Human movement can be reduced to three basic categories: pushing, pulling, and hip extension (squatting, jumping, running, and even riding a bike). Functional fitness begins with learning good form for this essential repertoire and then gradually adding weight and difficulty to build stability and strength. Doing these exercises correctly with five pounds, in other words, is better than doing them poorly with 100. In the words of Gray Cook, one of the founding fathers of functional training, "Don't add strength to dysfunction."
Athletic power is the ability to accelerate weight – it's not just about applying force, but applying it quickly. Almost every sport depends on power, from sprinting to driving the pedals of a bicycle. The kettlebell swing is the perfect foundational power exercise, Boyle says, "because it's simple and explosive."
- Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder width, toes slightly outward, and hang the kettlebell between your legs.
- Lock the shoulders by pulling the shoulder blades down toward your feet.
- Bend at the hips to push your butt backward while the kettlebell hangs loose in front.
- Snap hips forward. Don't pull up the bell with your arms; stand up explosively and let it fly up on its own. But control is everything, and the bell should reach only eye level.
- On the backswing, let arms come flat against your torso with the bell between your legs.
Credit: Photograph by Terrence Darvin
- One-Armed Kettlebell Swings: These are done exactly the same way as regular swings but require much more body control.