What is Functional Training?

June 21, 2018

If you follow the health and fitness industry, then you’ve probably heard of the term functional training. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Functional fitness exercises train your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by simulating common movements you might do at home, at work or in sports.”

In this blog post, Total Fitness Equipment Showroom Manager and Certified Personal Trainer, Tom Taylor, takes a deep dive into this popular style of training and explains who it’s best suited for and how it can help a client achieve various fitness goals.

What’s functional training?
Generally speaking, functional training is purposeful training. It’s performing exercises for the purpose of performing the activities of daily life more easily, with less pain, better balance, and improved mobility. Functional movements use large groups of muscles and connective tissue working all at once, or sequentially, to perform a task (i.e. lifting a dumbbell or sandbag from the ground to overhead vs. an isolation exercise like a bicep curl).

What types of exercises does functional training involve?
There are many opinions on this and essentially limitless ways to answer this question. However, to simplify things, here’s a list of basic movements that might be performed in a functional training regimen:

  • Picking things up from the ground (i.e. a deadlift)

  • Sitting then standing from a seated position (i.e. a squat or lunge)

  • Lifting objects overhead (i.e. a standing press)

  • Working large groups of muscle to move and stabilize the body (i.e. push-ups or pull-ups)

  • Rotating the torso with anything from your own bodyweight to a medicine ball, resistance band, or suspension trainer

What kinds of equipment or accessories does it involve?
Perhaps one of the greatest things about functional training is that, with proper technique and some imagination, there is virtually no limit to making any object “functional.” Some items that are commonly used in functional training are:

  • Kettlebells

  • Suspension trainers

  • Resistance bands

  • Dumbbells

  • Sandbags

  • Medicine balls

Who is functional training good for?
Because of the broad brush stroke that’s used to define functional training, it can be good for anyone! Meeting the exerciser where they are and applying movements that are functional and relevant to their life means that anyone can benefit from it. Simply walking can be modified and made functional by introducing uneven terrain, inclines, or obstacles to move around or over.  This would help improve balance, coordination, flexibility, and mobility.

Can it help toward weight loss goals?
Functional training, like any training that’s combined with proper nutrition, can help with weight loss (the reduction in body fat) or weight gain (the increase in lean muscle), both of which are beneficial to long-term health and quality of life. One of the best functional training movements is the kettlebell swing. If performed properly (it’s best to consult a qualified kettlebell instructor on this), the kettlebell swing can burn calories, strengthen large and small muscle groups, and improve cardiovascular fitness.

What about strength training goals?
A classic functional training movement that can help with strength training is the squat. The squat is a perfect example of how functional training is designed to meet the exerciser where they currently stand. From simply standing up from a seated position to a bodyweight squat that is performed by squatting down with the only resistance being the exercisers body weight, there’s a myriad of variations all the way up to what’s arguably the best exercise for overall strength … the weighted squat, of which the barbell back squat is the pinnacle.

Overall, functional training can be very beneficial to just about anyone and can help toward achieving a variety of different fitness goals. If you have a gym membership, there’s a very good chance you have access to kettlebells, medicine balls, resistance bands, and other accessories that can be used in a functional training program. Not a gym member? Check out in-home equipment like the Connexus by Matrix Fitness. Perfect for boot camp enthusiasts or any exerciser looking to build strength to do the things they love, Connexus Home easily adapts to a range of accessories, provides a variety of strength and cardio exercises, and original workouts that deliver transformational results.

Ready to learn more how Total Fitness Equipment can help get you started on your functional training journey? Contact us today!

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and not meant as an exercise prescription. Always consult your physician and/or a certified exercise professional before beginning any exercise routine.