Make Your Workouts More Functional

Make Your Workouts More FunctionalFunctional strength training simply means training our bodies to better perform the types of movements we use for everyday life.


When you isolate body parts, as you sometimes do with traditional strength training, you end up training your muscles but not your movements. One way to change that is to look for ways to make your strength exercises more functional:

  • Emphasize free weights: Machines have a place in strength training, but they offer so much support that the body doesn't have to work as hard to maintain balance and good form. In real life, we don't have that kind of support. Using dumbbells, bands or cables forces your body to create it's own support, which leads to a stronger body overall. Use them in combination with compound exercises like squats, lunges, shoulder presses, etc. Begin with 3-4 pounds dumbbells and progress to 8-10.



  • Develop that Core: Core muscles are often neglected in working out but they are essential for everything we do. They are stabilizer muscles which help keep you upright (improved posture) and improve balance. They allow you to use your other muscles more effectively in your arms and legs. The core consists of your back and abdominal muscles and there are others that are deeper such as the tranverse abdominis.

  • Use a stability ball: Doing some exercises on a ball, such as chest presses or pushups involves more stabilizers, the muscles that work to protect joints and maintain alignment.


  • Combine movements: We usually do a combination of motions throughout the day. We lunge forward to open a door and then rotate while stepping through. Combining strength exercises together, like lunging forward with a reach or squatting with an overhead press can mimic this dynamic way of moving.

  • Make Your Workouts More FunctionalTry unilateral exercises: Doing one-legged squats or using one arm at a time for moves like flies or chest presses forces your core to engage as well as your stabilizers, making these moves more functional and challenging. One arm movements add functionality while still doing a great job building muscle mass.

  • Use more compound, large muscle mass, multi-joint exercises and fewer isolation movements: Isolation movements often provide the finishing touch that give bodybuilders the “polished” look that many strength athletes lack. As such, bodybuilders should certainly use isolation movements such as machine flys, leg extensions and lateral raises to round out their routines. However, doing primarily isolation movements is a mistake. Compound, multi joint exercises like squats, presses and rows are unsurpassed for strength, muscle mass, power and functionality and should remain in a bodybuilder’s program year round – even before competitions.

Being creative with your workouts can build functionality while making your routines more fun. These functional workouts offer new ideas for how to train your body:


There are four functional exercises that will help you get the most out of your body, namely:

  • Push-ups: Start with wall push-ups and progress to placing your hands on the kitchen counter. You can do 5-6 while waiting for the microwave to finish. These firm your chest, arms, abs and back.

  • Make Your Workouts More FunctionalSquats or lunges: Most reaching, lifting and bending movements involve an element of squatting or lunging. Remember to push out your butt and don't let your knees go farther forward than your toes. You'll strengthen your knees, quads and hips.

  • Bag Lifts: Each time you go shopping strengthen your arms by lifting a bag 6 times to the front, side and rear. You can also do a modified bicep curl. Just remember to keep your shoulders back and abs tight while working your arms.

  • Lift: Pick-up that heavy pet food bag or laundry basket by squaring your feet shoulder width apart, squatting down, grabbing hold and pushing up with your legs. Put it down and do it again. If your knees hurt, practice lifting from a chair until you get stronger.

Remember, the time spent developing dynamic strength, flexibility and agility carries over into your daily activities, making life a little bit easier.

Dated 04 January 2014


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