By HYLETE Content Team

Functional Fitness is a term that is growing in popularity. However, for those who are not familiar, it can still be difficult to understand this term and its relevance. What does it really mean? Where did the term originate? What makes a workout "functional?" Where can you begin in your journey towards functional fitness? Which are some key workouts and examples? In this post, we offer some valuable insight into the world of Functional Fitness.

What Functional Fitness Really Is

While it may sound like a complicated term, functional fitness just involves exercising in a way that prepares you to handle the activities of daily life. According to the Mayo Clinic, the primary objective of functional fitness if to “improve or maintain your quality of life”. It’s that simple! Functional exercises are meant to engage multiple muscle groups in a way that mimics the demands of everyday actions like squatting to pick something up or turning and reaching for a can on a high shelf.

Commonly, functional fitness exercises can be achieved with bodyweight. However, tools like suspension ropes, dumbbells, and medicine balls are also used sometimes. Functional fitness is not a one-size-fits-all process. ACE-certified trainer, Suzette O’Bryrne reminds us that, “not all exercises are for everyone because everyone has individual needs, goals, and fitness levels.” The specific exercises best suited for your lifestyle may vary drastically from other people, and it is important to consider this before trying out new functional workouts. In general, though, functional fitness workouts focus on certain primary concepts that help with everyday activities including:

  • Balance
  • Strength
  • Cardio
  • Moving through different planes of motion

Why is Functional Fitness So Popular?

With a greater understanding of functional fitness, you may be wondering why the heck so many people are interested in it right now. While it may sound a bit dull compared to other training concepts, functional fitness is so popular because of its origin in our history.

Before there were fancy gyms with the latest equipment or even sports teams, our ancestors were training in functionally. Functional fitness is not just a fad, it is ingrained in our history. During the time of hunters and gatherers, humans relied on their physical ability for food and safety. According to the Muscle Armory, “If they couldn’t run fast enough to catch their prey or were not strong enough to wield their weapons they simply would not live.” By training functionally, we teach our muscles to work together in the way they were meant to, rather than isolating them.

Functional fitness also exploded due to the steady switch from traditional gyms to the many other options that include functional training. According to writer Elisabeth Fouts from Powersystems, trainers started to turn away from big gyms with traditional equipment in favor of starting their own training gyms that incorporated functional movement. Then, fitness classes like boot camps started to take over. These classes used bodyweight movements as well as kettlebells, medicine balls, ropes, tires, and sledgehammers. Following the introduction of these classes, HIIT training gained traction. Finally, fitness rigs like obstacle course racing and group training increased in popularity due to their accessibility and connection to everyday activities.

How and Where to Participate in Functional Fitness

Because functional fitness is adaptable for individuals, the possibilities are really endless. Many functional exercises can be done with just bodyweight, meaning you can easily do them anywhere. There is a functional training location for every preference. You can find a functional training gym, join some group classes, follow along on an app like the HYLETE Daily Circuit, or do your own workouts anywhere you prefer.

Remember, functional fitness is meant to prepare you for daily situations and movements. The important movement patterns in functional fitness are the squat, lunge, deadlift, push, and pull. Exercises will incorporate many different variations on these movement patterns to create an extensive list of possibilities. The functional fitness exercises also should incorporate the three fundamental movement planes, frontal (moving side to side), sagittal (forward and backward), and rotational (twisting around the centerline). Some example exercises include:

  • Squat jumps
  • Multi-directional lunges
  • Single leg dumbbell row
  • Kettlebell snatch
  • Push-ups
  • Pull-ups
  • Planks on an unstable surface
  • Burpee
  • Broad jump

Why Should You Care?

Functional fitness doesn’t just sound like a good idea, it is backed by numerous health benefits. Some of the important benefits of functional fitness include:

  • Spend less time in the gym and more time living!: Functional training focuses on multiple muscle groups at one time with high intensity, so you can achieve more in a shorter period of time.
  • Reduce the risk of injuries: Through functional fitness, you train the muscles to be used together, which makes you more efficient with movements like running and jumping. You will also be able to tolerate stressors better because functional fitness promotes both muscle and ligament strength.
  • Low Impact: Functional training is a low impact training style, making it a great option for those who are just starting out or have prior injuries. Increase your physical output without heavily taxing your joints.
  • Better Quality of Life: Through functional fitness, you enhance the overall function of your body, increase strength and endurance, and develop stability. All of these changes help you tackle daily activities with ease and relieve stress through fun training.

The biggest reason to care about functional fitness is that it is for you. Regardless of age, gender, or ability, functional training is something you can incorporate into your life that will positively impact your health and wellbeing. Functional fitness can be tailored to your lifestyle, interests, and skill level making it an easy and fun way to workout.