When you have a few minutes, what do you do for fun? I don’t know about you, but I make up new workout routines. I’m designing a workout I call the “Push-Pull Punisher” right now, but this post is about functional training.
There are many ways to design a workout. The last post showed how to design based on two important fitness scales. Another way is to design for functional activity; that is, the workout reflects how you use your body every day.
PUSH, PULL, BEND, TWIST, SQUAT, LUNGE
The human body has only 6 basic movements: push (upper/lower body), pull (upper/lower body), bend (torso, extremities), twist (torso, extremities), squat (lower body) and lunge (lower body). These correlate to things like: closing a car door, taking a can from a shelf, picking up a child, reaching for a doorknob, standing up from a chair, and walking.
When designing a workout for these functional patterns, think about whole-body movements and strengthening your core. Body weight exercises are ideal for this type of workout because they are combination, multi-joint, multi-planar and emphasize stability and mobility. You can do the arm movements of these exercises with or without weight (a few dumbbells or a resistance/medicine ball) and have a solid workout. Always maintain good technique. If you can’t maintain good technique, then you should stop or modify the exercise–for example, by sitting rather than standing.
- Warm up 5 minutes – step run, high knee run, jumping lacks, etc.
- 10 Push Ups from knees or toes (Push, Bend) – upper/torso
- 10 Squat Press (Squat, Push) – lower/torso
- 10 Bent Row (Bend, Pull) – upper/torso
- 10 Side Lunge with Reverse Fly (Pull, Lunge, Bend) – upper/lower/torso
- 10 Wood Chop (Push, Twist, Lunge) - upper/lower/torso
- 10 Plank Pendulums (Push) – upper/lower/torso
- Cool down 5 minutes – walk, stretch
Bent Row with Barbell
Reverse Fly with Band
If you want to take charge of your fitness, there are two scales that will help you sort through the noise: Metabolic Equivalent (MET) and Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE). As a personal trainer, I use these charts when training with clients and communicating with other allied health professionals. They’re a convenient way to structure every workout.
The MET is a practical procedure for expressing the energy cost of physical activities. 1 MET = the energy (oxygen) used by the body at rest. The harder your body works, the more oxygen is consumed and the higher the MET level. Activity that burns 3 to 6 METs is considered moderate-intensity physical activity. Activity that burns more than 6 METs is considered vigorous-intensity physical activity. Moderate-intensity physical activity causes an increase in breathing and/or heart rate, results in 3-6 METs of effort, and burns 3.5 to 7 Calories per minute (kcal/min). For example, kissing and hugging uses about 1.3 METs, mowing the lawn with a power mower uses about 5 METs, and “Dance Dance Revolution” uses about 7.2 METs. Compenium of Physical Activities
The RPE scale is used to measure the intensity of your exercise from 0 – 10. The numbers relate to phrases used to rate how easy or difficult you find an activity. For example, 0 (nothing at all) would be how you feel when sitting in a chair. 10 (very, very heavy) is how you feel at the end of an all-out effort. Include increased heart rate, increased respiration or breathing rate, increased sweating, and muscle fatigue. Don’t concern yourself with any one thing like shortness of breath, but try to focus on your total feeling of exertion. Think of your exertion without thinking about what the actual physical load is or how it compares to others. Although this is a subjective measure, once you get familiar with using it, it will provide a good estimate of your actual heart rate during physical activity.
RPE 10 Scale
0 – Nothing at all (I do this all day.)
1 – Very light (I could probably do this all day, too.)
2 – Light (This isn’t so bad.)
3 – Moderate (I can feel this.)
4 – Somewhat heavy (I can really feel this.)
5 – Heavy (Wow, you want me to do this for how long?)
6 – Heavy (You’re crazy if you think I’m doing this very long.)
7 – Very heavy (If I could talk, I’d have some choice words for you.)
8 – Very heavy (Really, can I stop?)
9 – Very heavy (I have to stop!)
10 – Very, very heavy (I’m dead.)
What Level of Exercise (MET)?
New: If you’re new to exercise or just getting back in shape after being inactive, you can start with just 15 minutes of exercise per day. Go for light to moderate exercise (3-6 METs). Add a few minutes to your exercise time per week until you’re completing 25 minutes.
On-and-Off: If you’ve maintained some level of conditioning, you should exercise at a more vigorous level for at least 25 minutes (6-8 METs). Add a few minutes of exercise time each week. If you choose a light effort activity on a given day, just add 15 minutes to your total exercise time.
Steady for 6 months: If you’ve been exercising consistently, progress to 45 minutes of vigorous exercise for 6 days per week (6-8 METs). Try short bursts of hard effort (interval training like Tabata, HIIT or HICT) during 2 workouts per week, but not on consecutive days (9-10 METs).
What Level of Effort (RPE)?
Choosing the right level of effort allows you to make progress without hurting your muscles and joints. How can you know if a workout is too easy or too hard? Use the RPE Scale.
New: Maintain a moderate effort (4-5) for your workouts but a vigorous effort (6-7) for strength training. With good technique, newbies can make great strides early on. Include rest breaks between sets and concentrate on good technique.
On-and-Off: Maintain a moderate to vigorous effort for most of your workouts (5-6), and a hard effort for your strength training (7-8). You’ll achieve significantly greater health benefits!
Steady for 6 months: For 4 days per week, maintain a moderate to vigorous effort for your workouts (5-6). On 2 of the days, try increasing your effort to hard (7-8). Your strength training should be near maximal (8-9). Now you have a lifestyle that is proven to significantly reduce the risk of premature death and serious health problems.
REST & NUTRITION
You’ll benefit the most from your exercise by including healthy food and enough sleep each day. We know that beneficial hormones and tissue repairs occur during sleep but are hindered by sugar and vegetable (seed) oils.read more
One of the best ways to strengthen your bones and prevent osteoporosis is regular exercise. If you have osteoporosis or osteopaenia, exercising can help maintain the bone mass you have.
When you exercise, you don’t just build muscle and endurance. You also build and maintain the amount and thickness of your bones. Weight-bearing, resistance, and flexibility exercises all work to maintain your bones.
- For weight-bearing exercise, you can take walks, dance, or climb stairs whenever you have the chance.
- For resistance exercise, you can perform resistance bands, dumbbells, or bodyweight exercises.
- For flexibility exercise, you can perform regular stretching or engage in Yoga or T’ai Chi.
*Weight-bearing does not mean high impact, such as running, which may damage bones and joints. Also, certain bending and twisting movements aren’t recommended for those with osteoporosis. Talk to your doctor and work with a qualified trainer before engaging in a new exercise routine.
Here are few effective resistance exercises you can do by yourself at home:
SQUATS or WALL SLIDE: Strengthens hips, thighs, and buttocks.
- In front of a sturdy, armless chair, stand with feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Extend your arms out so they are parallel to the ground and lean forward a little at the hips.
- Making sure that your knees NEVER come forward past your toes, lower yourself in a slow, controlled motion until you reach a near-sitting position. Placing your weight more on your heels than on the balls or toes of your feet can help keep your knees from moving forward past your toes.
- Pause. Then slowly rise back up to a standing position. Keep your knees over your ankles and your back straight.
- If this is too difficult, squat instead with you back against a wall. Follow the same process.
- Repeat 10 times for one set. Rest for one to two minutes. Then complete a second set of 10 repetitions.
WALL PUSH UPS: Less challenging than a classic push-up and won’t require you to get down on the floor, but it strengthens your arms, shoulders, and chest.
- Find a wall that is clear of any objects. Stand a little farther than arm’s length from the wall.
- Facing the wall, lean your body forward and place your palms flat against the wall at about shoulder height and shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your elbows as you lower your upper body toward the wall in a slow, controlled motion, keeping your feet planted. Don’t round or arch your back.
- Pause. Then slowly push yourself back until your arms are straight.
- Repeat 10 times for one set. Rest for one to two minutes. Then complete a second set of 10 repetitions.
HIP ABDUCTION: Shapes and strengthens your hipbones, which may be especially vulnerable to fracture as you age.
- Stand behind a sturdy chair, with feet slightly apart and toes facing forward. Keep your legs straight. Do not lock your knees.
- Slowly lift your right leg out to the side. Keep your left leg straight. Do not lock your knee. Don’t lean to the side when you lift your leg.
- Pause. Then, slowly lower your right foot back to the ground.
- Repeat 10 times with the right leg and 10 times with the left leg for one set. Rest for one to two minutes. Then complete a second set of 10 repetitions with each leg.
Those at highest risk for low back pain are men and women between the ages of 30 and 55. Other risk factors include smoking and certain occupations (i.e. clerical, transportation). Weight and body type are not risk factors. However, depression and insomnia are strongly linked—either as predisposing or as a result.
So what can you do to help manage recurring or chronic low-back pain (LBP)?
First, you should get an exam from your doctor if you are experiencing LBP. Most LBP is mechanical, but not all, and there could be underlying causes that need medical treatment. Secondly, treatment will depend on the cause or the lack of one. Thirdly, even when you determine exercise will be the cornerstone of treatment, your program will need to be personalized. Exercise for LBP is not a one-size-fits-all program.
Your physical therapist will assign exercises that will improve strength and endurance, flexibility, and your aerobic capacity. Research has shown that the most successful interventions include programs that were individually designed, supervised, and included more than 20 hours overall. Stretching had the greatest impact on pain and strengthening provided functional improvements.
What to consider:
- Unlike regularly exercise for general fitness, LBP exercise should be performed daily.
- No pain, no gain is WRONG in this program.
- Cardiovascular exercise combined with specific back exercise is the most successful (It is believed cardiovascular/aerobic conditioning helps with LBP because it improves capillary development to the vertebral disks).
- Vertebral disks have different fluid level from morning to night, which changes the stress on them. Therefore, it’s best to do spine-motion exercise later in the day.
- There is no set of exercises ideal for all sufferers. Improvement in symptoms can take months, so patience and persistence are necessary.
If you’re experiencing LBP, see your doctor. You will likely be referred to a physical therapist, who will design a program using stretching, strengthening, and cardiovascular work for you to do with your trainer or at home.read more
If you’re confused about sets, repetitions (reps), and the amount of weight to lift during resistance training, you’re not alone. Not only is this confusing for many who are new to training, those who are familiar with training have different opinions.
We usually talk about about “training volume” (number of Sets x the number of Repetitions x Weight moved = Sets x Reps x Weight). Some believe there is a volume to focus on regardless of which number you adjust. However, as you increase the frequency of lifts, you’ll naturally lower the amount of the lift. So lifting 3 x 8 x 100 … or … 5 x 5 x 80 gets you about the same training volume.
Here’s a general breakdown of the different pieces of training volume and what they mean for you.
- SETS How many sets? Sets are a way to get a break for muscles to regain energy after you have fatigued them with reps. This is perhaps the most specific to an individual. In other words, find out what works for you. Lots of moderate sets or one intense set with heavier weight. You can avoid plateaus, as well, by changing this every 4-6 weeks.
- REPS How do you choose the number of reps? Generally, you do reps until your technique suffers or until you just can’t do anymore. At this point your muscle’s chemical energy has been depleted and your body needs to create more energy through one of the metabolic pathways (phospagen, glycolysis, or aerobic, depending on the exercise you have been doing). Although there is some overlap, you can generalize as follows:
- If you pick a weight that you can only do 5-8 reps with before your technique suffers, you’re building mostly strength.
- If you pick a weight that you can do 8-12 reps with before your technique suffers, then you’re building mostly size.
- If you’re lifting a weight that you can do 12-20 reps with before your technique suffers, then you’re building mostly endurance.
- WEIGHT How much weight (dumbbells, barbell, medicine ball, resistance band, etc) should you use? If you want to do 12 reps, you should pick a weight that is light enough to complete that many with proper technique, but heavy enough that adding one more rep compromises your technique or is just flat out too heavy. This will be different for different people as well as different for you as you progress.
Twice a week, and you’ll achieve good results that can be maintained over time. Or, if you want to gain specific size, strength, endurance, or performance, your trainer can help design a program to meet your goals.
If burning fat is your primary goal, focus on building the muscle groups that consume the most calories, such as your legs and back. Working smaller muscles, such as your biceps or calves, will have less impact.
Always follow proper technique and be sure you’re doctor has cleared you for exercise.
We focus on all of these! Okay, except I’m not all about “goal setting”. We all have goals, but we don’t always need goals, in my opinion. We need fun. I know we call it a “work”-out, but that’s part of the problem. Being active, being physical, playing, being in the moment and not thinking about the outcome/future/achievement–that’s better to me. So goals, sometimes important. Fun, always important!
- Teach not only the how but the why.
- Continue learning.
- Schedule time to workout off the clock.
- Love what you do.
- Encourage goal setting.
- Try something new.
- Lead by example.
- Keep inspiring fitness.
(From IDEA Health & Fitness Association)read more