5 Functional Training Workouts
We have discussed how important functional fitness training is and what it can do to improve your health on our blog. To recap, functional strength training is a form of resistance training based on dynamic movements that we actually use in our day-to-day activities.
Not to be confused with the traditional strength training of bodybuilders that focus on muscles and aesthetics, functional strength training is about working harder in the gym so you can afford to work less hard carrying your groceries from your car to your kitchen.
Functional training exercises are all about supporting your body to perform all of the things you want to use it for. Without further ado, here are five functional training exercises to create an entire functional training workout that you can use to get started.
1 | The Power Clean
This is a big, bold move, which is why we want to get it out of the way at the beginning of any round of exercise.
The power clean is traditionally done with a barbell (which we’ll focus on for this tutorial). Still, it can be adapted to dumbbells or even kettlebells, depending on what is available to you.
Now, the first time you do a power clean, you should use an extremely light weight(s). If you have access to the gym, we even encourage you to ask a Coach to take a look at your form while getting started.
When you begin this movement, you should be bending down with your feet hip-width apart. The bar should be about an inch away from your shins. Grab the bar on the floor with your hands shoulder-width apart in an overhand grip.
Put your weight in your heels, keep your chest up, and tighten your core. Pull your shoulder blades together throughout the exercise; don’t let your posture break.
Next, you’re going to pull the bar up to knee-height, maintaining that posture. Keep your lower back very slightly arched, and make sure you’re lifting with all of those strong core and leg muscles (not with the muscles in the back). Don’t move too quickly just yet. The next part is where the movement explodes.
Once you’ve reached knee height, you’re going to physically jump as high as you can (don’t worry, while holding a weight, this will probably only be an inch or two) while shrugging your shoulders and bending your elbows to bring the bar up through space in a vertical line. Like the initial lift, make sure you’re using your core, glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves (and NOT your back!).
When the bar has moved as high in space as it will go, you’re going to bend your knees just enough to scoop the bar onto the shelf of your shoulders by shooting your elbows forward. The bottoms of your arms should end up parallel to the floor (or as close as you can get). Stand up tall from that slightly bent position you entered to catch the bar.
Roll the bar down off your shoulders, carefully catch it in a standing position, and move it back to the floor to go again. This should be one big fluid motion.
A lot is going on here, and you can find great breakdowns of the form online to make sure you’re moving correctly.
2 | The Classic Pull-Up
When it comes to functional fitness training, the pull-up is an absolute classic and is guaranteed to create a stronger foundation for performing your daily activities (both inside and outside the gym). Having a strong back is vital to maintaining posture and moving through the world with ease.
To do a pull-up, hang from a bar with your arms a little wider than shoulder-width. Drive your elbows down and back until your chin reaches the bar and lower back down with control. Wash, rinse, and repeat.
If a full pull-up is not available to you right now, hooking a resistance band to the bar and stepping your feet into it can provide support.
If you don’t have resistance bands, a great place to start is with the eccentric movement of the pull-up: lowering down. Put a chair next to the bar and use it to jump up into the top of the pull-up position with your chin at the top of the bar. From there, all you need to do is lower down to a hanging position. After enough of these, you’ll be able to move into the concentric movement of pulling up.
3 | A Twisting Lunge
The twisting lunge is an excellent dynamic exercise that both engages a lot of different muscle groups and forces you to work on your sense of balance. You can do this with your bodyweight or holding any type of weight, so start light and build from there.
The first move is–surprise–a lunge. Take a medium-large step forward and bend your knees until they’re both at about 90 degrees. Make sure your front knee doesn’t go past your front toes.
At the bottom of your lunge, twist in the direction of your front leg. Twist back to center, step up so that your feet are together, and repeat on the other leg.
4 | The Renegade Row
This move is amazing for your entire body and forces you to find both balance and strength. It can be done with weights but can easily be done with just your bodyweight to begin. For this example, let’s pretend you have some light dumbbells.
Get into a push-up position with the dumbbells in your hands. Just like you would in a regular push up position, engage your core to keep your back flat without letting your hips dip or rise. Pull your shoulder blades together without letting your chest sink.
Next, bend one arm and pull the weight up toward your armpit without bending your wrists. Set the weight down and repeat on the other side.
5 | The Basic Kettlebell Swing
We’ll end with a basic functional movement—the kettlebell swing (you can also accomplish these with a regular dumbbell).
With your legs a little wider than hip-distance apart, hinge forward with the kettlebell in your hands. Maintain a soft bend in the knees and a flat back (we know you know, but we’ll remind you that you need to use your core and legs and not your back to perform any hinging motion).
Using your glutes, calves, quads, hamstrings, and core, thrust your hips forward and allow the kettlebell to swing up to 90 degrees. At the top of the swing, you should be in a standing plank position: flat back, core engaged, arms straight out.
Finally, guide the kettlebell back down to that hinging position and repeat the movement.
Combined, these five movements will create a functional training program to get your body heading in a stronger, more-mobile direction, so start with 5 of each (and five on each side with the movements that work one side at a time) 5 times, and build your strong, functional body from there! You can try this circuit at any of our locations. If you are looking for an instructor-guided circuit that you can try at home, we have plenty to choose from on our virtual fitness platform iChuze Fitness.