Want To Keep Doing The Things You Love? This Body Coach Says To Focus On Functional Movement
When it comes to athletic longevity, there's one name in sports today you tend to hear: Tom Brady. While he may have won his first Super Bowl at 26, he earned his most recent ring last night at age 43, in a league with an average retirement age of 35. He must know a thing or two about healthy aging.
So when we had the chance to talk to Becca Coutts, P.T., DPT, CSCS, a body coach from TB12, a health and wellness brand co-founded by Brady and Alex Guerrero, we knew we had to talk about the moves she recommends for setting yourself up for athletic longevity—getting her advice for being able to continue doing the activities we love as we age.
Why she recommends focusing on functional movement.
The term "functional movement" may sound new and complex, but the idea is actually pretty simple: that your training should include movements that are similar to those that you do every day. In the case of Brady himself, that means lots of motions that replicate the motion of throwing a football—but for the average person, it's about finding exercises that support muscle balance.
Coutts recommended these moves, which focus on "things that are easy to do but are really essential for your spine health and keeping your body symmetrical." If you're a die-hard spin class attendee or a dedicated yogi, you may repeat those activities all week and assume that's enough movement—but Coutts encourages using a simple series like this one to support your body in addition to those favorite activities.
"I always talk to clients about being careful about doing just one activity," she told mbg. "I think when you do one activity over and over again that can lead to different kinds of dysfunction, especially if you're not doing anything to work the other muscles that you need from your body."
That doesn't mean you can't do to five classes a week—but it's worth planning on including other quick trainings, in particular ones that support the muscle groups that will support your ability to continue those activities you love. "These are some core exercises," she shares. "We're always focusing on strengthening your glutes, strengthening your core—if you don't have those things, you're going to have issues with longevity."
Here are five easy foundational moves to start with or add to your existing routine.
A familiar exercise to anyone who's done a Pilates class, the glute bridge is an exercise that takes some mental focus along with physical discipline.
"We notice a lot of the times that people will compensate, they'll fire their hamstrings too much," says Coutts, "so we're really encouraging them to use their glutes more and engage their core more." Focus on engaging the correct muscles to get the most from this move.
How to do it:
"Contract your glutes and core to lift your hips off the ground until they're straight, being sure to not flex your hamstrings. Then lower your hips to the ground."
For many people, a simple bodyweight squat is probably already a part of your workout routine—just make sure your form is right. Once you master the bodyweight squat, there are other exercises you can do or modifications you can make to up the difficulty.
How to do it:
"Bend your knees and hips while lowering your bottom toward the ground until your knees reach a 90-degree angle. Then extend your knees and hips to return to the starting position."
A pallof press begins with a strong stance, and the key is to isolate the movement to your upper body while keeping your lower body still.
"The reason I like it is because it puts you into this kind of functional standing position that we're in all day anyway," she explains, "but it requires you to use your core, and it's dynamic because you're using upper body and lower body."
How to do it:
"Press both arms straight out from your chest, then bring your arms back in. Move your arms quickly and fluidly throughout. Repeat this motion continuously, being sure to not move your lower body. Repeat this motion on your other side."
Don't let the funny name fool you: This move will get both your core and your glutes burning and can be a great addition to a HIIT workout.
How to do it:
Starting on your hands and knees, "Kick your leg straight back while punching your opposite arm straight out in front of your body. Hold the contraction for 1 to 2 seconds, then return to the starting position. Repeat this motion continuously. Switch to kicking with your other leg and punching with the opposite arm. Keep your head facing down, and make sure your back is flat during the entire motion.
90:90 single-leg balance
While it may not look like it, this move is going to target your glutes, too. Focus on firing them when doing it to optimize your form and make sure you feel the muscles squeeze.
How to do it:
Hold your balance in this position. Do not lean to either side or tap your raised leg to the ground—if you need to regain balance, try hopping on your plant leg instead. Switch to the other side and hold your balance on your other leg.
The bottom line.
"In general, everyone's going to be a little different," reminds Cloutts—but since these moves are based in establishing a strong foundation, they can be useful for anyone looking to improve their ability to keep moving as they age, or if you're looking to supplement your regular yoga flow or running routine.
Eliza Sullivan is an SEO Editor at mindbodygreen, where she writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She received a B.S. in journalism and B.A. in english literature with honors from Boston University, and she has previously written for Boston Magazine, TheTaste.ie, and SUITCASE magazine.