sport, fitness center, dumbbells

So you’ve poked around on the internet researching different functional strength training exercises. But now you’re wondering how to put it all together.

Should you do lunges and push-ups in the same day or space it out? How many reps of each exercise should you do? Which muscle groups should you focus on?

Well, I’m going to answer all of these questions for you and then some. I’ll even give you a sample 4-day workout program plus some demos on how to maintain good form.

If you’re looking to make everyday activities like climbing stairs feel like a breeze, keep on reading!

crossed dumbbells, gloves, weights

7 Basic Functional Strength Training Exercises

When you first start your functional training program, it’s helpful to know what sort of movements you’ll be doing. Building your functional strength is supposed to make your everyday life easier. So all of these exercises mimic the most common movement patterns that you do in your daily life.

  • Pull
    • Example: Pulling a heavy cooler towards you in the trunk of your car

  • Push
    • Example: Pushing your child on a swing (although you probably shouldn’t use all your functional strength for that)

silhouette of a woman performing a squat
  • Squat
    • Example: We all drop things at some point. Gotta squat down to pick it up.
  • Lunge
    • Example: A lot of the same muscle groups are recruited in lunges and climbing stairs.

  • Hinge
    • Example: Sometimes instead of squatting to pick something up, you might find that you have to hinge forward.

  • Twist (or Rotation)
    • Example: Twisting to dust all those hard-to-reach places during spring cleaning.

  • Walk (or Gait)
    • Example: I think this one is pretty self-explanatory.

weightlifting, clean and jerk split stance

Before you start your functional fitness training program

Just a few quick notes before we get into the workout routine:

You’ll notice a lack of isolation exercises that you typically see with traditional strength training. So no bicep curls or calf raises here. That’s because with exercises like the bicep curl you’re only working one muscle group at a time.

Functional fitness workouts consist of compound exercises. These compound exercises are meant to prepare you for everyday life. So we’re going to be doing a lot of squatting, twisting, and lunging.

The great thing about that is the more muscle groups you work at the same time, the more calories you burn!

group fitness class in gym

As I lay it all out for you, you’ll be able to see what each functional strength training exercise will do for you, and how it can be applied to your life.

Now let’s jump right into the workout!

4-Day Sample Functional Training Plan

Day 1

  • Squats: 10 reps

  • Push-ups: 10 reps

  • Lunges: 10 reps

  • Plank: 30 seconds

  • Repeat for a total of 3 rounds.

This is a full body workout. If this is too advanced for your current fitness level, start with just one round. You can also do fewer reps. Eventually, you’ll be able to do all 3 rounds or even 4 (if you want a challenge). But for now, start slow and pay attention to how your body feels.

woman wiping off sweat during workout

Day 2

  • Bodyweight hip thrusts: 10 reps

  • Dumbbell row: 10 reps

  • Floor wipers: 10 reps

  • Marching in place: 30 seconds

Day 3

  • Rest. You’ve earned it.

  • If you’re feeling like your whole body is still too sore to work out, give yourself an extra day of rest.

stick figure man fatigued and sweating performing overhead press

Day 4

  • Repeat Day 1.

Day 5

  • Repeat Day 2.

How to Do These Functional Training Exercises Correctly

As you begin your functional fitness training, it’s important that you perform all of these exercises correctly. That way you’ll maximize your results while unlocking your full potential. You’ll also reduce your risk of injury so that you’ll be able to train pain-free.


I’m sure most of you are familiar with squats. Here are a few tips just in case you need a little refresher.

  • Stand with your feet hip width apart.

  • Keep your core tight throughout the entire movement.

  • As you get up from a chair, you naturally push your hips forward. So think about that motion but don’t exaggerate it too much.

man performing barbell back squat


Push ups are great for building upper body strength. They’re also great for building core strength.

  • The starting position for a push-up is basically a high plank position.

  • Keep your feet about shoulder width apart. If it feels more comfortable for you, it’s okay to have your feet slightly wider.

  • Make sure your body stays in a straight line. Don’t arch your back or allow your hips to drop.


Lunges are great for working your entire posterior chain (mainly your glutes and hamstrings).

  • Stand with your feet hip width apart.

  • As you go down into your forward lunge position, make sure your other leg isn’t taking over.
    • Example: You’re lunging with your left leg. Use your left leg to push yourself back into a standing position. Your right leg is only there to make sure you don’t fall over.

    • As you’re going down, make sure your right knee doesn’t hit the ground.

  • You can do 10 lunges starting with just your right leg before switching to the other leg or you can alternate.

cartoon of a man performing a plant below a clock


Love ’em or hate ’em, planks are great for building core strength so make sure to include them in your workout routine. Having a strong core is at the center of improving your functional fitness.

  • The starting position for the plank can be a bit tricky. If it’s easier for you, you can begin in the high plank position. Now, slowly lower yourself down onto your elbows.

  • Similar to the push-up position, keep your feet shoulder width apart or slightly wider.

  • To really build muscle in your core, keep your body in a straight line.

Bodyweight Hip Thrusts

You can do this functional training exercise at home even if you don’t have a bench. But you will need a sturdy couch. This movement pattern is great for practicing the “hinge” part of functional strength training.

For a quick demo, check out the video below.

Dumbbell row

Dumbbell rows are a great exercise to add to your functional fitness program. If you don’t have any dumbbells at home, you can do this with laundry detergent bottles, gallon milk jugs, or anything heavy with a convenient handle.

  • Stand with your feet hip width apart and your knees bent.

  • Hinge forward at your hips.

  • Keep your core tight. Now squeeze your shoulder blades as you pull the weight towards your sides.

The starting position for this functional strength training movement can be a bit tricky. Practice it without any weight at all to make sure that you’re comfortable with it.

Floor wipers

This is a very challenging move even for people who practically live in the gym! For beginners, try starting out with your knees bent at a 90 degree angle. You’ll still be working on building your core strength while improving your functional fitness.

Watch the video below to see how it’s done.

Marching in place

I don’t think you need a demo for this one. But I will say it’s pretty easy to not really give it your all when it’s such a simple move. Here are some tips for making this more challenging.

  • Lift your left knee up towards your chest. Stop at a 90 degree angle.

  • Pause for a few seconds. Slowly lower it back down.

  • Repeat with the opposite leg.

  • Remember to keep your core engaged so you get a full body workout.

Advanced Variations

When you’re ready to take your functional training to the next level, try these advanced variations!

kettlebell with chalk on handle on gym floor

Goblet Squat

  • Start in your standard squat position. But this time, you’ll be using free weights. You can use a dumbbell, kettlebell, a weight plate, or any heavy object you have lying around your house.

  • Hold the heavy object to your chest as you squat.

  • If you’re feeling extra strong, at the bottom of the squat, you can add a chest press. (Hold the object straight out in front of you then bring it back in.)

Push-up variations

To up the intensity of your strength training, you can try wide-grip push-ups. Just how it sounds, you’ll place your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart.

man doing one armed pushup

Reverse Lunge

Once you master the lunge, you can challenge your functional fitness level by adding in the reverse lunge. This takes more balance and coordination so you should practice without any weight first.


There are lots of plank variations to keep your core strong. There are side planks, plank dips, and plank jacks, just to name a few. Or if you’d rather stick to the regular plank, you can challenge yourself by holding it for longer than 30 seconds.

Bodyweight hip thrusts

You can either add resistance bands or add weight to make this more advanced.

woman performing bent over row


If you have access to a barbell, you can turn the simple dumbbell row into a bent over row. You’ll be able to add a lot more weight which makes the bent over row one of the more advanced functional movements.

Floor Wipers

The advanced version of floor wipers requires your legs to be straight in the air. Once you work your way up to keeping your legs in a straight line, you can add more reps to make this move more advanced.

Marching in Place

You can make this simple exercise more challenging by increasing the time that you pause with one leg raised.

Key Considerations

Remember, this sample functional fitness routine is just a suggestion. Only you can asses if you’re ready to add functional training into your weekly plan.

Also, although these exercises are part of my weekly workout routine, I’m not a certified personal trainer. If you have any doubt that you’ll be able to complete these functional strength exercises safely, you should talk to your doctor.

As always, it’s important to listen to your body. Take a break when you need to. Take a few more rest days if you have to. Drink water before, during, and after exercise.

pitcher and glass of iced lime water


Functional fitness training is fundamental to how we move in everyday life.

I’ve been lifting for years. But I never really felt like I had a well-rounded workout routine. When I started focusing more on functional training, it felt like I was finally giving my body what it needed to thrive.

Everyone’s fitness journey is different. So just remember that any form of functional training is better than no functional training. But if you want to build muscle quicker and more efficiently, get a functional trainer for your home gym.

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