The best exercises do more than just give you a perkier butt or a killer core. They help you tackle everyday tasks and your favorite fitness activities with ease. "Functional exercises train specific muscles, the kinetic chains of those muscles and the mind to operate more effectively in day to day life,” explains trainer Juliet Kaska, who has worked with such notable celebs as Kerry Washington, Karlie Kloss and Stacy Keibler. “Plus, a highly functional body is less likely to get injured.” Here are five of Kaska’s must-do moves.
Reverse Wood Chops
Benefits: Targets rotational strength and power in your core, especially the obliques, which ups your ability in sports with swinging motions (think golf, baseball and softball).
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, toes turned out and an 8- to10-pound dumbbell in hands. Squat down and rotate to the left as you reach the dumbbell to the outside of the left ankle. Allow the right knee and foot to pivot in. Stand up as you engage through the abs bringing the weight up and over the to the right side above the head. Allow the left knee and ankle to pivot in. Reverse motion to return to start. Do 8-15 reps per side.
Treadmill Lateral Walking
Benefits: Builds stronger knees, hips, glutes and quads, which are often weak since “legs are overworked in linear movement,” explains Kaska. Great for tennis players.
Stand on treadmill sideways, holding on to the arm rail. Start at a very low speed (for example, 1.5 and no incline) With knees slightly bent and back straight, step the back foot in to meet the front foot, keeping pace with the treadmill. Start with 1-2 minute intervals per side, building up to 5-10 minutes on each side.
Benefits: Aids your running. Also, you’ll be able to pick up heavy objects.
Hold a 10- to 20-pound barbell with arms hanging straight in front of thighs. Hinge forward at hips; go as low as possible, keeping back and neck in a straight line. With weight in heels, power through hamstrings to return to standing. Do 8 to 15 reps.
Benefits: You’ll be better at standup paddleboarding and avoid ankle sprains. “Strong calves help prevent ankle rolling,” Kaska explains.
Stand with feet hip-width apart and parallel; lift one foot. Without locking knee of the standing leg, rise onto the ball of your foot. Hold, then lower heel without touching floor. Do 10 to 20 reps per side.
3 Point Squat and Reach
Benefits: Improves your skiing game; helps you get up from seats easily.
Stand with legs together, a 2- to 5-pound weight in each hand. Squat; bring weights to outside of left foot, arms parallel. Stand; squat and extend weights in front of you. Stand; squat and bring weights to outside of right foot. Do 5 to 10 reps.