Understanding Functional Fitness

Understanding Functional Fitness

What is Functional Fitness?

Cardio and strength training usually dominate fitness talk, but what about the often-overlooked concept of functional fitness? At its core, functional fitness is really about focusing on building your body so that it can better handle everyday tasks such as bending over to tie your shoes, playing catch with your dog, or chasing after your kids without the added exhaustion, aches or pains.

Real Life Samples

Let’s think about this from a practical standpoint. Our daily habits cause us to turn, twist, bend, climb and lean to get things done. We’re using our whole bodies, so why not focus on exercises that use multiple muscle groups? Isolated weight training is great, but it doesn’t always help prevent strained backs or pulled muscles.

Exercises like kettlebell squats are a great way to stimulate a real-life scenario – you’re bending down (squatting) using your lower body, and at the same time picking something up (great with the added weight of the kettlebell) using your upper body. Try forward lunges with a twist to help work the lower body, upper body and help stabilize the core. Bent over rows can also help with upper and lower body strength. Bosu balls can also help aid in stability training!

Think about which muscle groups are actively being engaged when performing your desired exercise. If it feels like a move that mirrors real life movements, most likely you’re engaging in functional fitness.

The Benefits

To put it simply – fewer aches and pains! Less strain on your body, less worries about not being able to perform day-to-day activities and more confidence in moving around with a stronger body. If this all sounds like what regular or “normal” exercise does to improve the body, you’re right… sort of.

Functional fitness focuses on movements, rather than muscles.1 In your ordinary day-to-day routine, chances are you’re not doing an activity that focuses on the same muscle repeatedly. Think of lifting a semi-heavy grocery bag, similar to a bicep curl. Sure, you may do this a few times, but realistically you’re not going to be standing in your kitchen doing biceps curls with your grocery bags.

Depending on age and activity level of your life, the functional fitness exercises you’ll want to focus on will vary. If you’re uncertain what’s right for you or where to begin with this type of training, reach out to a representative in the personal training department.

Another alternative is sending your fitness related question to us for a chance for it to be one of our featured ‘Ask A Trainer’ questions on our LA Fitness YouTube channel or Living Healthy blog!

A better life starts with a decision that you deserve more for yourself. LA Fitness is here to help, and functional fitness is a great way to begin your training for the everyday!

Sources:

  1. Roberts, | BY: Amy, and Amy Roberts. “What Is Functional Training and How Can It Benefit You?” The Beachbody Blog, 20 July 2017, www.beachbodyondemand.com/blog/functional-training-benefits.

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Where to Begin with Weight Training

Where to Begin with Weight Training

The clanking of weights, the grunts, the sweat… the intimidation of the weightlifting area for those who don’t know where to begin. We get it – weight training can be scary if you’re new to this form of exercise. However, if you’re looking to create a balanced workout routine for yourself, your body is going to need a combination of cardio and strength training. But you probably already knew this. Let’s jump right into it then – where to begin?

First, ask yourself what muscle areas you want to focus on:

  • Lower Body
  • Back
  • Arms
  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Core

We’ll get into specific machines or body weight exercises you can do to tone each of the areas above a bit further on. Next, you should determine how much weight you want to be using. This varies depending on the results you’re looking for. Always remember this –

If you’re looking to tone, but aren’t necessarily looking for bulk or noticeable, muscle, then it’s best to stick to lighter weights at higher reps.*

If you’re looking to build muscle and bulk up, you should look to increase your weight (safely, over time) use heavier weights at lower reps.

*Reps – Short for repetitions. This is how many times you will be repeating the exercise.

Sound good? Great, but how many sets** should you be doing? This varies too, and really is based on personal preference. A sample workout may consist of 3 sets of ‘x’ exercise, comprised of 10-12 repetitions of that particular workout. For example, you would do 10 biceps curls, then you would rest. Then do a second set of 10 biceps curls, then rest again, before doing a final third set of 10 biceps curls.

**Sets – A group of exercises performed.

This is a good starting point, but perhaps you’re looking to build muscle. Some people enjoy increasing their weight with each set and then lowering the amount of repetitions they do. An example of this would be to start off with a 20-lb. barbell for your bicep curl, complete your 10 reps and then rest. For your second set, you may want to increase to a 30-lb. barbell, this time only completing 8 reps, and if you’re feeling strong enough for the third and final set, you can increase your weight to 35 lbs. and decrease your rep again to only 6.

Make sure you’re listening to your body, because the amount of weight, the number of reps, and number of sets you choose to do will vary from person to person depending on what you’re looking to accomplish, level of experience and strength level.


Body Weight vs. Machine/Equipment vs. Free Weights

When it comes to strength training, you have options. Some people prefer using their body weight to build strength, others enjoy using the machines, while some prefer training with free weights. Is one necessarily better for you than the other? We break down the pros and cons of each of these exercises so you can determine the best option for you.

Body Weight

Pros – This is a great way to truly understand the proper form of an exercise while allowing your core to be engaged and obtain the full range of motion of the movement. You’ll be able to perform a high number of reps doing a body weight exercise which will generate an increase in heart rate producing both strength and fat burning.

Cons – Once performing these exercises for 2-3 weeks, the amount of strength gains plateaus resulting in primarily fat burning. You will eventually need to upgrade to either machines or free weights to obtain more solid strength gains.

Responses above provided by LA Fitness Pro Results® Master Trainer, Geoff F.

Machines/Equipment

Pros – Another great tool to understand the form of an exercise. These exercises will provide some good isolated muscle strength gains while also allowing your joints and muscles to stay in line with the exercise. They will help keep your body out of harm’s way while you are still early in your weight training program.

Cons – Although strength gains will be more than with body weight exercises, with the limited range of motion for machines the amount of strength gains won’t result in as much as free weights. The limited range of motion will also not allow your joints and muscles to maintain their flexibility. It is also tougher to engage your core resulting in only the isolated muscle group being worked.

Responses above provided by LA Fitness Pro Results® Master Trainer, Geoff F.

Free Weights

Pros – This is the optimal strength gain exercises. They allow for the most range of motion and increase in resistance as you progress through a program. With a program centered around free weights, the strength results will typically happen faster than the other two forms. These exercises also require the core to be engaged during the duration of the exercise so more muscles are being worked during the movement.

Cons – This form requires the most knowledge and understanding of the movement of the exercise, as they have the tendency to produce the most injuries of any of the three types. It is best to utilize the first two forms and then work into free weights if you are entering into a beginner’s weight training program.

Responses above provided by LA Fitness Pro Results® Master Trainer, Geoff F.

Our suggestion? Mix it up! Not only does that help keep the work outs fresh and fun, but it’s actually going to help build the optimal body. Check out how body weight exercises combined with heavy weight exercises act as a power duo for the body, here!


How Many Days a Week Should You Focus on Strength Training vs. Cardio?

Pro Results® Master Trainer, Geoff F., suggests a balanced routine of strength training anywhere from 3-4 days per week, and cardio between 4-5 to maybe 6 times week, depending upon what your level is when you first start out. Check out the full Ask A Trainer video below for more info on how to maintain a balanced workout routine.

!! Trainer Tip: Cardio after weightlifting can help release lactic acid built up in the muscles and can help you feel better in the long run. Check out why, here.


Sample Beginner’s Weight Lifting/Strength Training Guide

It’s important to note that the videos below only touch upon a very small fraction of what’s available to you when it comes to weightlifting in one of our clubs. In order to know what weightlifting routine would work best for your body and your goals, set up a fitness assessment with someone in your club’s personal training department. They will be able to help target what exercises should be done to help you reach your goals.

Lower Body

Back

Chest/Shoulder

Core

!! Tip: Like these videos? Many more of these Premium Fitness Tips can be found on our LA Fitness YouTube channel and help break down how to properly use the equipment found in a typical club.


Nutrition’s Effect on Strength Training

Weight training needs to be fueled properly in order for all that hard work to be effective.  As opposed to cardio which burns more fat, strength training uses available carbohydrates because it is rapidly oxidized for those quick, intense muscle bursts. Consuming easily-digestible “simple” carbohydrates before and during your workout can keep that supply running.  But that’s not the only thing. Adequate muscle glycogen (stored carbohydrate) is also used, and this reserve is built up by a consistent diet of complex carbohydrates, complemented by lean protein and healthy fats.

The protein provides the needed amino acids for building new muscle fibers while the fat gives both energy and structure. So why not load up on all of the protein you need before or after strength training? That’s because it (along with fat and fiber) slows down the delivery of those quick carbohydrates. Also, you don’t use that much protein at once and without a reserve for it you need a more constant supply throughout the day. In other words, save foods like beef loin, broccoli, baked potato, nuts and avocado for meal or snack time, but have an egg white with a banana or white toast before your workout. When you provide the right nutrients at the right time, your muscles can do more work for a bigger result.

Nutrition advice above provided by LA Fitness registered dietitian, Debbie J.


Pro Results® Training

If you’re still feeling like you may benefit from an in-club, hands on approach to learning what equipment would be right for you, set up a consultation for personal training at your local club. There are a variety of Pro Results® packages available to you, so whether it’s a short-term helping hand you’re looking for, or having someone on a longer-term basis to help you reach your fitness goal, LA Fitness is here to help you succeed.

Already have a personal success story you’d like to share with us? Click here to submit it for a chance to be one of our featured Member Spotlight stories!


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Body Works Plus Abs: The Class You Have to Try

Body Works Plus Abs: The Class You Have to Try

One of the great thing things about taking a Group Fitness class at LA Fitness is that all of the equipment is provided for you. You don’t have to worry about bringing your own weights or exercise equipment – all you have to focus on is showing up and giving it your best for (approximately) 55 minutes. It’s all about focusing on your own body. Group Fitness is a great way to push yourself with the helpful instruction of our certified instructors. Plus, you’re surrounded by other motivated individuals who are just as excited to focus on their health and fitness.

If you’re new to Group Fitness, don’t be intimidated! Everyone was new at some point. Group Fitness instructors will help teach you proper form and technique. Group Fitness is a great way to get fit with friends and family members while in an instructed, regimented environment. For those new to the gym, as well as those looking to switch up their typical exercise routine, Group Fitness classes are a great place to start.

A popular LA Fitness class is Body Works Plus Abs – after all, who doesn’t want a more toned core? In this class, members can expect a lightweight dumbbell workout moving to the beat of the music. You’ll be burning calories as you flow through a variety of exercises to help sculpt and tone your body into shape! With continued attendance, members may notice improvements in muscle tone, posture, balance and strength. It’s a full-body workout that provides full-body results.

In order to get a deeper understanding of what to expect from a Body Works Plus Abs class, we interviewed LA Fitness Group Fitness instructor Kate N., who shared all you need to know before giving this class a go. Check out her interview below!

Q: Please give a brief description of your fitness background and what brought you to start teaching Body Works Plus Abs.

Kate N: I’m an AFAA certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor. I teach various Group Fitness classes from Aqua to Yoga, and even step! I fell in love with teaching Group Fitness classes at LA Fitness. I was once a loyal participant of cycle classes at LA Fitness, and later, I found myself in the instructor seat.  It wasn’t long before I discovered Body Works Plus Abs and it quickly became my favorite Group Fitness class to teach.

Q: What is unique and special about Body Works Plus Abs over other Group Fitness classes?

KN: It’s a completely balanced workout that challenges you from head to toe! You target every muscle group while moving non-stop to the beat of the music. You learn technique while having a fun and energetic workout. Spectators of the class may not be able to see the challenge, but the participants can attest to its slow burn. It sneaks up on you throughout the class.

“…the participants can attest to its slow burn. It sneaks up on you throughout the class.”

Kate N.

Group Fitness Instructor, LA Fitness

Q: Would you recommend Body Works Plus Abs for all fitness levels?

KN: Most definitely! The beauty of Body Works Plus Abs is that we progress into each challenging exercise, which gives participants plenty of options to take it to their own personal best.

Find a Body Works Plus Abs class near you!

In need for some new fitness wear?

Shop the latest & greatest LA Fitness clothing by clicking the button below!

Q: What equipment can a member expect to use when attending a class? Is there a specific dress code?

KN: We use lightweight dumbbells and an exercise mat. Simple and effective! Participants should wear comfortable fitness attire to move and sweat in.

Q:  If you could give one piece of advice to our readers, what would it be?

KN: Keep going to class! Consistency brings results!

In need of some motivation?

Check out some of our Member Spotlight success stories by clicking below!

Invite a friend or family member to join you today & be rewarded! Send a guest pass here and read all about our VIP Rewards program here – trust us, you don’t want to miss out on these awesome rewards!


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Warm Ups For Cold Weather Workouts

Warm Ups For Cold Weather Workouts

Well the weather outside is frightful… but don’t let that deter you from your winter workout routine! It’s important that when the weather gets cold and frosty you take the time to properly warm up your body before jumping into your training. Warm-ups can help improve performance and reduce risk of injury1, especially when the weather is cold and your muscles feel tighter than normal.

Some helpful tips for warming yourself up before starting your workout include:

  1. Bring your warmup and workout routine into the gym! Staying indoors will help keep your core body temperature at a higher level than if you were to go on an outdoor run. (Find an LA Fitness near you, here!)
  2. A quick 15-minute run on the treadmill or warmup on the bike.
  3. Jumping jacks.
  4. Dynamic stretches such as walking lunges, leg swings and arm circles (read more about the benefits of stretching here).
  5. Take a dip in our 25-meter heated lap pools, or get your body feeling nice and relaxed in one of our relaxing saunas.*
  6. Squats, squats and more squats. The burn of that exercise sticks around all year.
  7. Walking. Simply taking a walk around the gym, your home, or a track can help warm up your muscles by getting them moving. Add in upper body stretches while you’re walking

Andrea Fradkin, an associate professor of exercise science at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania, suggests that for every 10°F drop below 30°F you extend your pre-workout warmup by five minutes.2  While not all regions experience extreme drops in temperatures, it’s important to keep in mind that even a slight drop in temperature can still be a shock when your body isn’t used to it.

Did You Know?

According to Gerald Endress, an exercise physiologist and fitness director at the Duke University Diet and Fitness Center, the ideal temperature for working out is between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.3 However, personal preferences may impact this.

How to Dress

It may go without being said that cold weather calls for warmer clothes. Even though you may be gearing up for a sweaty workout, be sure to dress in layers so you can remove the extra clothing when your temperature rises, and then add it back on when your core body temperature cools. If you’re opting for an outdoor workout, consider wearing protective gear for your face, ears, hands and feet. When dressing in layers, try wearing a synthetic material, something that will wick away moisture from your skin.4 The second layer should help insulate, think a fleece or wool layer, and the third layer should be a breathable/waterproof material (depending on outdoor conditions). Use your best judgment contingent on the weather, and take into account whether you are working out indoors or outdoors.

To find an LA Fitness near you, click here, and avoid the outdoor chill.

*Amenities vary by location.

Sources:

  1. O’Mara, Kelly. “The Art of Warming Up in Cold Weather | MapMyRun.” Under Armour, 8 Aug. 2017, blog.mapmyrun.com/art-warming-cold-weather/.
  2. Ibid
  3. George, Shannon. “Is It Better to Workout in the Cold or Hot?” LIVESTRONG.COM, Leaf Group, 11 Sept. 2017, www.livestrong.com/article/423074-is-it-better-to-workout-in-the-cold-or-hot/.
  4. Schwecherl, Laura. “When Is It Too Cold to Exercise Outside?” Greatist, Greatist, 6 June 2016, greatist.com/fitness/it-safe-exercise-cold.

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ASK A TRAINER: Ep. 12 – How Often Should I Incorporate A Rest Day In My Routine?

ASK A TRAINER: Ep. 12 – How Often Should I Incorporate A Rest Day In My Routine?

Ask A Trainer: Featured Question of the Week

LA Fitness Pro Results® Master Trainer, Geoff F., explains the importance of rest days and how often you should be taking them a week. Find out the answer in the video below!

Do you have a fitness question? Ask one of our certified Pro Results® trainers here! Your question may be featured in an upcoming Ask Our Trainer video.**

11 + 11 =

**Selected submissions will be featured on the LA Fitness blog and possibly other LA Fitness digital media entities & websites. By making a submission, you hereby grant LA Fitness a non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide, irrevocable license to use and make copies of the contents of such submission for any purpose and in any medium whatsoever, and you hereby waive and relinquish any copyright or other intellectual property right you may have in the contents of such submission and your right to pursue any claim for LA Fitness’s violation of those intellectual property rights.


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