Functional Fitness – Training to Get Fit for Life

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At Bonfire we recognize and advocate that being physically fit is one of the major cornerstones of being healthy.  Physical fitness does, however, incorporate a wide spectrum of concepts, theories and elements.

In addition to the many, many benefits that being physically fit creates within the realm of being healthy, we also recognize that life is filled with unpredictable physical events that require simple to complex body movements at any given moment.  Not only do we want our bodies to be able to handle these unpredictable life events without injury, but we want our level of physical fitness to enable us to negotiate them with great success throughout our lives, as did our fit ancestors.

The term functional fitness is one that simultaneously defines, describes and includes the “holistic” physical fitness objective within the Bonfire Program, which could also be called “life fitness.”  It means doing exercises or activities that imitate “real life,” full body movements through wide ranges of motion. It could be described as Compounding Fitness.  It is a form of fitness designed NOT to isolate particular muscle groups or body parts. For example, rather than performing a “bicep curl” on a machine, a functional movement exercise would be to lift a weighted object off the ground from a squatting position to a standing position, holding the object overhead – all done with careful attention paid to safe and proper body biomechanics and posture techniques.

“Functional movements are  natural, effective, and efficient locomotors of body and external objects. Functional movements are compound movements – i.e., they are multi-joint. But no aspect of functional movements is more important than their capacity to move large loads over long distances, and to do so quickly. We believe that preparation for random physical challenges (i.e., unknown and unknowable events) is at odds with fixed, predictable, and routine regimens.” []

Finally, a fitness regimen incorporating functional movements can be had by anyone, at any level, and at any age.  It doesn’t require elaborate equipment or facilities; it does, however, require effort.  Functional fitness is not, contrary to popular belief, confined to elite athletes or “strongmen.”

Here are two more great articles on this subject:
Being Fit vs. Being Healthy: The 10 Facets of Physical Fitness
Short Interval, High Intensity Exercise

Scalable Training: Customize Your Workout

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One of the most important reasons for everyone to stay fit and active is to be able to handle the demands of daily life. From on-duty police work to motherhood, each walk of life has different and unpredictable demands. The ability to handle whatever life has in store for you requires the same basic abilities. As Coach Greg Glassman, the founder of Crossfit, says regarding fitness, “The needs of our grandparents and soldiers differ in degree, not kind.” These needs are the functional competencies to move our own body and objects through three-dimensional space. In other words, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do on a daily basis, every person needs to train the same types of functional movement for optimal physical health and fitness.

Many people hesitate to start an exercise program, though, because sometimes working out can seem daunting. There might be unfamiliar exercises, fear of injury, or just anxiety about where to start. Scaled training is the answer to all these exercise dilemmas.

What is Scaling?
Scaling usually refers to dropping the number of repetitions or sets in a workout, lowering the weight, or modifying the movement so that a workout can be completed. These are all very effective ways to scale training while still maintaining safe and great outcomes.

The three groups are:

Level 1 Mover:  Beginner exerciser to light exerciser.

Level 2 Mover:  Moderate exerciser to one who exercises on a regular basis.

Level 3 Mover:  More advanced athlete to elite athlete.

The benchmark WOD for each day of the week is scaled appropriately to suit each level’s ability. For example:  Level 1 movers could have a workout that includes walking and wall pushups, Level 2 movers have a workout that includes a run and either standard pushups or pushups from your knees, and Level 3 movers have a workout completed as fast as possible that includes sprinting and clapping pushups.

Each of these workouts has relatively the same type of functional movement demands that are modified and done at different levels of intensity. This way each individual is able to get the prescribed amount of work done while appropriately challenging their fitness and skill.

How Do I Scale a Workout That is Too Difficult For Me?
Here are the three best ways to scale a workout, while still being able to maximize gains in overall fitness and skill:

1.  Scale down the weight so that you can complete all the repetitions needed to do the workout. If you’re fatigued afterwards, and you’ve kept moving throughout, you will still gain strength.

For example:  If you need to scale a workout that calls for 15 lb. dumbbell presses for 20 repetitions, you may want to grab 10 lb. dumbbells instead so you can still complete all the necessary reps. You should aim to scale down just enough so that the last few reps take a bit more effort and force you to really focus. If you’ve scaled down too far, you’ll find yourself busting out the last few reps will relative ease.

2.  Sometimes workouts are just too tough, or will take too long to complete. In that case, it might be necessary to drop down the number of repetitions and the weight. For example:  instead of doing 3 rounds of 30 repetitions of a certain movement, you could do 3 rounds of 20 repetitions. This way you can still complete the high number of repetitions the workout calls for without losing the high-repetition demand of the workout.

3.  Modify an exercise so you can still complete a similar movement pattern that a workout calls for. This allows you to complete your workout while continuing to improve on the necessary skill to being able to do more advanced movements.

For example:  if you are unable to perform a pull-up, then you can scale down the movement and do jumping pull-ups instead.

The key to exercise is that you should start the Bonfirehealth movement program no matter what your fitness level. Scaling down is not an admission of weakness or something to be ashamed of. Even super fit athletes will need to scale down at times. The workouts prescribed are something to aim towards as your goal. Read people’s testimonies on Bonfirehealth and see how others have gone from total inactivity to being able to participate in sports they used to love. But more importantly, they improved their health and fitness from day one.