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The Functional Five! (Hint: One is Walking)

The Best 5 Exercises to Keep in Your Workout Routine

Every day I get emails and texts from past clients asking me about the best exercise for their bodies, or suggestions for strengthening.

Back in April of this year, I ran through a super simple workout sequencing the five exercises that I typically build a workout around. These exercises have stood out in my experience as a clinician- they build strength, they are functional and building familiarity with doing them helps keep people moving independently.

The type of success I witness in my work is so inspiring- getting to witness people getting up and down their stairs safely, working with people to navigate tight spaces to get into bleachers to watch their kids play basketball. These outcomes have nothing to do with aesthetics and everything to do with nourishing the felt sense of well being life.

Physical therapists work diligently with people throughout their lifespan to maintain movement and independence.

The most important movements we need to maintain as we age are the following:

Getting into and out of a chair

Getting up and down stairs

Getting up and down off of the ground

Walking (or any version of locomotion)

Time and time again, I witness well intentioned people expecting to maintain these functional tasks without putting in any work on the patterns or strength that is required to produce these movements. For this reason, I am so focused in my practice on getting people moving functionally- and doing everything we can to stay moving. Also, bonus, all of the following exercises train your core.

Here are the most critical movements to perform throughout your life (and why):

1) Squat

Performing a squat builds strength in the back of our body (specifically the glutes). In addition, a squat builds neurologic familiarity with the movement pattern required in getting into and out of a chair and in and out of a car.


Lunges also build the gluteal muscles (that course along the back of the hip joint) and the quadriceps. They require flexibility at the big toe in a similar matter to what is required for healthful walking. Lunging helps keep us capable up: ascending and descending stairs, getting up and down off the ground.

3)Push Up

Push ups are tough- we all know that. Fortunately, there are all kinds of varieties of this typical movement- you can do them at a wall, on an elevated surface or on the knees while you build the strength to do the floor variation. Push ups allow you to get up off of the floor when you are on your belly, and are supreme at building core strength.


Rows strengthen the muscles between your shoulder blades. We perform one arm rows when we open a car door, open a refrigerator. When you perform rows standing, and especially unilaterally, they also create fantastic strength in your core.

5) Locomotion (walking)

We all start out life without the ability to walk. We need to build the skill through practice and maintain it with repetition. Practicing walking is crucial in maintaining the capacity to continue to move. If you move in a different method (such as with a wheelchair), the same recommendation goes- practice transfers and practice moving in your chair!

If you are interested in working out using these basic techniques, join me for a workout here: Functional Five with Trina

If you do this workout, please let me know how it goes!

Happy moving,


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