What Is Functional Strength Training? Why You Need It & How to Get Started

Functional strength training has become the latest buzzword in the fitness industry you’ve probably crossed paths with. Unfortunately, it is also subject to wide interpretation. So, what is functional strength training, exactly and how can you use it to get the most out of your sweating sessions? Is there any substance behind all the hype? Functional training is not just another marketing trick – it actually does serve a purpose and translates to an activity beyond your workout. Don’t worry, it's not as complicated as it sounds. And yes, you can benefit from it, whatever your goal is. Let’s dive right into it.

First Things First: What Is Functional Strength Training?

We all know injuries can happen while working out— if you’re keen on working on your physique, you’ve probably ended up with one or two yourself. But, how many times have you heard someone say they injured their back carrying groceries? Or tweaked their knee walking up the stairs? Injuries from routine activities happen more often than people would like to admit. That’s where functional strength training comes in.

Functional Strength Training Definition

Functional strength training is defined as “Training that attempts to mimic the specific physiological demands of real-life activities.” Functional strength training improves performance not only related to fitness level, but also equips you for the most important type of physical fitness, the kind that preps you for real-life stuff. These exercises typically use the entire body (definitely multiple muscles) and emphasize core strength and stability. It all comes down to being practical, but don’t mistake that for boring.

Who Is Functional Strength Training for?

A common misconception is that you may be too old for strength training or that only professional athletes benefit from it. In short, functional strength training is for everyone. It is a great exercise option and benefits people of all ages and fitness levels. By mirroring the movements of your daily life, building functional strength can help increase anyone's quality of life and reduce the risk of injury.

Functional Strength Training Examples

Some common functional strength training exercises include:

  •       Push-ups
  •       Walking lunges
  •       Jump squats
  •       Jumping, lunging, or stepping onto an elevated surface
  •       Bodyweight squats
  •       Jumping jacks
  •       Movements done while balancing on one leg

How to Get Started

Whether you’re an athlete or someone who’s just searching for new exercise programs to enhance your quality of life, it’s a good idea to schedule a few sessions with a physical therapist to learn proper functional training techniques. Once you’ve determined your baseline and grown comfortable with the movements, incorporate functional training into your exercise regimen two to three times a week for about 30 minutes per session.

Functional Strength Training vs Traditional Strength Training: What's the Difference?

After some calorie-burning cardio, you may want to pick up a pair of weights and add in some strength training. But, should you go for traditional or functional strength training? Well, it really depends on what you’re looking for.

Traditional strength training isolates muscles and works them to exhaustion using heavy weights or gym equipment. This bodybuilding-type strength training — which often just focuses on one muscle group — doesn’t provide as many benefits in the functional fitness realm. Depending on your goals, every exercise has the potential to be functional in some way, but multi-muscle, multi-joint movements incorporated in functional strength training tend to provide the most bang for your buck. Training to improve functional strength involves more than simply increasing the force-producing capability of a muscle or group of muscles. Rather, it requires training to enhance the coordinated working relationship between the nervous and muscular systems.

Why Traditional Strength Training?

If you’re looking to tone a specific muscle group, like your legs, glutes, or abs, then traditional is where it’s at. 

Why Functional Strength Training?

In everyday terms, functional training can help a landscaper dig holes or rip out bushes while minimizing the chance of injury. For athletes, functional training can enhance the ability to throw a baseball from the outfield to home plate without ending up on the disabled list. You get the point.

Benefits of Functional Strength Training

So, why train with function in mind? Still not convinced? Here’s a few functional strength training benefits that might change your mind:

Unifies Your Body

By training multiple muscle groups at the same time, you are helping your body function better as a whole. You’re training it to be a system and not just individual parts that work independently. With functional strength training, both your mind and muscles will learn how to recruit multiple muscle groups to get a job done instead of relying on just one.

Builds Strength and Muscle

Traditional strength training isn’t the only road to building up your muscle mass. Both types of strength training create tiny tears in your muscle tissue, which heal bigger and stronger to increase strength and muscle definition, which benefits the body’s overall tenacity and helps slow down losing muscle mass over time. Functional training can also increase your bone density which supports skeletal health and strength.

Boosts Mood

All types of workouts release endorphins and have the power to improve our mood and lower stress levels, but functional strength training in particular induces neurochemical and neuromuscular responses that have a positive effect on the brain.

Improves Functionality

Functional strength training helps you, well, be functional. It increases your range of motion and gives your body a strong core, so that everything you do feels easier. Working your muscles, endurance, and multi-directional movement conditions your body to do daily activities more easily and comfortably.

Reduces the Risk of Injury

How many times have you heard someone complain about pain from doing housework? Probably more than you can count! Functional strength training allows you to carry groceries, climb the stairs and engage in other day-to-day activities with a lower risk of injury and pain. How? Functional strength training actually has its roots in physical therapy. Physical therapy works to build muscles through exercise that can aid you in your everyday life. In fact, you can almost say that they are one in the same – having the same focus, goal, and purpose.

The Future Looks Functional: Get the Most Out of Your Strength Training with Iron Tribe

Fitness is more than just being fit. It’s about functionality and how it transfers and aids you in your everyday life.This is what functional strength training is all about. Workout clothes also need to be functional. Luckily, IronTribe offers a range of transient pieces of athleisure clothing that can easily adapt to different scenarios.

What Should You Wear for Strength Training?

To get the most out of your functional strength training sessions, you need to be in breathable, loose fitting clothing that will allow you to go through the range of motions without getting in the way or restricting your movements. It's also important that you're wearing clothing that is going to help you break a sweat and get warmed up. That being said, we have some great workout attire for this type of workout to support you on your journey to a life-changing, more functional tomorrow. Check out our Quick Dry or Origins collections, pick your favorites and step up your game with Iron Tribe!