Improving physical appearance is a huge motivator for people to start getting physically active. But what about the way exercise makes you feel in your day to day? Not when you’re at the gym and not when you’re posing at the beach, but rather when using your body with the myriad of functions that comprises daily human activity? What if every time you sat up, or lifted a heavy object, or climbed a flight of stairs you could feel your muscles working to help you perform the action in a controlled and coordinated manner?
Functional strength training works primarily your core and major muscle groups in your legs, back and arms so that performing day-to-day tasks is less cumbersome and exhausting. It also builds lean muscle mass which increases your metabolic rate and in turn makes you burn calories (that is, body fat) even when you’re not training, leaving you looking and feeling leaner over time.
“Strength training is getting popular because people realise they don’t have to sit on a treadmill for an hour a day to lose weight and get fit,” comments Nick, Mind & Body’s group training instructor and strength guru. “It’s about lifting heavy weights to improve load-bearing capacity of the body’s joints so they get a full range of motion and you can better perform everyday tasks,” he continues.
But isn’t weight lifting just for guys? “Not at all,” says Nick, “Women get great results from strength training. The tendency has been for women to lift light weights so as not to bulk up, but that’s a myth. Training with heavy weights for men and women combined with a bit of cardio and the right diet is by far the best way to get lean,” he says.
Nick is one of two instructors who runs the X-Train:by design group class Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. This 45-min class is designed to combine strength, mobility and conditioning so that the workout burns fat and improves strength, fitness, balance and flexibility all in one. Unlike the cardio-based classes, in X-Train there is a focus on technique, especially for beginners, in order to avoid injury.
Mind and Body member Tara knows the daily benefits of having a stronger body, with more than five years of strength training under her belt. “I noticed that my back used to get sore from sitting at a desk all day but now I have a stronger core, I don’t get that anymore”, Tara comments regarding changes she has noticed since lifting weights. “I can lift things that other people can’t. The other girls in the office usually ask one of the guys to carry the heavy boxes and things but I just do it myself,” she adds.
Tara also likes how strength training allows her to tangibly track her progress through monitoring the increase of weights. After two years of going to X-Train she now dead-lifts 102kg and squats 87kg. “I really like the classes because you make friends and as a group you motivate each other,” Tara comments. “Everyone always ends up doing more than they think they can in the group training.”
A lot of people in the 21st century spend a good part of their day sitting in a chair working on computers, which limits opportunities for exploring physical movement. This means that getting out and doing exercise is all the more important, as our muscles and bones grow weary with inaction. In the case of functional strength training, the more you do the more you enjoy and the more you want to do, making a strong you all the more achievable.