dumbbells, shoes, sneakers

There are tons of training styles out there. No matter what I’m doing, my personal fitness style is to get in and out of the gym as quickly as possible. But this doesn’t mean neglecting any of my muscle groups.

That is where functional training comes in.

Functional training uses mostly bodyweight exercises to improve joint mobility, develop good posture, and correct muscle imbalances. By focusing on functional fitness, you are making sure that your body is strong enough to handle life’s everyday movements.

From bending over to pick up your kids to carrying groceries, functional fitness is important in everyday life.

olympic weight plates on gravel leaned against a concrete wall

How is functional training different from traditional strength training?

What do you think of when you hear strength training? Maybe it’s a bunch of beefy men throwing around some free weights. Or maybe it’s a hardcore workout only accessible to those who are at an advanced fitness level. Well, maybe some of those things are true.

Traditional strength training usually involves only working individual muscle groups. So, typically, your workouts would be split between upper body and lower body. Then the workouts would be split further to do isolation exercises such as bicep curls and tricep extensions.

Functional training exercises use compound movements to mimic common movement patterns. So you can expect to use your own body weight as you begin functional training sessions.

If you want to make the movements more advanced, you can use resistance bands and weights.

dumbbells on a rack in a gym

What are the benefits of functional training?

A lot of us, including myself, have desk jobs that contribute to tons of different health issues. If you want to avoid physical therapy or even worse, surgery, functional training can help.

Think about the everyday tasks you do in your daily life. Sitting down, standing up, twisting to reach something on a shelf…all of these everyday activities require multiple muscle groups. We’re so used to performing these movement patterns that we don’t even think about it.

Functional training focuses on improving your body’s ability to perform these movements without any joint pain.

There are so many different benefits of functional training. If you want to decrease your risk of injury and perform everyday movements with ease, then functional training needs to be part of your normal workout routine.

If you’re still not convinced, here are some more benefits of functional training.

Build Muscle Strength

Functional fitness programs are going to focus on boosting muscle strength. Instead of just one muscle group, you’re going to focus on multiple muscle groups.

Your physical abilities will be tested while squatting, lunging, and deadlifting. But don’t worry, as long as you seek out a qualified professional (like an ACE certified personal trainer), they’ll be sure to make sure your risk of injury is kept to a minimum.

woman performing a squat

Balance Training

Another one of the benefits of functional fitness is that you’re using your entire body. You don’t need to squeeze in an extra workout just for balance exercises. While you’re performing a functional movement, such as the squat, you’ll be improving your body’s overall function.

Functional training exercises prepare you for life. At some point, you’re going to lose your balance. The quicker you can recover, the lower your risk of injury.

Increased Flexibility and Range of Motion

With the majority of adults working sedentary jobs, it’s hard to include functional movements in your daily life. This leads to a decreased range of motion in multiple joints. This can increase your risk of injury the next time you bend over to pick something up or perform some other everyday movement.

By including functional exercises in your workout plan, you’re also making sure that your flexibility doesn’t take a back seat.

father holding his son up on his shoulder

Functional fitness is important for those moments when you want to sit on the floor with your grandkids. Or for when you want to sit down on a beach towel without having to struggle to get up.

Core Strength

I have a confession to make…I’m guilty of neglecting my core from time to time. So don’t feel bad if you’re in the same boat as I am. Maybe you just need to be convinced of what a strong core can do for you.

It’s important to build up your core muscles. They’re at the center of so many compound movements.

A perfect example of this is goblet squats. With your feet shoulder width apart, grab some sort of weight (either a weight plate, a dumbbell, or just a heavy book).

As you go down into your squat, notice how you can feel several muscle groups working at the same time. Your glutes, your hamstrings, and, yes, your core.

man laying down performing ab exercises

If you find most core exercises to be boring, one of the benefits of functional training is that you don’t have to do any exercises that only target your core. You can just make sure that you have a carefully planned functional fitness routine and your core will be worked no matter what.

Saves Time

One of my favorite benefits of functional training is that functional training focuses on more than one muscle group at a time. When your workout routine isolates each muscle group, you’re going to have to spend more time in the gym trying to build a well-rounded physique.

Burning more calories in less time sounds like a win-win to me.

Functional Training is for Everybody

You can tailor functional fitness workouts to any fitness level.

Can’t do a push-up just yet? Try knee push-ups. If you find it difficult to get into that initial high plank position, you can do wall push-ups instead.

You’ll still reap the benefits of functional fitness while minimizing the risk of injury to yourself.

There are many functional training exercises that don’t require any sort of equipment. So don’t worry about having to set up your own home gym right away. Although once you start to see the benefits of functional training, you might be tempted to do that anyway.

easy grip barbell surrounded by weight plates

You Can Do Functional Exercises Anywhere

Functional training doesn’t have to be confined to a members-only gym. You can take your functional fitness workouts outside or set up your own home gym. You can even incorporate functional fitness exercises into your everyday activities. Try getting in a couple of squats every time you get up from your desk.

Examples of Functional Training

Functional movement mimics human movement. So when you think of how you move your body throughout everyday life, you’ll probably be able to guess which exercises are included in functional fitness workouts.

Here are some examples of exercises used in functional training:

  • Squats
    • Variations of squats: Bulgarian split squats, sumo squats
  • Lunges
    • Variations of lunges: side lunges, reverse lunges
  • Push-ups
    • Variations of push-ups: plyo push-ups, close-grip push-ups


Think about how you move throughout your day.

You’re twisting to reach something, squatting down to pick something up, lifting, pushing, and pulling. Since functional training makes sure to target multiple muscle groups, you’re more closely mimicking these everyday movements.

To ensure that you’re getting the most out of your functional training workout, you could sign up for some personal training sessions. You can also sign up for some functional fitness classes.

Once you get the basics down, you can add some functional fitness exercises into your weekly workout routine.

Improving your body’s functional strength takes consistency and commitment. Setting up your own home gym can help with consistency. After all, it’s a lot easier to get your workout in when you don’t have to drive anywhere to do it. (Or at least, that’s the case with me).

If you’re ready to take your functional strength training to the next level, you’ll need the best functional trainer for your home gym.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is functional training better than the gym?

If you’re unable to join a gym, functional training could be a better option for you. You can get in a great functional training session without a single piece of equipment.

What is the difference between HIIT and functional training?

HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts involve short busts of intense exercise followed by a rest period. Functional training can include this too but it isn’t necessary to get the full benefits. You can tailor your workout to fit your needs.

What does functional training do for your body?

Functional training prepares your body for life. By getting stronger, you’ll be able to better protect yourself against common injuries as you move throughout your day.

How many times a week should I do functional training?

You should do a functional training session a minimum of twice a week. As you become more advanced you can do it up to 4 times a week. Just make sure you’re giving yourself enough time to recover.

Can you lose weight with functional training?

Absolutely! You don’t need to stick to cardio to lose weight. Building muscle with functional training is a great way to kickstart your weight loss journey.

What are the 7 categories of functional training?

Squat, lunge, push, pull, hinge, twist, and walk.

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