Functional Fitness is one of the hottest fitness trends out there right now, but what exactly is it? Simply put, functional fitness is exercising to improve the way your body works.

Traditional weight training isolates the muscle groups, while functional fitness focuses on teaching your muscle groups to work together to make everyday activities easier. It’s great if you can bench press a bulldozer and look smokin’ hot in a bikini, but you also need to be able to lift your toddler out of his car seat, carry a half-ton of groceries to your car, move furniture to rescue toys that “magically disappeared,” and make a million trips up and down the stairs while carrying an overflowing laundry basket.

  • Functional fitness training gives you the ability to do everything you need to do in your daily life without pain.
  • Functional fitness works major muscle groups in their full range of motion to improve everyday ease of movement.
  • Functional fitness emphasizes balance, requiring the body to activate smaller stabilizing muscles not used in other forms of exercise.
  • Functional fitness works several areas of the body at once, rather than isolating a particular muscle group.
  • Functional fitness is quality of life movement.

Functional fitness exercises use multiple muscles and joints to improve muscular endurance, overall strength, coordination, balance, posture, and agility.  Try these functional fitness moves from SheKnows to get a challenging, effective and fun full-body workout as well as prepare your body for everyday, real world activities:

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Medicine ball squat with overhead lift:  Stand with your feet wide, holding a medicine ball in front of you in both hands. Squat down moving your rear back, keeping your knees over your ankles and lower the medicine ball to the floor while keeping your head up and back straight (don’t hunch). Return to a start position and lift the medicine ball up over your head. Repeat squat and lower ball to the ground. Perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions. Increase weight of the ball as you get stronger. (A dumbbell can be used if you don’t have a medicine ball.)

Lunge with back row:  Holding a weight in each hand, step your right foot forward and your left foot back, keeping both heels on the floor and feet pointing straight ahead. Bend your right knee until it is over your right ankle. Lower your chest towards your thigh, bringing your arms straight down, weights on either side of your front leg. Keep your back flat (don’t hunch) — this is your start position. Straighten your right leg, row your elbows back and squeeze your shoulder blades together, keeping your torso angled slightly forward. Return to start position. Repeat 10 to 15 times for each leg. Increase the weight of the dumbbells as you get stronger. This exercise can also be done with a resistance band looped underneath the front foot.

Hip extension with reverse fly:  Stand tall with a 5-pound dumbbell in each hand. Extend your right leg back and place your toe on the floor keeping your right leg straight. Lean forward slightly at the hips. Lift your right leg behind you as you bring your chest towards the floor and lift your arms straight out forming a T at your shoulders, squeezing your shoulder blades together and keeping your head in line with your neck. Return to start position. Repeat 10 to 15 times for each leg. As you get stronger, increase dumbbell weight and try adding ankle weights.

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Diagonal reach with medicine ball:  Stand tall holding a medicine ball at your chest with both hands. Lift medicine ball diagonally overhead to the right, straightening your arms, while extending your left leg to the side, making a diagonal line from the medicine ball to your toes. Lower to start position. Repeat 10 to 15 times for each leg. Increase the weight of the medicine ball and add ankle weights as you get stronger.

Torso rotation with medicine ball:  Sit on the ground with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, holding a medicine ball at your chest with both hands. Lean your torso back away from your thighs, and pull your belly button in towards your spine. Leaning back, rotate your torso to the right, moving your right elbow towards the floor behind you. Return center and rotate to the left. Repeat 10 to 15 times for each side. As you get stronger, perform the rotations with straighter arms and/or use a heavier medicine ball. Always keep your belly button pulled in and your core tight.

Knee lift with lateral raise:  Stand tall with a 5-pound weight in each hand, arms to your sides. Lift your right knee until it reaches hip level while simultaneously lifting your arms straight out to the side to form a T at your shoulders. Hold for 2 seconds making sure your belly button is pulled in and your core is tight, then lower to start position. Repeat 10 to 15 times for each leg. Increase the weight of the dumbbells as you get stronger.

Push-up with hip extension:  Get on your hands and knees, hands wider than shoulder-distance apart. Extend your right leg straight back and tighten your core muscles. Keeping your leg lifted, lower your chest to the ground until each of your elbows is at a 90-degree angle then push up. Repeat 10 to 15 times for each leg.  For a more advanced version, perform exercise with straight legs, one leg lifted, the other positioned on your toes.

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Stair climb with bicep curl:  Stand at the bottom of a flight of stairs holding a 5-pound dumbbell in each hand. Climb the stairs while performing bicep curls. Walk or run down the stairs holding the weights but not doing curls. Repeat 5 to 10 times. Increase the dumbbell weight as your arms get stronger and mix up your climbs by taking two steps at a time for a flight or two.

Supine bridge with arm extension:  Sit on the floor with your hands underneath your shoulders, knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Keeping your arms straight, use your legs to push your hips up to the ceiling until your torso is flat like a table top. Lift your right arm straight up towards the ceiling, rotating your upper body so that it is being supported by your left arm, keeping your hips lifted. Lower your right arm to start position and just slightly lower your hips but don’t let them return to the floor. Repeat with your left arm. Repeat 10 to 15 times for each side.

Dynamic prone plank:  Get into plank position, keeping your head, back and legs in a straight line and your arms straight underneath your shoulders. Lift your rear to the ceiling, pulling your belly button into your spine, forming a pike or downward dog (yoga) position, lengthening your arms and legs. Return to plank position and bend your elbows against your sides, lowering your torso and legs to the floor. Keeping your lower body flat on the floor, use your arms to push your chest and head up towards the ceiling (similar to the cobra in yoga), stretching out the front of your body. Lower down and push your body back into plank position. Repeat 5 to 10 times. As you get stronger, increase the number of repetitions.