5 Very Functional Exercises

Updated: Feb 26, 2021

This article investigates the benefits of functional training as well as providing an exercise tutorial and How 2 Guide.

woman in a gym performing exercises with dumbbells

The concept of functional training is gaining traction throughout the fitness community. Every day there are more blogs, books, videos and articles extolling the fitness benefits that can be accrued through engaging in this burgeoning form of physical exercise. From improved strength to the facilitation of day-to-day mundane movements, such as getting up off the couch, functional training has got all bases covered.

However, all the hubbub and excitement has muddied the waters somewhat and now, as a consequence, most people couldn’t confidently say what constitutes as a functional exercise and what doesn’t. In fact, you’d probably struggle to find two professional PTs that would agree.

Before we progress on I would like to make one thing abundantly clear. I’ve not written this article as an attempt to try and clear away the confusion. That would not only be a trifle conceited of me but it would be an act of folly: for I myself would break into a sweat if asked to identify functional exercise from a line-up.

Instead I’m going to outline the characteristics that imbue an exercise with that functional training quality. By doing this, so the theory goes, you will possess the knowledge and understanding that will enable you to identify a functional movement when you see one. But also by becoming acquainted with these characteristics you will be able to fashion your own functional exercise.

That’s correct: one of the great attributes of functional training is that it is not bounded by established orthodoxy. Thus you can conceive of your very own functional exercises, designing them to suit your physical objectives or sporting discipline.

Firstly, though, before we consider those characteristics, it might be worth taking a look at the benefits that awaits the person who incorporates functional training into their exercise repertoire.

Some benefits of functional training

Improved body coordination

Functional exercise, unlike their static counterparts, require that we move across unconventional planes. For example, a side lunging whilst pumping a kettlebell overhead will engage the body in ways that singularly either a squat or shoulder press could not. I see static lifting as two dimensional whereas functional training is three dimensional.

Augmented biomechanical synchronicity

Because functional exercises require that the trainer coordinates their lumbering mass through multiple movements whilst traversing three dimensions, out of necessity they will develop mastery over their body.

Enhanced proprioception

Complex, multi-dimensional movements demand conscious engagement. When performing a side lung with a kettlebell press you can’t laps into a daydream – like you can with most all static exercise. The inherent complexity of functional training forces a unification of mind and body which brings about a strengthening of neural maps. What in the hell does any of that mean? Honestly, I’m not sure – I’ve just got a penchant for words of a polysyllabic persuasion. But what I think it means is we become one and not, as Descartes propounded, two. The benefit: we can enjoy at a deeper level this wondrous biological machine we call a body!