7 Functional Fitness Exercises

As a strength coach to many professional athletes and entertainers, my job is to create a fitness program that helps them successfully perform their jobs. And while your profession my not involve scoring touchdowns, you need to train for your role, whether that involves safely picking up your baby from a crib or keeping your spine stable and linear while you sit at your desk.

Cardio machines and single-joint exercises all have their place in fitness, but with the limited amount of time that we can all dedicate to a wellness program, you need to be training your body the way you intend to have it play. Here are seven moves that will help you build a stronger body for your everyday activities.

How It Works
Perform as many reps of each exercise as possible in 60 seconds, resting 30 seconds between each move. Depending on your fitness level, perform 1 to 3 cycles.

1. Caterpillar Walkout: Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart and hands resting at sides. Lower hips into a squat position with hands in front of feet and palms on the floor. Quickly walk hands out until body is in pushup position, a straight line from head to heels. Pause, then reverse direction back to starting position.
Coach's Tip: To build greater symmetry in your hips and legs, try this exercise on one leg. Begin in the starting position with only your right leg on the floor. Perform the move for 30 seconds, then switch to the left leg for the remainder of the time.

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2. Lean Tower of Pisa: Stand tall with feet hip-width apart and arms extended out to sides parallel to the ground. Brace core and raise right knee to navel level until it forms a 90-degree angle with your body. Slowly rotate torso while leaning forward at hips and reaching right hand down to left foot. (As you lean forward, right leg will extend back behind hips.) Pause and reverse motion back to starting position, keeping right leg off the ground throughout the entire movement. After 30 seconds, switch to left leg.
Coach's Tip: Aim to form a "T" with your body with your leg fully extended back behind you and your torso parallel to the floor.

3. Get-Up: Lie face-up with legs fully extended, hip-width apart, right arm reaching toward the ceiling in front of chest, and left arm at side with palm on the floor. In one strong movement, draw both ankles toward glutes and lift torso upward as right hand punches up. Continue driving toward the ceiling, pressing into the floor with left palm and heels, to come to standing with right arm fully extended overhead. Reverse direction, only using right hand to lower back to starting position. Switch hands so left hand is extended in front of chest and repeat. Continue alternating arms.
Coach's Tip: Be certain that you only use one arm to stand and lower yourself back down to the ground.

4. Skipping Olympian: Stand tall with feet hip-with apart, arms extended out to sides parallel to the ground. Keeping right knee bent, quickly swing it backward, out to the side, then in front of your body, hopping left foot off the ground as if you were skipping. When right foot touches the ground, switch legs. Continue alternating between legs.
Coach's Tip: To ensure proper spine stability, avoid leaning forward at the hip and keep your chin parallel to the ground.

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5. Chop Squat: Stand tall with feet together and arms extended overhead, fingers interlocked. Brace core and quickly jump off the ground. Land in a wide squat with thighs parallel to the ground while swinging arms toward right hip until they come to rest just outside right knee. (You will be performing a chopping motion with your arms.) Jump back to starting position and alternate chopping to right and left sides.
Coach's Tip: To increase strength gains throughout this move, jump higher in and out of the squat.

6. Uni-Plank Lift: Begin in a traditional pushup position. Raise right hand and left leg 1 inch off the ground. This is your starting position. Brace core and quickly raise both until they are parallel to ground. Continue lowering and raising both extremities for 30 seconds, then switch to opposite arm and leg.
Coach's Tip: To avoid placing unwanted stress on your neck, keep eyes focused on the floor.

7. Wimbledon: Begin in a traditional lunge position with right foot forward and left leg positioned 2 feet behind hip. (Right thigh will be parallel to the floor with knee bent to 90 degrees, while left knee is as close to the floor as possible without touching.) Keeping hands in front of chest as if holding a tennis racket, brace core and jump as far to the right as possible. Upon landing, jump back to the left. Continue jumping side to side.
Coach's Tip: Your goal is to jump back as soon as you land.

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