises/patterns to include in your weekly training. These can be done with weight, but in my opinion they are most effective if you use your bodyweight and really focus on the quality of your movements.
8 Functional Movement Patterns and Exercises For Maintaining Optimal Mobility
Functional Movement Pattern #1: Squat
The bodyweight squat is a simple movement pattern that is essential to sitting, getting up and down off the floor, picking things up, etc. Maintaining the ability to squat is also important for maintaining healthy knees, low back, and also maintaining normal bowel function.
To make sure you are doing plenty of them, start by adding a few sets to your warm up routine; especially if you can't handle using weight. Then, as your mobility increases you can play around with different variations and start adding weight.
Functional Movement Pattern #2: Lunge
The lunge is also an essential movement pattern that has direct carry over into many every day activities including climbing stairs, hiking, and picking up things from the floor. Like the squat, there are numerous variations and angles you can train to improve your range of motion, balance and overall ability.
Functional Movement Pattern #3: Hinge
In our opinion the hinge may be the most important movement pattern for protecting your back from injury; especially for practicing proper form for picking up heavy objects, kids, etc.
Some of the best exercises for practicing hinging include stiff-legged deadlifts and kettlebell swings. These exercises are great because they allow you to slow down the movement so that you can really focus on what is happening in the movement and less on hoisting heavy weight.
Functional Movement Pattern #4: Push
The easiest way to practice pushing is by using push ups and overhead pressing movements. If you lack the strength to do proper push ups, you can always use resistance bands or a cable pulley machine to add resistance.
Pressing is essential for lifting things overhead safely, getting up off the floor, and moving objects like dressers and other heavy furniture.
Functional Movement Pattern #5: Pull
Pulling is the opposite of pushing, so it makes sense to train as many pulling variations as possible to balance out the body's strength. Most of us don't climb trees or obstacle course walls regularly, but maintaining the ability to pull one's own body weight is important none the less.
Bodyweight rows and pull ups are a great way to train this. We recommend getting a good suspension trainer or olympic ring set for your home and practicing pulling movements as often as possible. Another great way is to put a pull up bar in a door way and bust out a few pull ups or rows every time you walk by.
Functional Movement Pattern #6: Rotation
Twisting is an essential movement pattern that is often overlooked. Rotational strength is important for maintaining proper posture, preventing injury, and for performing almost all daily activities safely.
Even something simple like picking up and twisting with a laundry basket or heavy trash bag can become hazardous if you don't have solid rotational strength.
The best way to practice rotating is to add twisting elements to other exercises in your workout program. For example; lunges with a twist, Russian Twists, etc.
Functional Movement Pattern #7: WalkING
Walking properly is obviously fundamental to human life. Do it regularly and go for walks as often as possible. Don't just walk though: practice proper foot striking, gait, and posture. Keep your chin up and look straight a head.
Avoid arching your back, dragging your knuckles, and starting at the ground like a zombie ape. And do NOT text and walk. We can't tell you how many people we see do this and it is absolutely maddening. Put your device away and get lost in the movement, not lost in the matrix.
Beside being a fundamental movement pattern that is great for mobility, walking is a great stress reliever. If you're stressed, go for a walk instead of pounding a few beers.
Functional movement Pattern #8: Crawling
When we are born we learned to crawl before walking. Cross-crawling patterns are great for the brain and help us maintain the ability to get up and down off the ground and work on our hands and knees safely.
Exercises like bear crawls and other baby crawling exercises are great mobility builders and they are also great full body exercises that are a lot of fun to do.
Conclusion: The body is dynamic and if you want it to move properly you have to move it frequently. Functional movement exercises are just as important as regular strength training to ensure the body can perform optimally throughout your entire life. Again, losing the ability to move is due to a lack of movement, not age.
Again, the best way to practice these patterns is to incorporate them into the workouts you are already doing. This will ease the time burden and actually help make your workouts more functional.
Like we said, if you don't train these patterns you'll eventually lose the ability to do them or you'll get hurt. So do them often!