Today we’re going to dive into the world of functional strength training. This type of workout is all about improving the movements we perform in our daily lives, making us more efficient and reducing the risk of injury. The beauty of functional strength training is that it takes the principles of weight lifting and applies them to real-world situations. That’s what makes it “functional”.
In this article, I’ll take you through the definition of functional strength training, as well as an overview of its benefits. We’ll compare and contrast it to traditional strength training, and you’ll get a taste of the exercises and routines that will help you achieve your fitness goals.
Whether you’re a senior looking to stay active, a beginner just starting out, or someone looking to up their fitness game, functional strength training is a unique and effective approach that’s worth exploring.
What is Functional Strength Training?
So, what exactly is functional strength training? At its core, it’s a type of workout that prioritizes the movements we make in our everyday lives. Instead of just focusing on isolated muscle groups, your goal is to improve your overall movement patterns and ability to perform daily tasks more easily.
Functional strength training involves performing work against resistance in such a manner that the improvements in strength directly enhance the performance of movements so that an individual’s activities of daily living are easier to perform.Acefitness.org
These exercises typically use the whole body and emphasize core strength, balance, stability as well as flexibility to prevent injury while performing these tasks mirroring movements from our daily lives like squatting or reaching for something on high shelves at work (or home).
Functional training can be done using your own body weight, such as with push-ups, sit-ups and squats. You can also use tools such as a cable machine, resistance bands, dumbbells or kettlebells to add more challenge to your workout.
What Are The Benefits?
Helps You Perform Everyday Movements
Functional strength training exercises help you perform common everyday movements such as carrying the shopping bags, moving furniture around or picking something up off of the floor. By improving these movement patterns, you can not only prevent injuries but also move more easily and efficiently in your everyday life.
Learning to move in a more functional way can help improve your posture and alignment. Believe it or not, but poor posture is a major contributor of pain and almost always leads injuries.
Improve Balance and Stability
Functional strength training can also help improve your balance and stability. This is important because as we age, our balance and stability tend to decline, which can lead to falls and injuries.
By improving your balance and stability with training while you’re young can stave off future risks of falls and slips.
Traditional Benefits of Strength Training
Working on your functional strength will also have all of the other benefits which come along with strength training which we have covered here in our full strength training benefits article.
Functional Strength Training Exercise Examples
Now, let’s get into the fun part – the exercises! There are a ton of great functional strength training exercises out there, so I’ll just highlight a few of my favorites to get you started.
First up, we have the kettlebell swing. This exercise is a great way to work your whole body and improve your power and explosiveness. Just grab a kettlebell and swing it between your legs, then use your hips to drive the kettlebell forward.
Next, we have the deadlift. This classic strength training exercise can be done with a barbell, dumbbells, or even a kettlebell, and works a ton of muscle groups in your legs, back, and arms. Make sure you keep your back straight and engage your core as you lift the weight.
Another great exercise is the lunge. This can be done with or without weights, and works your legs, hips, and glutes. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, then step forward and lower your back knee toward the ground. Push back up to starting position and repeat on the other side.
There are many other examples of functional strength exercises (or more commonly known, compound exercises) but here are some of the most popular:
- Farmer’s carries
- Overhead presses
- Sled Push/Pulls
If you would like to know how to do any of these exercises with proper form, there are plenty of resources available on the web to help you. YouTube is a great place to learn how to perform various exercises.
But as you can see, every exercise mentioned uses multiple joints and muscles at the same time, whereas traditional strength training exercises often isolate a single muscle group.
Should you do functional strength workouts?
Now, let’s answer the big question – should you be doing this type of workout? The short answer is – yes!
Functional strength training if done properly, will greatly improve your overall fitness, no matter what your current level is. Whether you’re a beginner just starting out, or a seasoned pro looking to mix things up, functional strength training has something to offer.
Of course, it’s always a good idea to check with your doctor before starting a new workout routine, especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions. But if you’re given the green light, I highly recommend giving functional strength training a try.
The American Council on Exercise advocates that functional strength training can not only help an individual with their everyday performance but also boost one’s overall wellbeing.
Can I do Functional Workouts as a Senior?
For seniors, functional strength training can help improve balance, stability, and mobility, which are all important as we age. Functional strength training can help you build a strong foundation of fitness and improve your overall health.
When starting out, avoid the cardinal sin of trying to do too much too soon. Going slow and learning proper form are much more important than going fast and using improper technique. It should go without saying, but it’s always a good idea to monitor how you’re feeling and checking with your doctor if anything ever feels off.
But regardless of your age or fitness level, functional strength training is a great way to get moving, get stronger, and improve your overall well-being. So give it a try, and see what it can do for you!
What is the difference between Functional and Traditional Strength Training?
Functional strength training and traditional strength training are similar in that they both involve strength building exercises. However, there are some key differences that set the two apart.
Traditional strength training typically focuses on isolating muscle groups and building muscle mass. This is often done through repetitive, single-joint exercises with heavier weights. Think bicep curls and leg extensions.
On the other hand, functional strength training focuses on exercises that mimic real-life movements and improve overall functional fitness. This often involves compound movements that engage multiple muscle groups and joints at once, like squats, lunges, and push-ups.
In short, traditional strength training is geared towards aesthetics, while functional strength training is geared towards improving your ability to perform everyday activities with ease and reducing the risk of injury.
Here are a few of the most popular questions regarding functional strength training answered for you:
What Does Functional Strength Training Mean?
As mentioned above, functional strength training is a type of workout approach that focuses on targeting your whole body to work together to perform everyday tasks, such as getting up off of the ground or lifting something above your head.
What Are Examples?
Some examples of exercises include squats, deadlifts, push-ups, pull-ups, and overhead presses.
Is Functional Strength Training Good for You?
Yes, it is very good for you! It offers many benefits, such as improving your posture, preventing injuries, and increasing your overall strength.
Does This Method of Working Out Burn Fat?
While functional strength training will definitely help you burn fat (read our full article about strength training for weight loss), if your only goal is losing weight, it is not the most efficient type of exercise. You’ll want to be focusing your energy on cardio workouts.
That being said, given the multitude of benefits highlighted above, functional training absolutely should be part of everybody’s workout regimen.
Is Functional Training Better than Traditional Strength Training?
There is no definitive answer to this question as it depends on your individual goals and needs. If you’re looking to improve your overall strength and fitness ability, then functional strength training is the way to go. However, if you’re looking to build muscle in a specific area of your body or increase your strength for a specific sport, then a more specialized routine may be a better option.
The hardest part about any workout is simply getting started and familiarizing yourself with the routine. But once you can overcome that mental hurdle, it’s all downhill from there.
Functional strength training is a versatile and effective way to build muscle, improve your fitness, and enhance your overall well-being. Whether you’re a senior, a beginner, or somewhere in between, everyone benefits from this method of working out.
So don’t be intimidated by the name, and don’t hesitate to give it a try! With a wide range of exercises to choose from, the possibilities are endless. Whether you prefer kettlebell workouts, bodyweight exercises, or something in between, there’s a functional strength training routine out there for you.
Remember, the key to success is to find what works for you and stick with it. Incorporate functional strength training exercises into your routine, and watch as your strength, mobility, and overall fitness skyrockets!
Editor-In-Chief at Recovatech. Dr. Ben has been a Doctor of Chiropractic for over 10 years, specializing in structural and neurological imbalances with an emphasis in functional movement patterns, exercise performance, and muscle recovery. He has been the team chiropractor for professional baseball and soccer organizations, as well as collegiate athletes. In his personal life, he’s always been driven when it comes to athletics and personal performance. His mornings start by lifting something heavy and end spending time with family.