Functional Fitness: The Ultimate Guide

Have you ever had a killer workout at the gym…

Busting out the biceps curls, leg presses, and calf raises…

Only to find you have trouble lifting a heavy suitcase above your head in a crowded airplane, or going up five flights of stairs when the elevator is broken?

You’re not alone.

Because the truth is that when most people work out, they focus on exercises that isolate individual muscles, such as the biceps, triceps, quads or glutes.

This type of training isn’t necessarily wrong (it’s used by bodybuilders to pump up particular muscles so they’re big and puffy), but it won’t help you in everyday life.

Because in the real world, your muscles don’t work in isolation—they work together as a whole.

And that’s where functional fitness comes in. Because if you want to be truly fit… you have to be fit inside and outside of the weight room.

So what exactly is functional fitness?

According to

“Functional fitness is any exercise performed to better enable the participant to move through normal life activities.”

In short, this means that functional training focuses on building a body capable of doing real-life activities in real-life positions, rather than just lifting a certain amount of weight in a glorified posture created by a gym machine.

This means putting an emphasis on multi-joint and multi-exercise training—because triceps pullovers don’t often come in handy in everyday life.

The greatest thing about functional fitness? Since the training method emphasizes basic movements such as running, jumping, pushing, pulling, lifting and squatting, you don’t need fancy gym equipment to do it.

In fact, your own body weight can be incredibly effective, as can fun and challenging tools such as medicine balls, kettlebells, pull up bars and dip bars.

And now you see where the 12 Minute Athlete workouts originate from.

Get fitter, move better

Unless you’re training to compete in a bodybuilding competition (which I wouldn’t recommend), functional fitness is going to be your best bet for everyday life.

That’s because not only will you be able to do all the things you love… such as playing catch with your kids, running around with your dog and planting your garden, you’ll also be better prepared for all the mundane tasks of every day life, like getting out of bed, carrying groceries home from the store, or walking up flights of stairs.

Functional fitness exercises train your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by mirroring common movements you might do at home, at work or in sports.

So not only will you be building greater strength, improve your day-to-day performance, and prevent plateaus… you’ll also boost your quality of life.

Below are some exercises that fall into the functional fitness category:

  • Squats
  • Burpees
  • Lunges
  • Sprints
  • Kettebell swings
  • Turkish get ups
  • Shoulder presses
  • Jumping exercises

There are lots more… but you get the idea.

Check out the 12 Minute Athlete workout videos for specific instructions on how to do these and other exercises.

Improve balance and coordination

Know all that stuff you read about core training and how important it is for your body?

It’s true!

That’s because a strong core is what leads to great balance—and balance can be the difference between falling and hurting yourself from a dip in the sidewalk or catching yourself before you fall.

Functional fitness exercises focus on building a strong core, training your body to react the correct way when something unpredictable happens, such as a tumble off the curb or a slip on a wet surface.

Because sometimes falls and accidents are unavoidable (I experience them all the time), and functional fitness can help you prepare your body for the unexpected.

Burn more calories

If you’re trying to lose weight, I’ve got some good news for you: functional exercises burn more calories, too!

That’s because since functional exercises are almost always multi-joint exercises and require the use of multiple muscles at once, they take more work and energy to complete.

Plus, you won’t ever have to worry about “spot training” (which absolutely does not work), because you’ll be working your body in whole, complete movements the way it was meant to be used.

Give functional fitness a try

Ditch the biceps curls and seated leg extensions and try functional fitness out for yourself.

You’ll not only boost your body’s ability to function correctly during everyday life… you’ll also get stronger, fitter, and faster as a result.

And what could be better than that?

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