What is functional training? You’ve likely heard about it if you’ve flicked through any pre-made training programmes, talked to a trainer or explored your local AF gym. But what exactly is functional training? In short, it’s a workout designed to help you function on a day-to-day basis.
Because the workouts are designed to strengthen you for daily life, the moves imitate frequently performed tasks. Functional training exercises also tend to be compound movements. This means you’re using multiple muscles and joints to perform the exercise. Squats, for picking things up or moving from sitting to standing. Overhead presses for reaching things above your head.
How is this different to other training?
Other types of training such as bodybuilding focus on much smaller groups, or even individual muscles. For example, bicep curls don’t replicate many real-life situations but pull-ups, sled pulls and even barbell squats work a variety of muscles and your biceps.
Because you’re using multiple body parts for each exercise your coordination, balance and muscle distribution will be better. You’re also likely to expend more energy during your workout.
Benefits of functional training
We’re not going to start a new style of training without knowing what it can do for us.
- As mentioned above, functional training makes everyday movements easier and more stable
- Functional training is low impact. Perfect for beginners or for protecting your joints
- Reduce the risk of injury in daily life through improved coordination and mobility
- Increase your overall strength with lean muscle mass
How to incorporate functional training
Functional training can be incorporated into your already existing workout routine. Whatever method of working out you prefer, from body weight to any kind of equipment can be functional. However, it’s recommended to pick body weight or free weights as this better replicates real life than static machines.
The flexibility of this concept means you can also find exercises to suit any goal.
Functional exercises you should try
The aim here is to find exercises that you enjoy, and that takes your body through a diverse range of motion. For example squats. These use your knees, hips, ankles, all your leg muscles, glutes and abs to perform. If you’ve added a barbell, your upper body is working hard too.
There are about as many functional training exercises as there are daily chores, so you can find something to suit your needs. Why not ask a member of staff next time you’re in the gym if you want some more ideas?
Here are four exercises you can try. Start with no/light weight, but you can modify and add to each as you get stronger and more comfortable with the moment.
- Improve your sitting and standing motions, picking things up and your overall strength
- To modify: We like adding barbells, trying wall balls or dumbbell squats to overhead press
- Working your arms and back, these can be a real challenge at first
- To modify: Start on your knees, when you’re doing many full pushups try adding renegade rows to the end of the movement
- Kettlebell swings
- Good for your heart, explosive power and a great low-impact option
- Gradually increase the weight as you get stronger
- Dumbbell reverse lunges
- Improve balance, your core and coordination
- To modify: Add in a rotation at the end of the movement
So there you go, an intro to functional training and some options for you. If you have any questions, leave them below and we’ll get back to you in our next post.
If you want to learn more, take a look at the other fitness blogs we have.
The information here is not designed to be a one size fits all guide and should not be used to treat or diagnose your own experiences during this time. As always, you should make sure to consult a GP before starting a new kind of training and if you have any concerns or existing medical conditions.