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Functional fitness: Training mirrors, strengthens common movements

WOC Cody Elzey performs a functional fitness power clean lift using bumper plates. (Photo by Jeremy Henderson)

WOC Cody Elzey performs a functional fitness power clean lift using bumper plates. (Photo by Jeremy Henderson)

Published: February 18, 2016

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Feb. 18, 2016) -- Equipment availability continues to grow for functional fitness enthusiasts and new training options are available for anyone interested in utilizing the dedicated space inside the Fort Rucker Physical Fitness Center.

According to Zea Urbitzondo, fitness program specialist, the functional fitness area allows patrons to perform exercises and movements that are multi-planar and multi-joint, mirroring movements that are performed in everyday life.

“You are not restricted to a machine that forces you to perform isolated movements,” she said.

The functional fitness area opened with a few pieces of equipment in December, but has since grown to accommodate a wide range of exercises.

“Right now, there is a 20-yard (area with) artificial turf with six lanes for sprints, tire flips and sled use,” Urbitzondo said. “We have a 14-foot rig that houses three adjustable squat racks, multiple height pull-up bars and rings. There are two lifting platforms, two power racks, weighted bars, kettle bells, medicine balls, slam balls, eight rowers, four assault bikes, four spin bikes, sandbags, two 20-foot climbing ropes and two free-standing heavy bags.

“In addition, workouts are posted Monday through Friday, designed to improve speed, power, agility, strength, mobility and aerobic endurance,” she added.

Equipment availability grew rapidly and, according to Urbitzondo, there is more to come.

“In the near future, we will be adding eight lifting platforms, two more power racks, TRX units and more Olympic barbells to the equipment already in place,” she said.

Functional fitness may be a new concept for some, but Urbitzondo said its purpose is straightforward and beneficial to Soldiers.

“Functional fitness involves exercises designed to improve an individual’s performance of daily tasks and/or activities by training muscles to work together in simulated common, repetitive movement patterns,” she said. “It is beneficial because it trains muscles to work simultaneously, safely and efficiently. It also focuses on core stability and injury prevention, preparing the body to perform well in a variety of situations, and improvement of quality of life. When paired with tactical training, functional fitness can vastly improve performance as a Soldier.”

Urbitzondo is available Mondays-Fridays from 5 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. for any assistance or questions that patrons may have. If there is a piece of equipment or exercise that a patron is interested in, she is available to assist the person in learning about how to use the equipment.

“The biggest thing that a lot of people lose sight of is the quality of their movements,” she said. “It is not about how heavy you lift or how fast you move if your form is poor. Too often, people rush to get through their sets and reps and compromise good form in the process.

“Because functional fitness focuses on mirroring every day movements outside the gym, you want to make sure that the quality of your movement inside the gym counts,” she added. “By utilizing good solid form when performing exercises with weights, you are training your body to perform the same quality movement in any situation.”

For those patrons interested in trying functional fitness training for the first time, Urbitzondo urges them to step outside their comfort zone.

“There is nothing frightening or scary about functional fitness,” she said. “You are simply taking things you doing on a normal basis and adding an element of strength and power to it. Do not be hesitant to step out of your comfort zone because everyone can benefit from functional fitness, regardless of their fitness level.”

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