Now, what could be some effective training tools that you can incorporate in your quest for functional strength?
Thus, if the previous were applied, your training regime consists of lots of compound movements, alongside some relaxed stretching and self-myofascial release. Congratulations!
Your training program is already far superior to that of half the people in the gym and will be better for your functional strength and your overall health and fitness.
But there’s just one problem… it’s pretty boring!
Notice in the real world, we don’t do the same five things over and over again. In fact, in the real world, our ‘form’ on each movement is completely different every time we do anything.
You don’t really squat in the wild, but rather you would pick up randomly shaped boulders.
Likewise, you’d be forced to do pull ups on branches that were completely the wrong shape and size or you’d have to run across uneven terrain. Then fight a lion… (maybe).
In other words, training should be constantly changing and varied if it’s really going to mimic the real world and if it’s really going to be ‘functional’.
So how do you ensure your workouts fit that bill? Simple: you introduce some interesting tools and techniques that will mix things up for you.
Here are some of these functional strength training tools:
Kettlebells have grown to become some of the most popular tools for use in the gym as more and more people have been waking up to the importance of functional strength.
The kettlebell is essentially a weight that can be used like dumbbell but which has an entirely different shape. Specifically, the dumbbell is shaped like an iron ball with a handle poking out of the top.
What this means, is that when you lift it, the weight is below your arm. That now means that it’s capable of swinging and of creating its own momentum, which you then have to control and fight against in order to perform repetitions.
This then forces you to use your core in what would otherwise be relatively isolated movements. Likewise, it challenges you to lift at awkward angles and to generate power in unexpected ways.
All in all, kettlebells are more functional than dumbbells and provide some interesting new training options.
But perhaps their most important use is the kettlebell swing. This is a movement that involves clasping the handle with both hands and then swinging the weight between your legs while going through a squatting and ‘popping’ movement.
This then mimics the movement you use when you perform deadlifts but means you don’t need to find space in your house for a whole barbell that you’ll be dropping repeatedly on the floor.
It also means that the exercise is much faster, which turns it into a great fat-burning move as well as a muscle-building one.
When you combine these benefits, the kettlebell is alone one of the most versatile and important pieces of training equipment in your arsenal.
Indian Club Training
Off the back of the kettlebell has come another very popular piece of training equipment: the Indian club. The Indian club doesn’t look like anything special; rather it looks like a stick with a heavy ball on the end of it. Like the kettlebell, though, its strength lies in its awkwardness.
When you wave around the Indian club, the weight isn’t where your brain expects it to be and you’re essentially lifting it against a long lever arm. These combined factors mean that you’re once again forced to engage your core and your grip if you want to keep it under control.
The Indian club is great fun and an awesome training tool if you have a garden. If you use it in the hoes though, you can expect to smash just about everything you own…
And this brings us to another interesting option: which is to just use the stuff lying around your house. You don’t have to spend money on fancy training equipment because almost everything in your house is unevenly weighted and can be turned into a piece of workout equipment.
A great example? A chair that’s strong enough to be lifted and swung around. Here once again, the weight is much greater at the end and if you hold the top of it, you’ll be forced to engage all kinds of muscles just to keep it in place.
Another craze that has taken off alongside the whole functional movement… movement… is that of barefoot running.
Barefoot running means taking off your shoes before going jogging, normally through a rural environment of trails that challenge you to jump over ditches and dodge around roots and stones.
When you do this, your toes are able to splay across the ground that prevents you from falling over or twisting your ankle while simultaneously letting you use the small muscles in your foot to propel yourself forward.
Barefoot running should be able to help you improve your gait as well, by forcing you to land with the ball of your foot when you land.
This cushions your fall more than hitting the floor with your heel first, as most of us do and allows the leg to bend like a leopard’s, in the food, in the ankle, in the knee, and at the hip.
Of course, barefoot running doesn’t always mean going completely barefooted as that wouldn’t be very wise anywhere where you could step on glass or sharp stones.
Instead, you can use barefoot shoes like the Vibram Five Fingers. These offer pockets for your toes, allowing them to move freely but also offering just enough protection to keep you safe.
Another very exciting piece of equipment you can use for training in a functional manner is TRX. TRX is a device that can attach to a pull-up bar (which you can get for your doorframe for about $10) and which then gives you suspension straps you can rest your hands and feet on.
This then allows you to perform all kinds of cool moves, from bodyweight rows holding onto the handles and pulling your upper body toward the bar to suspended push-ups and bodyweight dips both of which force you to stabilize your body as the handles wobble around.
But don’t actually buy TRX. Why? Because TRX costs about $200 and you can get the very same thing with a pair of gymnastic rings. Gymnastic rings will cost you all of about $20 and which are actually more versatile.
Important: Once again, it’s important at this juncture to mention some health and safety. Injury to the shoulder is common with TRX/gymnastic rings. Likewise, injury to the knee is common with barefoot running and Vibrams.
That’s not to say these aren’t good for you, it just means that you have to be careful and introduce them slowly into your routine while taking care to get proper instruction.