FUNCTIONAL FITNESS AND SPORT-SPECIFIC EXERCISES
As a team Chiropractor, it is vitally important to understand the biomechanics behind specific movements and stresses placed on our athletes during those exercises. Our favorite spring sports are here and it’s time to talk about functional fitness and how we train based on the sport we play. Functional exercises simultaneously use multiple muscle groups and joints working through various planes of motion to improve endurance, strength, posture, agility,coordination and balance. Think of functional training using basic human movements in three planes of motion – sagittal, frontal, and transverse – using concentric, eccentric, and isometric muscle contraction. These functional movements build a core foundation that improves strength and helps us prevent injuries.
Functional exercises vary based on the type of sport you play. Do football players workout the same way baseball players do? No. This is why we have strength and conditioning coaches specific for each sport. These sport specific programs are designed to condition athletes for the unique demands of their sports. Even training for individual athletes in the same sport could be very different based on their position.
While we stress different functional exercises for each sport, there is a basic set of movements that can benefit all athletes. These exercises focus on strength and stability, providing a solid foundation on which sport specific exercises can be added.
Here is a compilation of basic functional exercises that anyone can master. Medicine ball squat with overhead lift
This exercise uses both upper and lower body strength in the sagittal plane. It strengthens the legs, glutes, lower back, arms and shoulders. You will want to stand with your feet wide apart, shoulder width, while holding the medicine ball in front of you keeping your elbows in tight against your body. Perform the squat keeping your knees behind the plane of your toes just over your ankles, pelvis tucked and gluteals tight. Make sure to keep that back straight and look up at the horizon and focus on an object near eye level. This will help prevent injury to the spine. Now come out of the squat and lift the medicine ball over head keeping your elbows locked in close to your ears. That is your first rep!
Diagonal medicine ball reach
This is one of my favorite exercises and is especially important for rotation in the transverse plane. It strengthens the shoulders, core (obliques), biceps and triceps. Stand keeping your spine neutral while holding the medicine ball close to the level of your chest. Lift the ball overhead at a diagonal and extend the opposite leg allowing for internal hip rotation. It should be as though you are going from your toes on one side to the sky on the opposite side in a diagonal line. Make sure to keep your core tight and as always breathe with your diaphragm
Lunges are done in the sagittal plane while side lunges are done in the frontal plane. This is a very basic exercise that strengthens your postural muscles while toning your glutes, quads, and hamstrings. This is also great for hip mobility and can be a great hip flexor release. Begin standing shoulder width arms by your side. Extend one side of the hip as if you were reaching for something behind you with your toes allowing for glute activation. There should be a slight bend in the knee. If you would like to add weight, hold the weight in each hand and while performing the lunge, sit into the lunge knee touching the ground. The opposite knee and forefoot should have the same degree, about 90, as it was for the medicine ball squats, making sure to keep the knee in line with the ankle.
Foundation for upper body strength! Everyone knows proper form for push-ups! Yes there are various forms of push-ups, but keep it basic to start.
Allow the time to make sure you understand these exercises and the proper mechanics before increasing the sets and repetitions.
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