Picture yourself looking out the window from your dream bungalow. The nearly cloudless sky is reflecting off the aquamarine water. A sandy beach beckons you to the water’s edge. Perhaps your grandchildren or nieces and nephews are calling for you to come play. Or, maybe it is just you and a gripping new novel.
You bend over to grab your beach chair and bag from the floor, filling it with a few essentials. You reach up and pull your favorite hat from the wall hook. You tuck the beach umbrella under your arm and push the door open. The air is the perfect temperature and the gentle breeze carries the scent of the nearby vegetation. You navigate the path to the beach, stepping over wood, stones and drifts of sand.
Here it is, your peaceful spot. Bending at the waist you set down all that you’ve carried. The sand is soft, so you drive the umbrella base into the sand and push open the colorful fabric. Just as you stand to admire your work, the breeze lifts your hat off your head. You twist quickly trying to catch it but it flies just out of reach. It begins to tumble in the sand and you lunge forward to grab it before it is caught in the waves. With your hat back in its proper place, you open your chair and sink into its low frame. You reach into the bag by your side, savor the view and sigh. A perfect day is underway.
This day my friends, is why movement matters.
This dreamy scene is made possible by a body that carries, supports and leads us to our favorite adventures. This body can navigate the path, pull, push, lunge, squat, hinge and rotate with confidence. These movements are often referred to as functional movements - the ones our real-world bodies use every day.
Our exercise doesn't need to be about losing weight or looking a certain way. Our workouts can be about training for more enjoyment and ease in our daily lives and on our best vacations. Training for days just like the one described above.
Functional movements can be defined as movements based on the real-world situational demands placed on our bodies. If you re-read that opening - the 6 key functional movements of push, pull, rotate, hinge, squat and lunge were all used just in that small trip to the beach. In our typical day we use them to carry groceries, get off the floor, open a car door and even sit on the toilet.
The real-world biomechanical demands on our body usually take place in multiple planes, involve multiple joints and require a strong and efficient core. You don’t have to do a super-intense workout to develop a greater capability around your functional movements. You don’t even have to call it exercise. (Hey, maybe you even call it your beach movement practice!)
These movement patterns can be found throughout my client’s programs because they help the body achieve one of its most important jobs - to help us move in the world the way we want to. Below you will find several moves that help you build capability in the functional movements. One is focused on mobility and the other on strength.
Mobility: down dog to plank pose
Strength: plank push up or overhead dumbbell press
Mobility: scarecrow/goal post shoulder series
Strength: lat pullover
Mobility: hurdle walks
Strength: single leg hip hinge
Mobility: hinge to squat
Strength: ball squat or front loaded squat
Mobility: side stretch with a cross reach (good for thoracic spine)
Strength: single leg chop (do both sides)
Mobility: lateral lunges and front lunges with reaches
Strength: front lunge, lateral lunge or a reverse lunge - there are lots of options
Gait and carry are also often described as functional movements. Human gait involves our hips and shoulders moving opposite of each other. It requires an adequate range of motion in our ankles, knees and hips. A farmer’s carry is an example of an exercise that can help us improve both gait and carry functions.
If you’d like to see these exercises all in one place, jump on over to my YouTube channel and find my playlist called “functional movements”.
You can also put functional movements together to make a full workout. Here is a 12 minute AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible) to try.
1 round =
4 squats with alternating shoulder presses
1 front lunge, side lunge and curtsy lunge each side
4 hip hinges with a row
Step back into a high plank and hold for 4 counts
I encourage you to think about these moves as practice for your perfect day or perfect adventure. Pick one or two and give your body the gift of movement practice with the only goal being to build more confidence and ease in the movement.
Thanks for being here!
I am a strength and balance coach for women who want to live a healthy, well rounded life now and in the years to come. If your body is holding you back from enjoying the activities and people that matter to you, let's chat!