Juliette Kando is a dancer, choreologist, author on fitness and health, and Fellow of the Benesh Institute at the Royal Academy of Dance.
What is functional training? Functional training teaches your muscles to complete the most basic tasks, often forgotten, but crucially important movement patterns required to maintain good health. Deep inside our genes, from when we were more active as children, and long before that as ape-like creatures living in trees, we all possess a simple, yet so rich, human body movement vocabulary. The 10 functional training moves set out in this article plus some useful tips and videos will improve your own daily functional body movement habits to prevent the risk of pain, injuries, and illnesses caused by moving badly.
Is This YOUR Movement Vocabulary?
If someone's day-to-day movement vocabulary consists of a limited number of actions ranging from sleeping, getting dressed, sitting, perhaps a little walking to the car, being at work (usually sitting), shopping, cooking food, watching TV or a computer, and sleeping again, then that won't do.
Discover how easy and fun it is to move better in day to day actions, to move in a way that re-aligns your skeleton, and helps you become strong, supple, and agile again. Even better, once you become aware of how you move (or fail to move) and incorporate the 10 functional training moves in your daily life, you will no longer have to spend time, money, effort, and pain "exercising" in the traditional sense. So what are the 10 functional training moves?
10 Basic Functional Training Moves Necessary for Survival
Balance, flexibility, strength, agility, and being comfortable in your body come from a relatively narrow spectrum of plain, ordinary, basic "forgotten", functional fitness moves that are becoming extinct in many adults today. What is a functional move? As an extreme example, take the African village woman who carries 20 liters of water on her head for 5 km. To us, this is extremely skillful. They may one day add that as an Olympic sports feature. For the African village woman, however, carrying 20 liters of water on her head is normal functional movement behavior. She does it every day.
For now, let us poor crippled Westerners stick to just 10 basic functional moves we all need to be able to perform and maintain a healthy movement vocabulary throughout our lives.
- Lying the floor
- Posture in standing
- Sitting on the floor comfortably
- Hanging and swinging
- Carrying and lifting
- Jumping and running
In a very few remaining less "civilized" cultures, the above moves are natural to adults. So let us see if you can lie down on the floor comfortably.
1. Lying on the Floor
Super expensive beds and mattresses are advertised promising the best night's sleep while the majority of the population are uncomfortable lying down on the floor. Why not sleep on a futon like the Japanese? Futons are a lot cheaper, cleaner and healthier.
See how comfortable you are lying down flat on the floor (not on a bed). Use props as shown in the above picture until you can comfortably lie on the floor without them. Surprisingly, lying on the floor is the best exercise you will ever do to get you started on your journey to becoming a good mover. Just close your eyes, breathe, and enjoy. As all good exercise should be, this position uses gravity as your best friend; it is passive, restful, pleasant, and most beneficial. Once you can lie down on the floor comfortably without props, you are ready to learn how to stand up with a correct posture.
2. Posture in Standing
Building up a good posture begins at the feet. Then the ankles, knees, pelvis and thorax can be aligned, but most importantly, the head should be carried directly above the spine and not in front of the body. Like a ball falling off a stick, the only way to stop those neck and upper back muscles cramping and aching from doing over-time is to keep the head back and up, centered above the spine with the chin down.
Now you know how to lie down and how to stand, let us explore the movement vocabulary between these two levels. How do we get up from the floor?
Over-curvature of the Spine
Did you know that you don't actually have to "shrink" with age? Older people appear to become shorter because, over many years of focusing down towards busy hands, gravity has diminished the sponginess between the vertebrae and, rather like an accordion, "folded" the spine somewhat.
You Don't Shrink with Age
3. Sitting on the Floor Comfortably
Decluttering homes from unnecessary and damaging furniture is a step in the right direction. Have you ever considered what chairs can do to our health? Watch the next short video and be surprised.
Are You Chair Shaped? Loosening the Hamstrings
Why not get down on all fours for a change and crawl on your hands and knees to reach for an object on the floor? Your spine will get straighter, and you will be using certain muscle groups not used in many years.
The easiest way to keep the knee joints fully mobile and the thigh muscles fully toned is to do a deep squat. Squat down to pick up things from the floor instead of bending forward and damaging the spine. Squat to play with small children. Try to remember to squat to get something from the bottom of the fridge. In other words, whenever an action is low, near the floor, squatting is always the best option.
Squat on a Daily Basis
Squat on top of the toilet to do your business for easier elimination. If you can't get up there you can use a squatty potty. Read more about this healthier way to empty your bowels in the link Why Squatting to Poop is a Must at the bottom of the page.
Do you know that when you learned to climb your first stairs as a toddler those steps were, in relation to your little body, as high as your thigh? At that time we were all as fit as olympic athletes. Climbing a steep hill or climbing up the stairs two-by-two strengthens your thighs and improves balance, strength, lung power, and endurance.
7. Hanging and Swinging
To stretch out the shoulder joints and get a good stretch for the whole body grab the branch of a tree and hang by your arms. Or hang briefly but daily from a piece of strong doweling, swing a little, then jump down onto the ground, bending the knees for a soft landing. Even better, hang upside down on a gravity inversion table to gently stretch out from head to toe.
Invert Gravity to Straighten Up
There are many ways to prevent shrinking by over-curvature. The key is to use gravity to the body's advantage rather than to its detriment. For example, doing a headstand as in Yoga inverts the body and is a good balancing exercise. But think about it: In a headstand, the entire body weight is carried by the head. Poor neck! Who, in their right mind, wants to carry their entire body weight on the top of their head? There is a better option to defy gravity: A Gravity Inversion Table as demonstrated in the above video.
Dig a big hole in the ground, to plant a new tree in the garden perhaps? Make sure you swap hands occasionally to balance out the action. Digging strengthens the arms and spine. It also boosts lung power and uses up many superfluous calories.
Always perform a "counter move" or "recovery move" after any strenuous task to avoid suffering pain and stiffness the next day. To fully understand the importance of counter moves watch the next short video.
9. Carrying and Lifting
The action of carrying weight is so easily incorporated into daily functional movement habits, it couldn't be more simple. Only buy as much food at the supermarket as you can carry on foot walking back home. More frequent visits, buying fewer and fresher items, will help you get stronger and more fit. You may think that there is no time to walk to the supermarket but adopting this method will save you all the time and money wasted lifting weights at the gym!
10. Jumping and Running
Running or jogging is jumping alternatively from one foot onto the other while traveling forward. Occasionally run to catch a bus or a ball. Challenge yourself to jump down the last 2 or 3 steps on a staircase. The benefit of jumping is that you become weightless at the top of the jump.
Running and jumping require soft landing through well-aligned feet, ankles, and knees or damage may occur. The next short video illustrates this,
How Well Do You Move?
I can easily
- lie on the floor comfortably
- sit on the floor comfortably
- crawl on all fours
- squat no problem
- climb a tree or a hill
- hang by my arms (or legs by gravity inversion)
- swing from the hands
- dig a big hole to plant a tree
- carry 20kg of shopping for 200 meters
- jump and run
How much do you score out of 10?
Benefits of the 10 Functional Training Moves
Apart from making you fit, strong, flexible, well-balanced, and coordinated in a natural way, the 10 functional training moves also make you aware of grounding and provide safety when falling.
Our feet hardly ever directly touch the ground, soil, earth. Our poor feet are not only harnessed by (damaging) shoes, urban human life takes place on the tarmac, concrete, or indoor floor coverings like carpets, plastic fake wood, real treated wood, or tiles. A lack of grounding may be the reason why going to the beach walking barefoot on the sand or running barefoot across a grass field are such enjoyable activities. Grounding or earthing requires actions that electrically connect the body to the earth. A link at the bottom of this article explains the science and physics of how electrical charges from the earth have positive effects on the body.
Safety When Falling
What is falling? In choreological terms, falling is the uncontrolled and rapid transition from standing upright to lying on the floor. The simple act of catching oneself when stumbling or falling requires super rapid reflexes and the ability to move off-balance through several levels in space (tipping, kneeling, crawling) before you hit the ground. A good mover can easily catch a fall unhurt. A bad mover may pull several tendons in the knees and or ankles, dislocate a hip or the spine, or even break a bone from the same fall. Don't panic, once you master the 10 functional training moves, like a young child, should you accidentally fall, you won't get hurt.
Of course, initially, it will take some self-discipline to learn and master the 10 functional training moves but once they become an integral part of your daily movement vocabulary and are used on a daily basis, like for example:
- squatting down to get something from the bottom of the refrigerator, or to go to the loo, or
- reaching up high on your toes to hang up the washing on an outdoor washing line, or
- raking the garden to tone up your triceps,
- and many other functional actions.
In short, if you move well enough in day-to-day activities, there is no need to exercise ever again!
Don't forget to leave your thoughts, comments, and questions below.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: How can I learn to squat? I'm fifty-five, and I cannot squat anymore because my knees hurt. Is there any way I could ever learn to squat again?
Answer: Your knees probably hurt for two reasons: (1) they may not be adequately aligned and (2) they are stiff because they never reach full mobility. This is a catch 22 situation. Joints get stiff from a lack of use (a lack of movement), and stiffness in the joints stops them moving to full capacity.
Another reason that people cannot squat is that the thigh muscles are too weak.
You can do three things to learn to squat again.
1. Re-align your ankles and knees. How? Follow the instructions in this article:
2. Once knee alignment is corrected, you are ready to begin getting the knees fully mobile and flexible. This means folding the lower leg to full capacity until the foot touches the butt.
3. Finally, learn to strengthen the thighs by doing half squats, and gradually working your way down deeper into full squats holding on to the kitchen top while waiting for the potatoes to cook (or something).
Put this advice into practice, and you'll be able to squat again in a few weeks time, no problem. But don't overdo it, remember my motto: No Pain, Just Gain.
Juliette Kando FI Chor (author) from Andalusia, southern Spain on April 20, 2015:
You can probably plug in your earphones to your laptop or tablet to hear the video.
Good luck with your recovery.
Becky on April 20, 2015:
This really works great! TY. The only thing is the your video sound for ear phones, there's none. There are a lot of people that are actually Deaf or going deaf like me. I have to take my hearing aid out of my left ear to hear it. I really would love to hear it. PLEASE! PLEASE! Active the sound in ear buds. There are a lot people out there that would be interested in these methods. Especially me...
I'm in deep Pain all the time. Anything would be better than taking medication. I had a really bad Car accident. I look normal, There's a lot of things I can not do, like I can't Vacuum the Carpet, Sweep the kitchen floor, Wash clothes, Buy groceries, Shop around, and a lot of other things. I can Straighten my bed or change my fury blankets on my bed, wash dishes Stove & counters, Water my plants and clean up, but sometimes that makes me hurt too. I use to Workout everyday, 4 hours a day. Just Richard Simon and the oldies, I would go for walks, take vitamins and Protein shakes. I accidentally pulled a Muscle in my leg been down ever since. My son bless his heart does everything now and he loves it. My car Accident left me with 3 vertebrae's out of place. I need surgery because the Vertebrae's are separating and I need spacers in between them. So when I get out of bed I scream hurt a lot. I also pulled my hip out of the socket too. My bad, I wasn't wearing a sit belt back in 1987. The two prangs in the gear shift standard car,
drilled a hole in my leg and caused my hip to come out of the socket. I missed work so I could go shopping with my mother, and my mother and I in the same got hit head on in a car accident. My mother broke the bone that protects her heart. There's nothing the doctors could do for her. It heals on it's own, feels like heart burn. I also hit my Knee on the Dashboard so I had a hallo bruise on my knee. My head it the Windshield, and shaved off one inch and a half of my hair on by forehead. I also had a hallo bruise on my neck which was so swollen that my neck looked like it was connected to my chest. I also broke the top of my left foot, the bone that goes to all my toes and broke 3 toes and had a Cast to sleep with and that's horrible too. I must have pressed down with my elbows on impact, because if I get cool air on my elbows slightly I hurt badly all night. The lady didn't have insurance, and nor a Drivers License. She didn't even own of the car, it was her friends. She total both cars, not fixable. My mother and I were really hurt, what a mess. My Mother had insurance and I had insurance from my job at that time.
So you see I'm not a Skinny Minnie either, but I did workout every day started out slowly. I was way up there working-out in bed, Sit-up & Leg lifts. I can't pull or twist very good because I easily come out of place.
I have tripped over my Stair Climber and landed on the floor screaming for my son when he's home to help pull me off the floor. I have two left feet, all my life even when I was thin. Tripping upstairs, Falling down stairs lol. I'm thankful for what I have been through and where I am.
But...I would love to do this Exercises and bring my health and Body up to par. Feeling good about myself and gradually working-out and walking 10 miles again soon WOW! Great!! My neck is feeling good doing these exercise your showing. "To the future and Beyond"
I grew up eating Sweets in my family and we are workers too. I love over-time. I learned how to bake before learning how to cook. I have more than 7 years of cooking classes. I make the Tortilla Dough and my son rolls them out and cooks them. I still cook for my son I love to do that, but there are days I just have to much pain and he the cooks.
I also love dancing in the kitchen. My son grew up listening to oldies and he loves them too.
People are getting fat Because...
People eat a lot now there's Fast food! All you can eat! and fast food Pizza merged with Taco Bell. You might want Pizza only and than you find out they sell Tacos there too. Well let me have some of that.
It's like that everywhere. You go buy groceries, going to the check-out
there are more goodies well that looks good I'll buy it. It's not even on your list. It's everywhere. Buy online I say, but how about them apples!
"Were on the fast track"
Juliette Kando FI Chor (author) from Andalusia, southern Spain on December 17, 2010:
Thank you Janine, every little bit helps.
Janine on May 08, 2010:
Nice to find information on fitness which makes some good sense as opposed to advertising torturing fitnes equipment and products that do no good to anyone. Well done Sue.
Juliette Kando FI Chor (author) from Andalusia, southern Spain on December 03, 2009:
Thanks Barry, glad you get something out of my work. I hear what you're saying Magnoliazz about some parents who are not a good example to their children. I know we are not here to judge but to educate, yet think about parenting: you need a license to drive a car, to keep a dog and yet anyone can bring children into the world with no training what-so-ever in parenting skills. The law can only intervene when it's too late. Lucky are those kids who have grand parents to help in the task of bringing them up and pass on tried and tested values for life's increasingly demanding challenges.
magnoliazz from Wisconsin on November 13, 2009:
I think you are on the right track. People get turned off with the thought of exercising, and it really does not make any sense to do something over and over again mindlessly.
My approach to a normal weight is to get out there and start growing some of your own food. Living in Wisconsin on a Christmas tree farm, I have a big garden, I also gather food from the woods and surrounding countryside in season. Walking through the woods, hunting for food is man's oldest exercise and effective in keeping the weight down. There is something about being outside in the wind and sun that regulates the appetite.
I also tell people with a weight problem to take a look at their housekeeping skills. Many overweight people that I know also live in a filthy house! Just watch the show Hoarders, those people are usually lazy and overweight.
My German grandmother, who would have made an excellent Nazi, instilled a work ethic on her grandchildren at a young age. She always had "chores" for us to do before we could sit and watch TV. To this day, I cannot sit down and relax unless my house is in order. How some people can sit there and watch TV with an ounce of dust all over it is beyond me.
Growing up, I thought my German grandmother was "mean", but now I know she taught us valuable lessons in life, like if you keep your house clean, you will also keep your weight down from that activity alone! How many times have I seen an overweight friend pay big money for an exercise program, while their house looks like a bomb hit it! They would be money ahead if they would simply stay home and clean their house and at the same time they would be making a giant step toward being slim for life, plus they would be teaching their kids the same things. How many times have you seen an obese child sit there in front of the TV because that is all mom and dad does?
Being fit and healthy can come naturally and easily, we just have to reclaim what is really important in our lives and cut back on some of the stuff that is not so important, like endless hours in front of the TV and computer.
I like your hubs, because they take a different approach to health and fitness, and that's exactly what we need if we are going to get this younger generation into a more healthy state.
Barry Rutherford from Queensland Australia on November 04, 2009:
The hubs you have on movement and the body are very good and really interesting to me. Keep up the great work. Look forward to reading more of them !
Juliette Kando FI Chor (author) from Andalusia, southern Spain on September 19, 2009:
Thanks James. The Body Furniture is to be found at
I haven't had a chance to mention it on hubpages yet.
James Casey on September 19, 2009:
Hi Sue, that's great info. My friend used to have one of your chairs and it was great for me and the kids.
Are they still available??
Julo on September 13, 2009:
I agree with you about the obsession with food. In the sixties people were obsessed with sex, now it's food. I enjoy reading your hubs and trying out some new moves for a change. Good work and thank you.
Juliette Kando FI Chor (author) from Andalusia, southern Spain on September 12, 2009:
Thank you Frances. I really hope my hubs take off as I'm so passionate about my subject matter (how to move like a dancer among the crowds) because it makes you confident and healthy. I have so much more I would like to share with every one. There aren't enough hours in the day to get it all published as quickly as I wish but bear with me, I'm working as hard as I can.
Frances on September 11, 2009:
Great idea! Will check back soon for more, love the pics.