Functional training improves your body’s ability to perform everyday tasks. Strength training for instance, is usually very focused. You are trying to build strength in a specific lift, or trying to grow specific muscles bigger. Functional training doesn’t involve as much specificity. Bigger muscles isn’t the goal. Instead, the goal is improving your overall strength while placing a bigger focus on stability and endurance.
Similarities to Strength Training
Functional training will still give you a lot of the same benefits as strength training. You will increase muscle mass and strengthen bones. You may not be able to build the same size physique as a strength or bodybuilding athlete would, but your physique will still be impressive nonetheless. You’ll also get the same mood boosting and calorie boosting benefits.
What Exercises Are Involved?
Exercise selection involves more compound or dynamic movements like Turkish get ups, windmills, sled push, kettlebell swings, etc. As you can see, they’re more general approach movements and not geared towards bigger chest or legs.
The idea is a more efficient transfer of energy. You are keeping your joints stable, and muscles mobile so that you can appropriately transfer energy from the ground up. Think about a kettlebell swing or a woodchop. To effectively accomplish either movement you need to start by generating power from the feet through keeping your core tight and ultimately follow through with your hands.
What makes functional training super fun is that you get to remove yourself from most machines. A lot of gyms have started to carve out areas specific solely to functional training. That’s where you usually see a turf area, littered with sledgehammers, sleds, sandbags, ropes, and kettlebells. What I love about Incorporating this type of training into my routine is that it keeps exercising fun. It’s a nice break from what can be a very monotonous bodybuilding routine. Most people can only spend so much time doing curls, squats and bench presses.
The other great aspect of functional training is you can do it with very little equipment. Bodybuilding and strength focused training usually requires a lot more equipment to effectively achieve the physique or outcome you want.
You can get an entire functional workout done with your bodyweight and a kettlebell. When we first got into lockdown, all I had in my house was some bands and a dumbbell. I didn’t think I’d be able to get a good enough workout and thus would lose all my muscle. Boy was I wrong. Not only did I maintain my muscle, but I may have even gained a little in areas I hadn’t spent much focus on lately
The Best Workout is the One You Aren’t Doing
Which brings me to my final point. If you’ve never done functional training, and a lot of one other type of training then I’d highly recommend including it in. As mentioned before, the benefits of having a new stimulus can provide an increase in performance in areas you may not have thought of. Maybe certain stabilizing muscles, or smaller core movements were unknowingly lacking previously and functional training brought it up. When you switch back to your normal training, don’t be surprised to see new increases in strength on lifts you previously got stuck on. Ideally you should be cycling through all sorts of workout programs to achieve the best overall physique and keep exercise as a fresh and fun stimulus for you to enjoy.
For those starting their fitness journey, if you have a very specific goal of strength or physique, I would focus on a bodybuilding or strength oriented program. If overall athletic performance, stability, and power is your goal then functional training is the style for you.