Functional training - what exactly is it? Movements that we do in everyday life that we can mimic through exercise. A functional workout typically consists of compound exercises, meaning exercises where you use two or more joints and more than one muscle group.
Compound exercises can be performed using your own bodyweight e.g. squats, burpees, plank-ups, push-ups, walking lunges, step-ups, dips, etc. Compound exercises can also be performed using free weights such as dumbbells or barbells.
Movements such as deadlifts, bench presses and overhead presses are far more beneficial than isolation exercises which are exercises that isolate a single muscle group only e.g. bicep curl, leg extension, leg curl.
For the most efficient workouts, compound lifts are recommended because they create the greatest change in decreasing body fat percentages in the human body in the shortest time and help the body to develop proportionally.
Functional compound exercises for massive results.
For a powerful functional workout, consider incorporating these exercises into your workout routine. You can use free weights or just your own body weight. Here are seven of my favourite ones:
1. Barbell Deadlift
The deadlift works more muscles than any other exercise. It works your lower and upper body including your back muscles and increases grip strength too!
Method: Standing feet hip-width stance - hands just outside of hips – full overhand grip on bar – shoulders slightly in front of bar – lumber curve maintained – hips and shoulders rise at the same rate – bar moves over the middle of foot – heels down – complete at full hip and knee extension.
2. Barbell Back Squat
It's a compound exercise that can enhance core strength, improve flexibility, build powerful thighs and firm abdominal muscles.
Method: Standing with feet shoulder-width – bar rests on upper back – hands just outside shoulders – overhand grip on bar – elbows pointed back – hips descend back and down – hips descend just below the knees – lumbar curve maintained – heels in line with toes – heels down - complete at full hip and knee extension.
3. Floor Barbell Press
When you lie on a bench you can drive through the floor with your feet. This is not possible with the floor press so your pressing muscles are forced to work harder.
Method: Lying with your back on the floor under your bar – legs extended or knees flexed and feet planted – overhand grip on bar – hands just outside the shoulders – hip thrust the bar into position directly over chest – elbows at 90° in line with shoulders – extend arms fully above chest – lower barbell back towards chest – elbows touch floor and repeat movement.
4. Overhead Barbell Press
The overhead press mirrors everyday tasks we do all day e.g. putting dishes up high in a cupboard or placing items overhead on a shelf. It is important to keep the muscles in your upper body conditioned.
Method: Feet hip width stance – hands just outside shoulders – bar sits on upper chest - elbows slightly in front of bar – overhand grip on bar – bar moves over the middle of the foot – torso and legs static – heels down – shoulders push up into the bar – complete with full arm extension and repeat.
Not only does this work your obliques, it works your lower, mid and upper abdominals too!
Method: Lying on back with knees flexed in table top position – feet hip width – fingers on temples – tummy tight – bring opposite elbow to opposite knee – extend opposite leg straight – repeat on other side.
6. Dumbbell Front Lunges
The lunge is a great lower body exercise that works several muscle groups at once i.e. glutes, hips, hamstrings, quadriceps, abdominals and calves.
Method: Hold dumbbells at shoulders – one leg steps forward – keep heel of forward leg down – raise heel of back leg – lower torso until back knee gently touches the ground – front shin remains vertical – complete at full hip and knee extension – 1 or 2 dumbbells can be used.
Pull-ups target your latissimus dorsi better than any other exercise. They also work your biceps, upper back and forearms.
Method: Hands just outside shoulder-width – overhand grip on bar – start hanging with arms extended – pull up until chin is higher than bar – drop torso back down with arms extended and repeat. This movement can be modified by doing a lat pull-down.
Tip for all movements
Make sure you breathe out on the effort of each movement and inhale on the release part of the movement.
Kieran Keenan is an advanced personal trainer and the owner of Fitsquad.