Functional Exercise


Chances are you don't live to exercise. For many people, exercise is a way to maintain or improve their quality of life. And that's the focus of functional fitness.

Functional fitness exercises are designed to train and develop your muscles to make it easier and safer to perform everyday activities, such as carrying groceries or playing a game of basketball with your kids.

What is functional Exercise?

Functional exercises train your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by simulating common movements you might do at home, at work or in sports. While using various muscles in the upper and lower body at the same time, functional exercises also emphasize core stability.

For example, a squat is a functional exercise because it trains the muscles used when you rise up and down from a chair or pick up low objects. By training your muscles to work the way they do in everyday tasks, you prepare your body to perform well in a variety of common situations.

Functional exercises can be done at home or at the gym. Gyms may offer functional fitness classes or incorporate functional fitness into boot camps or other types of classes. Exercise tools, such as fitness balls, kettle bells and weights, are often used in functional workouts.

What are the benefits of functional training?

Functional exercises tend to use multiple joints and numerous muscles. Instead of only moving the elbows, for example, a functional exercise might involve the elbows, shoulders, spine, hips, knees and ankles. This type of training, properly applied, can make everyday activities easier, reduce your risk of injury and improve your quality of life.

Functional exercise may be especially beneficial as part of a comprehensive program for older adults to improve balance, agility and muscle strength, and reduce the risk of falls.

What are some of the best functional exercises?

  • Hip Hinge Dead Lift (Olympic Barbell, Sandbag or Kettlebell)
  • Two Handed Kettlebell Swing (Kettlebell)
  • Suitcase Dead Lift (Olympic Barbell, Sandbag or Kettlebell)
  • Sumo Squat Dead Lift (Olympic Barbell, Sandbag or Kettlebell)
  • Pistol Squat (Bodyweight or Kettlebell)
  • Pull-up (Bodyweight or Kettlebell)
  • Chin-up (Bodyweight or Kettlebell)
  • Chest Push-up (Bodyweight or Sandbag)
  • Tricep Push-up (Bodyweight or Sandbag)
  • High Plank (Bodyweight or Sandbag)
  • Jumping Burpee (Bodyweight)
  • Wide Grip Bent-Over-Rows (Olympic Barbell, Sandbag or Kettlebell)
  • Close Inverted Grip Bent-Over-Rows (Olympic Barbell, Sandbag or Kettlebell)
  • Shoulder Press (Olympic Barbell, Sandbag or Kettlebell)
  • Bent Side Press (Kettlebell)

What are some fun activities that are considered functional exercises?

  • Surfing
  • Rock Climbing
  • Long Boarding
  • Dancing
American Chiropractic Association
Illinois Chiropractic Society
National University of Health Sciences