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Functional training means you are training in a manner so that your strength gains “carry over” to real life functions. In other words, you are training with the mindset of improving the rest of your life—instead of just for cosmetic reasons. On a personal note, I favour functional training because most functional exercises train your whole body, and remember your body always works as a unit in real life. Secondly, it (functional training) builds many physical attributes simultaneously and as a result has the added benefit of making your physique look completely balanced.
The fixed pattern of standard resistance machines are of limited use in functional training, because they rarely mimic natural movements and usually focus on the development of a single muscle group. In functional training many muscle groups are worked simultaneously including the stabiliser and peripheral muscles. Two good examples of functional training are sledgehammer and tyre lifting training. We are going to look at these methods and the various muscle groups that are recruited during the movements.
For sledgehammer training, all you need is a good sledge and a tractor tyre. Sledges come in a variety of weights; pick one that you can maneuver comfortably.
There are two basic ways of using the sledge:
Method 1—Stand in front of the tyre with your body square and your feet approximately shoulder width apart. Hold the base of the sledge handle with both hands and raise the sledge overhead with your elbows slightly bent. From this position, strike down on the tyre while you keep your back in a flat position and maintain a soft knees posture. It is important not to round off your lower back during the movement.
Method 2—Stand with your left side closest to the tyre, so that your left leg is ahead of your right leg and the sledge is positioned off the right side of your body.
Hold the sledge handle at the base with your left hand, while your right hand is positioned higher up on the handle. After raising the sledge overhead, strike down and at the same time allow your right hand to slide towards your left hand with a smooth flowing action.
In both methods, you are using your arms, shoulders, legs, abs, back, forearm, and stabiliser muscles; apart from these multiple muscle benefits, repeatedly striking the tyre is also excellent cardio.
For this exercise, all you need is a tractor tyre. Stand square in front of the tractor tyre and squat down as you grab the lower edge of the tyre with both hands. Raise and flip the tyre as you simultaneously begin to straighten your body. As soon as you have flipped the tyre, jump in the tyre with both feet and as you land, immediately jump out and in front of the tyre in a plyometric manner. Muscles used in this movement are your arms, shoulders, legs back, abs and calves; while strong emphasis is placed on developing explosive power in your leg muscles as you jump in and out of the tyre. Repeat this movement for three sets of 20 reps. Functional training is never boring and can help to improve your performance in a variety of sports, by training your muscles through a wide variety of angles.
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