Functional fitness is also referred to as functional training. It is one of the most beneficial forms of athleticism for all ages and walks of life. So what exactly is functional fitness?

What Is Functional Fitness?

Functional fitness consists of workouts that not only prepare you for but also mimic everyday movements. These types of exercises primarily focus on using body weight to strengthen muscles (Tipane and Zapata) for real world tasks. Simply, functional fitness training consists of moving your body from point A to point B while utilizing natural maneuvers or push and pull methods.

People do functional fitness movements everyday. Which is why these workouts are so important. They allow you to continue doing normal motions as you age. Think of simple activities like walking, getting up from a chair, picking something up from the ground, or carrying groceries in the house. These are all functions that are maintained and improved by doing functional training exercises.

Note: Functional training can also include and incorporate weights, aerobics, and gymnastic movements (“What is Functional Strength Training?”).


How Does Functional Fitness Work?


Functional fitness uses a variety of modalities to place a strain on the body for enhanced physical movement. It also helps the nervous system by improving neuroplasticity (Cajal) or muscle memory, which helps with neuron recovery and rehabilitation to rewire the brain (Saline) after traumatic injuries. Furthermore, it increases efficacy and efficiency for regular movement. Great for in and more importantly, outside of the gym.

Training this way supports the body by making everyday movements easier, as well as less painful for those who struggle with mobility. The human body likes to move as a singular unit in everyday function, so working out the body the same way that you’d normally move day to day has a profound effect on health and fitness. Functional fitness uses larger muscle groups (Begum) to work together during training, beneficial for strengthening multiple parts of the body during one workout.

Who Benefits The Most From Functional Fitness Training?

The way functional fitness works makes it a great exercise for people from every walk of life and background. No matter what fitness level or athletic ability, there is a functional fitness routine for everyone. Functional fitness training offers a low learning curve and is an accessible way to engage in physical activity, thanks to the exercise movements being the same ones used in daily life.

What Functional Fitness Is Not

Training the body as one unit, keeping the upper and lower body in sync is the most impactful way to utilize functional fitness. On the other hand, while other exercises have their own benefits and uses, workouts that isolate one or certain parts of the body from the rest aren’t part of functional training. These exercises include those that someone would do to tackle specific muscles, such as workouts done on “arm day” or “back day.” 

When the main focus is a particular muscle group instead of the body as a whole, it would be seen as non-functional exercises (Begum). Functional fitness doesn’t target a specific part of the body. It is meant to be mixed up with different types of exercises and movements that can strengthen multiple parts of the body at once.

While cardio machines have their place in the gym and can be effective, weight lifting machines have their limits and promote awkward ranges of motion while forcing the user into bad postures. Therefore, functional fitness generally utilizes bodyweight or free weights for a wider range of motion instead of using machines that force you into a specific movement over and over again. Functional fitness trains the person to use their body properly, safely and strongly for all kinds of movements, not for singular muscle growth.


How To Do Functional Fitness Training

At The Quad, we highly recommend working with a personal trainer to get the best out of your functional training. It’s easy to get off track when not being encouraged or held accountable by anyone, and it’s often not much fun doing it alone. Plus, a trainer will know all the best functional movements for your personal needs and can help you develop a customized training program with your goals in mind.

Examples Of Functional Fitness

If you’d rather try to create a workout plan on your own, here is a list of some functional fitness exercises you can add in the mix:

  • Push-ups
  • Walking lunges
  • Jump squats
  • Lunging, or stepping onto an elevated surface
  • Bodyweight squats
  • Lateral bounds (running from side to side)
  • Jumping jacks
  • Movements done while balancing on one leg

List by WebMD (Begum) 


Other functional activities you can add into your functional workouts, and how they relate to everyday movement, include:

  • Squatting: How many times in a day do you sit and get up from a chair? Squats mimic this movement.
  • Hip hinges: Think of picking up boxes or a laundry basket from the ground.
  • Running: You may not be running in everyday circumstances but, if you’re able bodied, you definitely walk. Running helps keep walking endurance up.
  • Throwing: Playing catch with children and grandchildren is a good example of this functional movement.
  • Pull-ups: These help to develop posterior strength (“Pull Up, techniques and peculiarity of the king of bodyweight exercises”) and use a variety of muscles at the same time.
  • Rows: Rowing is a full body workout that helps build endurance and strength (Tipane et al.) for multiple muscles that are used everyday.
  • Bicep curls: Every time you pull something with your arms into your chest, you’re pretty much doing a bicep curl.
  • Burpees: Moving from a standing position to the ground, say to look for something under the bed and get back up again, is an example of how burpees help the body functionally.
  • Jump roping: Doing this jumping movement during training will greatly improve coordination and balance (Wenndt et al.) for everyday function.

Why You Should Train With Functional Movements?

There are a variety of reasons why functional fitness training is beneficial, but here is a list of some of the core reasons why:

  • Training with functional movements boosts muscle strength and endurance for natural daily tasks.
  • Muscle memory is further developed with functional fitness, as it helps to train your neurons for better brain-body coordination (“Neural Adaptations and Strength Training”).
  • Functional training movements increase mobility by loosening and stretching (Venkatesh) your body for better flexibility.
  • Since functional training targets multiple muscles at once, it helps to improve balance and posture.
  • This type of training is beneficial for improving coordination – the whole purpose of functional training is to help the body “move better” (Elkaim and Hanson).
  • Stretching joints and working muscles with functional fitness helps to reduce injury and promote muscle and ligament strength.
  • Functional fitness training uses a wide range of workout implementations which increases overall adaptation and helps the individual maintain top physical shape throughout their life (“Adaptations to Endurance and Strength Training – PMC”).

Functional Fitness Training In Beaverton

Are you in need of a functional fitness trainer? If you’re located in the Portland Metro area, The Quad is a private training facility located in Beaverton, Or, and we’d be happy to assist you with reaching your fitness goals. Whether that be functional fitness, strength training, resistance training, or just a healthier lifestyle, contact us to get started on your fitness journey!