A well-designed exercise program should not only yield results that make you look great, but should also make you move great. Unfortunately though, many machines at the gym don't do a good job of this. Most resistance machines restrict movement of the body to only one direction, or plane of motion. To train your muscles to their maximum potential and avoid injury, they must be worked in all three planes of motion.
Those of us in the business of exercise science have a phrase for the kind of training that improves the body's movement: functional training. Read on to learn some new functional training moves that will improve your looks and your function.
Learn Your Dimensions
When looking at movement, we can dissect it as taking place in one or more of three principal planes of motion. These planes are akin to the three dimensions of space. Most strength training machines restrict the body to front-to-back motions, or the sagittal plane of movement. However, most movement-related injuries take place in the frontal and transverse planes. Training and moving better in these other planes is just as imporant and is a key element of functional training.
Don't Forget to Rotate
The transverse plane incorporates rotational movements of the body when it is in an upright position. This is particularly important in most sports. A great functional training exercise to train stability and strength of the core in this plane is the Standing Torso Twist.
Start by standing with feet shoulder-width apart next to a pulley machine or anchored resistance band. Hold your hands straight out in front as shown in the picture and walk away from the machine/band to create tension in it. From this start position, rotate away from the machine/anchor point, twisting in the hips with minimal rotation in the lower spine. Pause for two seconds and slowly return to the start position. Make sure not to let your hands cross your body when returning to the start position. Complete 2 sets of 15 reps on each side.
Frontal Plane Stability
The frontal plane includes the body’s side-to-side movements. A great exercise to train this way is the Lateral or Frontal Plane Lunge. This function training movement primarily focuses on strengthening the hip and knee. Plus, it will also give you a killer glute workout.
To begin, start standing upright with feet straight ahead and shoulder-width apart. Take a small step laterally making sure to plant your foot pointing straight ahead, and transfer the majority of your weight onto the stepping leg. Next, bend in the hips and sit back on the stepping leg as low as what is comfortable and make sure to keep your knee directly over the foot. From this position, push off the bent leg back to the start position. Repeat this 10 times on one leg before moving on to the other leg.
Start by incorporate these basic movements into your routine two to three times per week. For more ideas, talk to an NASM-certified personal trainer familiar with functional training techniques. If you want to learn more about training smarter, not harder, visit Miami's only NASM-based personal training educational program.