What is functional training?

ByJoe Louis

Apr 19, 2021
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We have before us the largest commercial fitness project in the last 20 years. And a pretty good physical training system, if you approach it wisely.

The essence of functional training

The priority is not to pump some muscles and aesthetics of the body. It is about ensuring healthy mobility and preventing injuries in sports and everyday life. Therefore, the beginner will perform deadlifts of a light kettlebell off the floor in order to safely put bags of groceries in the trunk. The footballer is a deadweight player with decent weights on the barbell, because his goal is to develop maximum power when he runs after the ball. Sprinter – jumping with a barbell. An eternally losing weight young lady with about 10 years of experience and symptoms of fatigue on her face – some exotic lunges to the side with a turn of the body.

This is a universal methodology, which is as follows:

  • Squats, floor deadlifts, pull-ups or imitations, all-plane presses and platform lifts are given to develop healthy joint mobility and overall mobility.
  • Endurance is formed with the same exercises, but in the mode “30-50 seconds under load, a minute of rest”.
  • Strength – again the same universal set, but in the range of 3-6 reps in 3-7 sets, with rest until recovery and significant weights on the bar.
  • Coordination for team sports – complex movements, such as thrusters, that is, a hybrid of the front squat and up press, and various attacks on unstable platforms like the barefoot.
  • Tactical qualities for special services, army and police – strength training in low-repetition mode in combination with so-called “metabolic” or interval training for strength endurance. This allows the soldier to run through the desert with a wounded comrade on his shoulders and periodically shoot back from the enemy, and the policeman can catch up with any bandit in 10 seconds.

Why then do women in group classes do lunges on their bare feet and simultaneously bend their arms for biceps? It is unlikely that this is a preparatory functional surfing workout. So the instructor entertains them, distracts them from monotony and loads them with motor activity. This is where the drama begins. Strength fitness professionals deny group functional training as traumatic and useless. YouTube stars are promoting, because in 20 minutes a day you can “revel in” so much that there will be a complete illusion that you are training intensively. Leading weight loss marathons are also promoting, and even as an alternative to strength training for health.

Упражнение с канатом


Globally functional fitness has brought people back to physical activity. He convinced the masses that half an hour of regular exercise a day and a circuit workout would be enough to look decent, have strong muscles, low body fat, good mobility, and avoid back pain from sedentary work.

Pros for the layman:

  • Saves time. The workouts are organized according to the principle of a circular or interval, do not require a lot of rest between sets and allow you to keep within 30-40 minutes with the study of all muscle groups.
  • Increases metabolic response. After such a workout, the body uses oxygen more actively and spends more energy. It is easier to lose weight if you follow a rational diet.
  • Works on all muscle groups. No need to worry about biceps, brachialis and gluteus medius.
  • Helps to do less cardio. Typical functional training trains the heart, too. Long hours on the track are unnecessary. It is enough to add 30 minutes of the WHO-recommended walk a day to produce vitamin D.

Pros for the athlete:

  • Injury prevention.
  • Improving performance in the main sport.
  • Supports beneficial body composition.
  • Psychological relief.

Types of functional training

There are two large types:

  1. Group fitness classes.
  2. Individual training to develop certain qualities.

The first ones are implemented in the framework of the Functional, Athletic Body, NTC, Body Rock and other similar programs. The bottom line is in a constantly changing set of movements based on squats, lunges, push-ups, burpees, standing dumbbell presses and various deadlifts. The group performs counting exercises, usually spending a minute under load and moving quickly from one exercise to the next. Rest 1-2 minutes between cycles. Physiologically, this is aerobics. But marketers tell us that it replaces power. Yes, if we are talking about a typical request “somehow lose weight to the beach.” And no, if you need a serious correction of the client’s posture, the elimination of muscle imbalances, the consequences of prolonged physical inactivity or the banal “pumping” of the buttocks, shoulders, biceps and everything that outstanding people usually want to see.

Functional training of bloggers can also be attributed to this large class. Example – Zuzana Light, Sugary Six Pack, Katya Buida, Crazy Drying Project and others. They are united by catchy video titles and typical content:

  • lots of burpees and jumpin jacks between exercises;
  • even more squats and lunges;
  • micro dumbbells for the arms, with which they perform some kind of curl on the biceps during squats;
  • required planks and curls;
  • push-ups are also required.

Such programs are good for a person with no problems with ODA and a lot of excess weight, but with experience doing the same squats, push-ups and lunges. A large volume will help tone the muscles and increase calorie expenditure, the figure will improve, body fat will disappear (of course, provided a competent diet).

CrossFit is highlighted within group programs. If we’re not talking about performing athletes, then this is a high-intensity program that combines real strength and weightlifting exercises with aerobic work in the high heart rate zone. It allows you to develop “everything” if you approach the technique correctly and put it in place. Or it will be an easy way to burn calories for someone who makes movements in half the range and “as best they can”.

Individual functional programs are written on demand and can include a wide variety of elements.

Русские махи гирей вперед


Everything presented in the table can be complicated by adding weights. This makes sense if the goal is not to develop, for example, running endurance, but to strengthen the muscles. The average client of a fitness club will consistently move from the first line to the last. Dynamic resistance work is only practiced when a person decides to compete in CrossFit or has reached a strength plateau and wants to overcome it.

But what is functional training, if we are faced with the usual strength progression, as in many other types of fitness? The fact of the matter is that this is a fictional methodological technique for attracting people who are tired of being obsessed with muscle size, the thickness of the fat layer and exercises that isolate small muscles.

With gymnastic equipment

Actually, for fitness purposes there are only horizontal bars and parallel bars. All other gymnastic equipment is not used. Loops for functional training are similar to gymnastics. They allow you to partially change the angles of the load and include different muscle groups in the work.

Cardio Load

For fitness purposes are performed:

  • running at a distance of 200 to 800 m;
  • burpee;
  • jumping jacks, skipping with and without a rope;
  • dynamic lunges, strides;
  • work in an assault bike and rowing machine.

Cardio is of an interval nature, light “long, straight” workouts are added as desired and usually no more than 1-2 days a week.

Features of slimming training

D. Smirnov, mentioned at the beginning of the article, believes that weight loss training exists. And this is something like circulars with fairly serious weights of weights and multi-joint basic exercises. Cardio is interval. The diet is calorie deficient. All other methodologists believe that such exercises serve to increase strength endurance in sports, and a simple visitor of the gym does not need all this.

In practice, functional training is referred to to “speed up the metabolism.” This is a real task, if a person has decent joint mobility, good technique, he is ready not to “crush” weights, as soon as he sits on a calorie deficit, and is able to recover.

In CrossFit, those who are losing weight are advised to get rid of sweets and build a diet based on cereals, meat, eggs, nuts, vegetables and herbs.

Most beginners should do something like a circuit workout of no (or minimal) weights and try to build up amplitude and pace. And, of course, do not forget about the calorie deficit, without which any workout will not be effective.

Do you need any attacks on the bare feet and other exotic versions of movements with medicine balls for losing weight? Actually, no. This is the main claim of all sane humanity to functional club fitness. The layman will take too long to think about how to repeat the exercise in order to do it beautifully and effectively. It is better to make the work easier technically, but do not interrupt it to see again what the instructor is showing there.

Programs for Beginners

The editors of Self magazine have prepared the world’s easiest workout for beginners:

  1. Squats.
  2. Lunges.
  3. Push-ups.
  4. Curls.
  5. Plank.

Repeat 3 times, doing each exercise for a minute, and the next day “wonderful” sensations in the whole body are provided. In fact, the complex was invented by Greg Glassman, the “dad” of CrossFit. And it is known as “crossfit exercise”, where each movement was done for 50 repetitions. If a beginner cannot complete 50 repetitions, he should start with the amount available to himself.

For women

Almost the same, but with an emphasis on the buttocks, it looks like this:

  1. Plie with kettlebell, deep.
  2. Dumbbell lunges.
  3. Push-ups from the support.
  4. Crunches on the press.
  5. Swing legs in a plank position on the buttocks.
  6. Climbers in support.

For men

Beginners can do this:

  1. Goblet squat with kettlebell or dumbbells for quads.
  2. Dynamic lunges with press of dumbbells or kettlebells overhead.
  3. Dumbbell push-ups with a pull to the belt alternately.
  4. Burpee.
  5. Plank.

Contraindications for exercising

Ironically, but there are almost none. Even a person with ODE injuries, high blood pressure and overweight can do this kind of fitness. Only he will do 10 shallow squats with rest and push-ups from the wall. The beauty of the system is that it can be adapted to almost any skill level.

However, you should avoid exercising if:

  • there are contraindications to cardio load from the heart and blood vessels;
  • active trauma;
  • a person is sick with ARVI;
  • a chronic illness has worsened;
  • we have a newbie with a serious posture disorder or curvature of the spine;
  • joint mobility is limited.


Functional fitness is a marketing “wrapper” for an athlete’s physical fitness, simplified for the needs of ordinary people. Before us are the usual strength basic exercises with or without free weights, combined into cycles to increase the athlete’s endurance. The emphasis is on developing strength, agility, endurance, mobility and preventing domestic injuries.