1. Multiple plane, multiple direction movement: We don’t go around moving in robotic ways do we? Why would you train your body that way? Simply doing push-ups, pull-ups, sit-ups, even burpies is not enough… diagonals, horizontals, and rotations must be included to be a good “functional movement” exercise.
2. Core muscle activation: “Core” is such a buzzword in today’s fitness world, but most of the time it refers only to the abdominal area. Well, I have news for you: the 6-pack has very little functional value in real life movement. There is more value to the lateral abdominal “core” muscles (the Obliques and the Transversus Abdominus), but the most important core muscles are others that attach to the spine and pelvis: the Gluteals, the para-vertebrals (especially the deep Multifidus), and the upper spine / shoulder blade muscles (Rhomboids, Serratus posterior superior and inferior, middle and lower Trapezius). These are super important postural and core stabilization muscles that help make the stable platform from which functional movements can occur.
3. Slow and Fast twitch fiber engagement: Did you know your muscles have slow and fast twitch fibers? They do what they say: long, slow contractions or fast, quick contractions. All muscles have a combination of the 2, but depending on the muscles function, some have more of one than the other. A good functional movement exercise incorporates both just as movement in daily life does.
4. Breathing: Very important! The breath can not only increase focus and attention to a movement or exercise (increasing muscle fiber recruitment), but also avoids the potentially harmful Valsalva Maneuver.
5. FUN! As with most exercise, FUNctional movement exercise should be FUN! It should also incorporate movements that help reinforce good body mechanics in your daily life and improve the activities you enjoy doing.