I first heard the term ‘functional movement’ over ten years ago while interning at a health retreat in Australia’s Gold Coast hinterland. Every morning the guests at the retreat would sit down to a health seminar on various aspects of optimal living, and ‘functional movement’ had a whole session devoted to it so I figured it must be a key concept I should pay attention to, and rightly so!
What are Functional Movements?
Basically functional movements are the core basic movements your body was designed for biomechanically. There are 7 altogether:
- SQUAT – The movement of sitting down and standing up
- LUNGE – The movement of walking, climbing up and down stairs, and picking something off the ground
- HINGE – Hinging from the waist to pick something up
- PUSH – e.g. throwing or moving something
- PULL – e.g. collecting something from a shelf, dragging something
- ROTATE (TWIST) – twisting from a seated or standing position
- GAIT (WALK/RUN) – A healthy gait is fundamental to daily life
All movements we perform are based on the above, or a combination of the above. These essential movement patterns have been programmed into us since the beginning of our existence and are vital to our wellbeing as a species. Think squatting to build a fire, running away from danger, throwing a spear, gathering food etc. Fast forward to nowadays and these basic moves are often being compromised by our sedentary lifestyles. Sitting in front of a computer for 8 hours a day, binge watching television, travelling by car, and all the convenient modern day appliances that mean you have to work very little physically to get stuff done. For this reason you should be incorporating functional movement into your exercise routine as much as possible to ensure your nervous system is conditioned to move with ease whether you are at work, enjoying hobbies, playing sports or just going about daily life. As the saying goes, use it or lose it!
How it differs to Bodybuilder Training
We all know the type. The beefy guys or girls at the gym exerting maximum effort into training individual body parts to get that massive pump going. This old school training is not functional movement training. Why? Because it:
- Isn’t related to movements performed in everyday life
- Restricts range of motion
- Shortens and tightens muscle tissues
- Can lead to muscular imbalances
- Typically doesn’t develop important stabiliser muscles
These points are no good if your goal is to become truly physically fit and not just have bulging biceps. Functional movement patterns allow you to improve fitness holistically, using several muscle groups at once, while also creating a lean and toned physique.
Incorporating Optimal Functional Movement
Form is foremost when moving functionally. Rather than heading to the gym and loading up the squat rack, start by simply doing a few body weight squats slowly at home and work your way up to incorporating additional weight. No matter your age or fitness level there are functional, natural movement exercises for everyone. Examples could include pushups, inverted rows, lunges with rotation, planks, Turkish get-ups, yoga squats, deadlifts and many more. If you’re unsure of how to perform any exercise make sure you check with a trainer or fitness professional before attempting.
If you’re interested in learning more and implementing functional movement into your life, Nourish recommends getting in touch with Rebecca Lewis, founder of Barefoot Mallorca. Rebecca specialises in MovNat – a functional and natural movement method that teaches us, or reminds us, of the fundamental human movements we would still be using if we lived in a more natural environment.
Written by Ché Miller
About the author
Ché has always had a passion for hospitality having completed a conjoint Bachelors Degree in International Business and Hospitality Management. She has spent the last 15 years working in the hospitality industry. This passion led her to working in a premier health retreat in Australia in her twenties. There she found the knowledge she gained there inspired her to start living a healthier life.
Now Ché loves to combine her two favourite things, hospitality and wellbeing. She scours the island for the best nourishing restaurants, products and services. Ché has been living in Mallorca since early 2017, having moved from her home in New Zealand. She absolutely loves the energy of the island and everything it has to offer.
Ché’s other interests include ashtanga yoga, boxing, reading, writing, and really good coffee.