It’s hard to keep up with the exercise industry. With a new trend rearing its fancy head every week, how can we be sure what’s legit and what’s hot air? One phrase you’ve probably heard of is functional training – exercise that replicates natural human movement to make our bodies and brains stronger. This type of training is not a fad: science has proven that it helps us function more efficiently in everyday life, without injury.
Functional fitness nothing new – our ancestors have been doing it for centuries. From balancing and bending to skipping and striking, we can reverse the impact of hour-long train journeys and rickety office chairs that weaken our hips and ankles, eventually causing pain. These are the functional exercises we suggest to prevent injuries to the hips and ankles.
This functional move increases your hips and ankles mobility, as well as harnessing core power and building strength in the body. Prevent knee, hip and lower back pain by doing it regularly:
- Place your feet wide apart, in a side lunge stance.
- Shift your weight to the right side and bend your right knee to sink down into it, keeping your left leg straight and rotating your left toe to point at the ceiling.
- Sink as low as you can while keeping your heel on the floor.
- Immediately push back up, out of the squat, and back to centre with your legs straight.
- Repeat on the other side.
Long hours on our butt can weaken our hips and switch off our glutes. This functional leg and lower body exercise will prevent them from weakening by opening up the hips and engaging your glutes (bonus: it gives you a brilliant backside, too).
- Lie flat on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Your arms should be by your side, palms facing down.
- Slowly raise your hips until they form a straight line with your knees and shoulders. Keep your abdominals tight and squeeze those glutes.
- Hold this bridged position for a couple of breaths before lowering to the floor with control.
Hop to it
Though sports are a common cause, many ankle injuries also arise from simple everyday situations. Putting the bin out, getting of the train, taking the dog for a walk. Functional exercise can help prevent sprains and ruptures by strengthening the muscles surrounding the ankle. One of them is the humble hop – only try this move if you do not have an existing injury.
- Stand with both legs together.
- Lift your right leg and immediately jump, immediately lifting the left leg as your right comes to the floor.
- To boost your hopping power, jump higher or try hopping and landing on the same leg.
When it comes to functional movements, squatting is king. Sadly, many avoid squats – for the very reason they should do them: to prevent potential injuries. Don’t forget that it’s important to start slowly and progress gradually until you master the movement.
- Stand with your feet a little wider than your hips, toes facing forward.
- Keeping your torso upright and back straight, sit back into your hips (imagine you’re sitting back into a chair), bending the knees and ankles. Your hips should dip below knee height.
- Keep your weight in your heels and think about driving them into the floor and you straighten your legs and push back up to the starting position.
Still having squat trouble? Read our guide to building a better squat, which goes deeper into tight hips and ankles, including more methods to mobilise them.