Build Functional Strength

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“When you sit down on an exercise machine, with your back against chair, you tend to shut down the rest of your body,” warns Laird Hamilton. “You want strength that you can actually control and apply.” It’s called functional strength, and it dictates the way you should lift weights. Here’s our complete workout. Do Group 1 once a week. Two days later, do Group 2. Concentrate on smooth, controlled lifts throughout.

GROUP 1 (10-12 reps)

Dumbbell Flies Lying on a Stability Ball:

Lie with your upper back and shoulders on the stability ball. Hold two dumbbells straight up over your chest without locking your elbows, with your arms perpendicular to both the ground and your chest. Slowly lower both dumbbells simultaneously on both sides of your body in a motion like you are opening curtains. Stop when your arms are straight out from your body, in a crucifix position, palms up, and parallel with the floor-don’t overextend. Slowly return the weights to the starting position.

Barbell Squats:

Position barbell high on the back of your shoulders, with feet spread shoulder distance and hands evenly spaced on the barbell. Keeping your gaze forward and your back straight, squat slowly until your thighs are parallel with the ground. Don’t allow your knees to cross in front of your toes. Pause, and return slowly to standing.

Medicine Ball Chops:

Raise a medicine ball over your head to your left side (off of your left shoulder). With knees slightly bent, slowly lower the ball to your right leg like you are chopping wood, shifting your weight to your right foot in a squatting motion. Don’t arch your back. Do one set, then repeat on the other side.

Standing Dumbbell Pullovers:

Standing with back straight and knees slightly bent, start with a dumbbell held over your head. Keeping your back straight, with elbows facing forward, slowly lower dumbbell backwards over your head. Return weight over your head and down to your chest. Repeat.

Dumbbell Lunges:

Standing straight with feet together, hold dumbbells in both hands down at your sides. In an even motion, step forward with your right foot and kneel down with your left knee until your right thigh is parallel with the ground. Don’t allow your right knee to cross in front of your toes, and keep your back straight, perpendicular to the floor. Smoothly return to starting position and repeat with other leg.

Standing Bent-Over Rows with Hand on a Stability Ball:

Place your left hand on a stability ball, and hold dumbbell near the floor in your right hand, with hands shoulder-width apart. Maintain a straight back, roughly parallel with the floor, and slightly bend your knees. Keeping your elbow close to your body, slowly pull dumbbell straight up to your armpit, engaging your back and shoulder muscles. Don’t twist your torso. Lower and repeat.

Upright Barbell Rows:

Stand straight, holding barbell in both hands, close to the center of the bar at waist level, with feet shoulder distance apart and knees slightly bend. Maintaining a straight back, slowly raise the barbell close to the middle of your chest with your elbows high and your hands close to your body, and then lower the barbell back to your waist. Don’t swing back to jerk the bar up.

GROUP 2 (25 reps)

Stability Ball Push-ups

Get into push-up position, but with your lower shins resting on a stability ball. Keep your hands a little more than shoulder-distance apart and your back straight. Gently lower your upper body to within an inch or two of the floor and return to starting position, keeping your back straight.

Stability Ball Crunches

Lean back on a stability ball, with the ball resting under your lower back and hips, so your upper body is not supported by the ball. Lower your upper body until your back is straight, and contract your abs to bring your upper body up and forward toward your hips, then slowly lower. Don’t pull your head forward with your hands.

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