Functional training is a terminology used to define specific exercises that help you perform daily activities more efficiently. These exercises typically work the whole body and multiple muscle groups— and highlight core strength as well as stability. By imitating your daily life’s movements, like squatting or carrying heavy objects, engaging in functional strength can help improve your range of motion and reduce your risk of injury.
How To Maximize Your Functional Training
Functional training can involve everything and nothing. So you can use what you have around the house — water jugs for dumbbells, get creative. Since this is your first time trying these exercises, we’ve compiled a list of comprehensive beginner and intermediate workouts for you to get started. Ready to get sweaty?
If you’re new to functional strength training or kickstarting your fitness journey for the last time, start here with this bodyweight routine. Add this circuit of exercises to your daily workout routine and start living every day a bit better.
The backside of your body is full of sturdy muscles that play an essential role in your day-to-day movement. Add the glute bridge to strengthen those muscles.
- Lie flat on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor.
- Put your arms down to your sides with your palms flat on the ground.
- Inhale. Push through the soles of your feet to lift your buttocks off the floor and your hips toward the ceiling. Engage your core, glutes, and hamstrings.
- Pause for a moment at the top, then slowly lower yourself back to the starting position.
From getting up from chairs to picking up things on the floor, you squat a lot throughout the day without even paying attention to it. Integrating squats into your workout routine will help you maintain functional strength to perform daily activities effortlessly.
- Stand up with your feet shoulder-width apart, arms straight down by your sides.
- Squeeze your core and gently push your hips back as you bend your knees, lowering yourself into a squat (like you’re about to sit in a chair).
- Make sure that your knees don’t cave in and that your chest stays straight. Pause for a moment when your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Push yourself up back to the starting position.
You don’t have to be a pro to know that pushups are one of the most foundational full-body exercises you can perform. Pushups are essential to upper body strength.
- Get into a plank position with your hands wider than your shoulders.
- Ensure your body forms a straight line from head to toe, and your look ahead.
- Roll your shoulders down and back.
- Bend your elbows and lower yourself down, keeping them at a 45-degree angle until your chest reaches the ground.
- Push back up to starting position, making sure your lower back stays straight.
We move quite a bit in day-to-day life — strolling, climbing stairs, even reaching down to grab some groceries in front of you. While side-to-side, or lateral, movement isn’t as common as other workouts. However, it’s still an essential element of any functional fitness routine.
- Stand with your feet together and arms down at your side.
- Take a big step out laterally with your right foot, bending the knee and sitting back into your right hip as you go. Keep your left leg and your chest straight up throughout the exercise.
- Push up through your right foot and return to start.
- Repeat the same steps on the other side.
While a plank touches the whole body, it really focuses on the core. Core strength is essential to a healthy everyday life, so do as much time as you can on this one!
- Get into a plank position.
- Roll your shoulders down and back, and make sure that your hips aren’t sagging.
- Ensure your body forms a straight line from head to toes.
- Inhale and exhale for 30 seconds to a minute. Repeat 2 to 3 times.
Once you’ve got the beginner workouts down to a science and you feel confident enough to take on more challenging exercises, complete these intermediate exercises. This circuit will require light- to moderate-weight dumbbells. Adjust your weights accordingly!
Step Up To Shoulder Press
Compound movements such as the step up to shoulder press are a powerful exercise, mirroring several of the actions you’d complete in daily life.
- Stand behind an elevated surface with a dumbbell in both hands.
- Step up with your right foot, push through your heel, and push the dumbbells up above your head.
- Lower the dumbbells back to shoulder level as you step back down with your left foot first.
- Repeat with the other leg.
One of the best strength training exercises, the deadlift, targets your entire posterior chain and core and provides significant strength benefits.
- Place a barbell (or dumbbell) on the floor and stand right behind it, feet shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your back straight, hinge at the waist, bend the knees slightly, and grip the barbell. Look ahead.
- Breathe, roll your shoulders down and back, and straighten your legs, pulling the barbell up off the ground.
- Once your legs are straight, and you’ve pulled the barbell up to your hips, bend your knees back, sitting back in your hips.
Goblet squats work the quads and glutes without the added stress on your back. This means you’ll get all the leg muscle benefits without compromising your lower back.
- Grip a dumbbell while standing up with both hands below the top of the weight.
- Place the dumbbell against your chest, and make sure it stays in contact with your body throughout the exercise.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Inhale, sit back in the hips, bend your knees, and keep the core squeezed.
- Make sure your elbows track in between the knees as you drop down into a squat, stopping when your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Push up through the heels back to the original position.
Improving your functional strength from the comfort of your home isn’t impossible. But, with minimal equipment, enough space to work comfortably, and some consistency, you’ll be back to your most active self in no time.