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A man in a grey hoodie holds onto onto the posts of a strength training sled with his head hung so that his face is hidden but his long thing braids hand down from under the hood.

Functional fitness is focused on training your body of everyday life. This type of strength training incorporates large swaths of multiple muscle groups to emulate the types of everyday movements that are essential to an independent lifestyle.

Functional training is also a great way for people with disabilities or long-term injuries to focus on more practical weight training exercises to improve their functional strength and regain or maintain as much mobility, body strength, and independence as possible. Many of the exercises that are used in functional strength training can be modified to accommodate different access needs.

As always, talk to your medical care provider before engaging in any physical activity after an injury, and be sure to carefully stretch and warm up before you start any workout.

Burpees with Broad Jumps

Burpees are a great way to move from your warmup into your main workout routine. This exercise will not only help you to start building muscles all over your body but gets your heart rate up as well for a burst of cardio at the top of your workout. 

Despite this being a cardio exercise, the goal here is not to go as fast as you can, at least, not at first. Focus on your form and on shifting from one targeted muscle group to the next as you make your way through the motion. 

  1. Start in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Bend at the hips and fold until you can place your hands on the ground.
  3. Jump your feet back to a plank position.
  4. Lower your chest to the ground and do a push-up to bring yourself back to a plank.
  5. Jump your feet back under your hips as you support yourself with your hands.
  6. Instead of standing back up straight, bend your knees and rock back into a squat position.
  7. Push through the balls of your feet and take a two-footed jump forward.
  8. Reverse and take a jump back to your starting position.
  9. Repeat for 10-15 reps.
  10. Repeat for 3 sets.


Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts

Any single-leg exercise is going to help you with balance, but they are also important to make sure that your limbs themselves are balanced and that your non-dominant limbs get some one-on-one attention. 

Single-leg Romanian deadlifts target mostly your lower body, but they do also engage your core, especially your lats. If balancing on one foot is difficult for you, you can place your lift foot on a bench or box behind you for added stability.

  1. Stand up straight with a dumbbell in each hand held down at your thighs. 
  2. Shift your body weight onto one foot keeping the knee soft and gently lift your other foot off the ground.
  3. Find a focal point with your eyes to help maintain balance as you hinge from your waist and allow the weights to pull your upper body down as you lift your back leg up straight behind you.
  4. When your torso and back leg are parallel to the ground, pause for a moment making sure your hips are square to the ground as well.
  5. Maintain control as you slowly lower your back leg and lift your torso back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for 10-12 reps.
  7. Switch legs and repeat for another 10-12 reps.
  8. Repeat for 3 sets.


Step-up to Shoulder Press

The step-up to shoulder press is another great full-body exercise that can double as cardio. Again, that doesn’t mean the goal is to do these as fast as you can, the full range of muscle activation and continuous motion are enough.

The best part about this exercise is how functional it truly is. Think of all the times you try to reorganize the top shelf in your closet, hang up a new shower curtain, or just put away dishes in cupboards above your head. This exercise will help you build and maintain all the muscles that go into those everyday motions. 

  1. Set up a bench or box as your elevated surface and make sure that it is stable before coming to your start position standing behind it with a dumbbell in each hand. 
  2. Raise the dumbbells up to rest at shoulder height with your elbows tucked in and pointed down. 
  3. Lift your right foot up to the platform and find a secure footing before shifting your weight forward and pushing up through the heel of your right foot to lift your left foot off the ground.
  4. As you come up to standing on your elevated surface with only your right leg rooted down, push up with your arms to press the dumbbells overhead in a shoulder press.
  5. Maintain control as you lower the weights back to your shoulders and continue to reverse the motion by bending your right knee and letting your left foot come back to the ground. 
  6. Bring your right fit off of the platform and repeat the exercise with your left foot leading.
  7. Repeat for 10-12 reps.
  8. Repeat for 3 sets.


Renegade Row

The renegade row is a targeted upper-body exercise that will work your arms as well as your core. The basic motion of this exercise is to perform a dumbbell row while maintaining a plank position.

The most important thing to focus on with the renegade row is to keep your plank form as close to level as you can when you are performing the row. You will have to shift your weight to one side, but try not to roll your toro over as this will put extra stress on your shoulder and elbow which could result in strain or injury. 

  1. Start off in a plank position where your hands are rooted through your grip on each dumbbell aligned under your shoulders. 
  2. Engage your core as you shift your weight to your left hand and squeeze your right elbow up and back to bring your right hand and dumbbell up to your chest. 
  3. Pause for a second before reversing the motion and lowering your right hand and dumbbell back to the ground.
  4. Switch sides and repeat with the left hand. 
  5. Repeat for 10-12 reps.
  6. Repeat for 3 sets.


Wood Chop

Since your core is such an essential part of your body’s overall functionality, it’s an area that you want to engage as much as possible in as many different ways as possible. The wood chop is an excellent way to make sure that you are working all of the muscles involved in your core mobility.

The wood chop emulates the common, combined core motion of lifting and twisting at the same time. This can help to improve or maintain your ability to perform all kinds of daily activities from managing groceries to loading the dishwasher and, perhaps most importantly, being able to lift the little ones you love, be those fur babies or human ones. 

If you don’t feel comfortable doing the wood chop with a dumbbell, you can also use a resistance band looped around your thigh or tied to an anchored point. 

  1. Stand with your feet just shoulder-width apart holding one dumbbell by either end with both hands.
  2. Move the dumbbell over to your right as you rotate your torso and sink your hips back and down into a half-squat position.
  3. Engage your core as you begin to stand and start to rotate back to center as you extend your arms up and lift the weight from your thigh all the way up over your left shoulder as you rotate to the left allowing your right foot to pivot slightly. 
  4. Reverse the motion and bring the weight back down to your right thigh as you sink back into the slight squat. 
  5. Repeat for 10-12 reps.
  6. Switch sides and repeat for another 10-12 reps.
  7. Repeat for 3 sets.


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