Guest Column: Functional strength training has many health benefits

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, February 27, 2018

By Mollee Tscholl

Mollee Tscholl is co-owner of Albert Lea’s Snap Fitness.

Mollee Tscholl

The term “functional strength” seems to be getting a lot of attention in the fitness industry these days, and several of our local fitness centers here in Albert Lea are promoting it as well. But just what is it? And why is it such a big deal?

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For many of us, a workout has always meant 30 minutes of cardio, either on the elliptical or the treadmill, and then afterward if time permits, we add in 10 to 15 minutes of lifting. And while this type of workout has many benefits for the cardiovascular system (heart) as well as strengthening specific muscles, it is limited in its ability to enhance movements by entire muscle groups and as a result get the neuromuscular system (brain) involved. Enter in functional strength training, which is the performance of work against resistance, such that improvements are made in specific movements, which require both the nervous and muscular system — thus, forcing entire muscle groups to participate. In our everyday lives, we perform a wide range of movements, whether it be walking, bending, pulling, twisting, turning, climbing, jumping, lunging, etc. When we unload our groceries, shovel snow, climb stairs, get up and down off the floor, carry our children or grandchildren; we are performing these movements. Functional strength training improves your ability to do these everyday activities and decreases the potential for sustaining an injury related to them. As we age, functional strength becomes more and more important.

A few weeks ago at Snap Fitness, we held free trial functional strength sessions as part of something new we are now offering. Individuals performed several exercises involving more than one muscle group using a variety of equipment (medicine balls, jump rope, battle ropes, etc.) for short periods of time. Not only were they involving both the neuromuscular and cardiovascular systems in their workout, but this type of training also has the benefit of burning more calories as well. That’s always good news! Another positive — for those of us with a busy schedule, functional strength training is about quality over quantity. A quality functional strength workout can be performed in as little as 20 minutes, although proper warmup is always strongly encouraged.

Here are a few other benefits of functional strength training. I encourage you to try adding it in to your weekly workout regimen.

• Suitable for all ages and fitness levels

• Increases flexibility and coordination

• Improves balance and posture

• Relieves stress

• Burns fat/increases lean muscle mass

• Improves range of motion