What is “Functional” Training: Part 2

Now that we’ve discussed and defined what “functional” training is and is not, we can move into some specifics of our training program.  In Part 2, I’d like to discuss how we can train “functionally,” in a more pure sense of the definition.

So first, lets recap the highlights from Part 1:

  • “Functional” training is NOT about balancing on a Swiss Ball or exercising while balancing on 1 foot.
  • We need to move in a natural way with natural patterns…the way the body is meant to move.
  • There is a difference between flexibility and mobility.  One is passive, the other is active.
  • Our training should mimic our active ability to move throughout a FULL range of motion.
  • Pay attention to how children move.  The ability to move like a child is something for which we should strive.
  • The ability to control one’s own body weight through a full-range of motion is nature’s expression of strength.

So with said, let’s discuss how we can accomplish some “functional” training goals.


  • Goal’s
    • Increase Body Temperature
    • Prepare the Body for Movement
    • Activate Central Nervous System
    • Improve Elasticity (Not Necessarily Flexibility)
    • Decrease Inhibiting Functions of the Brain’s Central Governors
    • Increase Proprioception and Motor Control
  • Methods
    • Breathing/Joint Mobility Work
      • Diaphragmatic Breathing
      • Foam Roll/Stick Work
      • Functional Movement Screen Correctives
    • General Warm-up
      • Easy, slow jogging
      • Stationary Bike
      • Jump Rope
    • Dynamic Stretches
      • Hip Circles
      • Leg Swings
      • Skipping/Crawling
      • Rolling Patterns
      • Shoulder and Arm Swings
      • Thoracic Rotations and Extensions
      • Deep Squat/Squat with Reach


  • Goals
    • Increase Muscular Strength…In Multiple Planes of Motion
    • Be able to Control Body Throughout a FULL Range of Motion
    • Increase Nervous System Conduction Velocity
  • Methods
    • Ground Based Exercises (Applying Force to the Ground)
      • Squats
      • Deadlifts
      • Hinge Exercises (Romanian Deadlifts – Single or Double Leg, KB Swings)
      • Lateral/Reverse/Drop Lunges
    • Multi-Joint Upper Body Exercises
      • Pushups
      • Pull-ups
      • Standing Pulls and Pushes
      • Shoulder Press (If Range of Motion qualifies you)
    • Accessory Training
      • Glute/Hamstring
      • Deadbugs
      • Front/Side Planks
    • Medicine Ball Work
      • Squat Press
      • Scoop Toss
      • Side Toss
      • Back Toss
      • Falling Push Press for Acceleration

All these exercises, by design, force your body to move in primitive ways.  We don’t have to worry about standing on a Bosu Ball and doing bicep curls.  All we need to do is move the way nature intended.  When we squat, squat deep.  Deadlift from the ground if you can.  Train your abdominals to stabilize, which is what they’re actually designed to do (sorry crunchers).  Move in all directions.  Too many times we get locked into training in the sagittal plane (forward and back).  Open your body up to working side-to-side, as well as incorporating rotation where applicable.

If you don’t have full range of motion at the moment.  That’s okay.  Most people don’t.  We will soon be discussing so more in-depth ways that we can increase our mobility safely and efficiently.

Although this is a very basic outline for how we can train “functionally,” it lays the groundwork for turning ourselves into better working machines.  More efficient machines that will ultimately last longer and perform at a higher level for much longer.  And that’s the ultimate goal of “functional” training, right?  To prepare our bodies, as best as possible, for the rigors of everyday life.  And since the physical obstacles that we face today aren’t exactly those that our ancestors faced, our ultimate goal should be to make the body that we have last for as long as possible.  To quote Steve Carell in The 40-Year Old Virgin:

…Is it true that if you don’t USE it, you LOSE it?

Yes.  Yes, that is absolutely, unequivocally true.  The range of motion that you do not use will be lost.  And the longer you go without it, the harder it is to regain.


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