4 Functional Moves That’ll Give You Next-Level Body Benefits

Here’s the thing about fitness: it’s not just about creating that December body. Picture 70-year-old you. Is she still running five kays, gardening and hiking? If your answer is yes – and it should be! – don’t eliminate functional moves from your regimen. Here are our faves.

1. Pull-Up

This is a beast of functionality, working your back, arms and core.

Do it right: Make sure you brace your core. “It’ll keep your midsection and spine in a single position, reducing the strain you put on your back,” says Cameron Coomer, physiotherapist at Celia Smith & Associates.

Go easy: “Perfecting the pull-up can take anywhere from a few months to years to achieve on your own,” says Emma Jooste, personal trainer and co-owner of Warrior Warehouse in Cape Town. Start basic with lat pulldowns and TRX rows three times a week. As you get stronger, loop a thick resistance band around the bar and step into it so it supports some of your weight.

Go hard: Already able to bang out a few reps? When you can do more than 10, hold a dumbbell between your feet.

Gear up: Go for snug-fitting gloves that provide grip without bulk or chafing.

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2. Box Jump

Trying to hit your max heart rate? Ditch the treadmill and go for box jumps: “They build muscle and are good for power development,” says Gareth Corbett, co-owner of Switch Playground, where box jumps are a staple. In one jump, you’ll shape your butt, thighs and calves, plus build explosive power that’ll help you hit a ParkRun PB.

Do it right: Corbett sees box jumps being butchered all the time, which can cause injury to your back and knees. Make sure you lift off with both feet and jump evenly, landing softly on the box, he says.

Go easy: First-timer? Get a lower box. “Boxes come in sets of three, so go for the lowest,” says Corbett. If you’re not ready to jump up, try stepping up, squat on the box, then step down and squat again.

Go hard: If you’re hard core, try the one-legged jump – push off and land on one leg, step down, then swap legs. It isolates the leg muscles, so you’ll burn more ’joules per jump. Not ready? Add a weight to a two-legged jump.

Gear up: For explosive moves, you want a flat-soled shoe. “Any trainer is perfect,” says Corbett. “What you don’t want is a running shoe. The sole is high while the forefoot is low, so you’re off balance. Flat-soled shoes give you more stability.”

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3. Stability-Ball Pikes

Stability ball pikes are great for targeting the deepest recesses of your lazy core. But they’re also ace for strengthening and stretching your hamstrings and lower back, says Corbett. Your shoulders get in on the action too. In fact, from your triceps to lats and butt, your whole body will be on fire.

Do it right: Bad form could injure your back. Make sure your hips don’t sink and remember to brace your core. Roll the ball over your feet to your toes, leading with your abs and squeezing your glutes.

Go easy: “Core strength is essential, so loads of abdominal work will aid in the process,” says Corbett. Start with planks on the ground, then with your feet on the ball and finally practice jackknives – from a plank with feet on the ball, tuck your knees into your chest.

Go hard: Try adding a push-up before the pike.

Gear up: Worried about flashing your boobs? Stick to a form-flattering top that supports movement.

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4. Squat

Squats build that bootay, but they also strengthen your legs and core. Plus, stronger glutes (muscles in your butt cheeks) help you run faster and reduce your injury risk.

Do it right: One sure sign you’re squatting, but won’t make gains is if your knees are over your toes. Make sure your upper back is straight – not drooping forward – and that knee-to-toe alignment should fall into place, says Jooste. Another sign you’re doing it wrong? Not squeezing your glutes on your way back up.

Go easy: If you’re new, try squatting slowly without weights, watching yourself in the mirror to check your form. Injured? Opt for donkey kicks or bridges instead.

Go hard: “Do a combination of squats and lunges and implement variations,” says Jooste. Try a complex of squat jumps, Bulgarian-split squats and jumping lunges to really up that burn.

Gear up: Can’t help but notice the plumber’s crack in front of you and hoping you’re not giving the entire gym an eyeful? Look for tights with a high, broad waistband and fabric that doesn’t turn sheer when it stretches or darken with sweat.

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