What is Functional Strength Training + How to Get Started

Fitness that enhances your life, not consumes it.

By: Emily Freeman

Year after year, functional fitness continues to be a fitness trend that gets quite a bit of attention and it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. But regardless of its new buzzword connotation, when programmed correctly into your workout routine, functional fitness training is extremely beneficial for enhancing your day-to-day life. Ahead, more on what functional strength training is, the benefits, and how to incorporate it into your fitness routine. 

What is Functional Strength Training?

Functional strength training is fitness with a purpose. It’s made up of movement patterns that build muscle memory, strength, agility, and balance to make everyday tasks easier. Think cleaning, walking upstairs, running after children, catching a fall, picking up something heavy, sitting down, or standing up from a chair. It’s fitness that doesn’t stop after your workout — it becomes part of your life. 

The Benefits of Functional Strength Training 

Our body will naturally favor using the stronger muscles in our bodies and neglect those that aren’t as conditioned. That’s why many of us have a combination of overperforming and underperforming muscle groups, which is an easy way to end up with major muscular imbalances and injuries. Functional strength training helps minimize these imbalances with exercises that recruit multiple muscles at once, which encourages your body to do the same in your everyday activities.

Functional strength training also helps builds strength, improves mobility and balance by targeting your smaller stabilizing muscles, increases muscle tone and mass, burns fat, and helps you lose weight. 

Functional strength training has also been shown to reduce the risk of injury, boost mood and cognitive function, help alleviate pain (especially in the lower back), and it can be a ton of fun! 

Examples of Functional Strength Training Exercises 

What are the most effective functional training exercises to add to your workout routine? Some of our favorites are:

#1 Squat to Shoulder Press

Step #1: Start standing with feet slightly wider than hip-width and toes turned out. 

Step #2: Hold one dumbbell in each hand up next to your shoulders, elbows bent. 

Step #3: With your abs pulled in and weight in your heels, bend your knees and come into a squat position. 

Step #4: Squeeze your glutes and come back to standing as you press your arms straight overhead. 

Step #5: Bring your hands back to your shoulders for one rep. 

Step #6: Complete 10 to 20 reps and repeat another two to three times.  

#2 Renegade Rows

Step #1: Start in a straight-arm plank position with each hand holding onto one dumbbell. 

Step #2: Pull your belly button into your spine as you grab the weight and row your right arm up towards the ceiling. 

Step #3: Slowly bring your arm back down to your starting position and repeat on the left 

Step #4: Make sure the rest of your body stays still. If you’re wobbling a bit, try bringing your feet wider apart for more stability. 

Step #5: Complete 10 to 20 reps on each side and repeat another two to three times.  

#3 Deadlift to Upright Row 

Step #1: Start standing with feet hip-distance, parallel.

Step #2: Hold one weight in each hand, arms straight, and hands in front of your thighs, palms facing in towards you. 

Step #3: Engage your core and shift your weight onto your heels as you bend at the waist, push your booty back.

Step #4: Slowly lower your weights towards the ground, keeping them close to your shins, until your torso is parallel to the floor.  

Step #5: Squeeze your glutes and come back to standing with control for one rep.

Step #6: Complete 10 to 20 reps and repeat another two to three times. 

#4 Alternating Curtsey Lunges 

Step #1: Start with feet hip-distance, parallel, and hands on your waist. Option to hold one weight in each hand to add more resistance. 

Step #2: Pull your belly button into your spine as you step your left leg back behind your right so your thighs are crossed. 

Step #3: Bend both knees down into a lunge, making sure your front knee is tracking over your toes and the back knee is pointing straight down to the ground. 

Step #4: Drive through your heels, squeeze your glutes as you press off your left foot, and step back to center. Repeat on the other side. 

Step #5: Complete 10 to 20 reps on each side and repeat another two to three times. 

#5 Crab Reach 

Step #1: Start in a seated position, legs bent in front of you, feet planted, and hands flat on the ground under your shoulders. 

Step #2: Pull your abs in, squeeze your glutes, and lift your hips off the ground as high as you can. This is your starting position. 

Step #3: Keeping your core engaged. Lift your right hand and left foot off the ground simultaneously. 

Step #4: Continue lifting them as you straighten your left up towards the sky and reach your right hand towards your left foot, so they meet in the center of your body. 

Step #5: Come back to your starting position and repeat on the other side. 

Step #6: Complete 10 to 20 reps on each side and repeat another two to three times. 

Getting Started With Functional Fitness Training 

Adding functional fitness training to your workout can be as simple as incorporating a few functional strength exercises into your regimen. It can be even easier when you have someone guiding you, especially if you’re not familiar with the exercises. Form is extremely important during all of your workouts, but functional fitness requires another level of body awareness that may be difficult to master on your own. 

If you want some guidance, follow along with FitOn trainer Caroline Pearce in her 28-minute Functional Full Body routine. It’s a total body functional workout that builds strength, burns fat, improves coordination and mobility, and will have you feeling amazing from the inside out!  

Fitness That Enhances Your Life

Your workouts don’t have to consume your life to be fit and healthy. We have a million other things to get done each day, and we all need a little extra time for fun and self-care. Functional training gives you the tools to let fitness enhance your life, not be it. You ready to hop on board the functional fitness train? Let’s get started! 

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