Functional Fitness created a new section in gyms containing kettlebells, suspension systems, Vypers, wobble boards, exercise balls and medicine balls. It created a whole new approach to fitness that lies at the heart of any modern methods that have taken its teachings one step further. It was originally a method developed for rehabilitation where movements that patients would perform at home, at work, or recreationally would be practised in a controlled environment.

It was a way of ensuring that these movements could be performed and rehabilitation had been achieved. Turning this on its head trainers then began thinking that if people trained these movements then pushing, pulling, lifting, bending and diagonal movements would be less likely to cause injury in the first place. Specific programmes were created dependent on someone’s work, sport, leisure, and social activities. A marathon runner would be trained with an emphasis on endurance. A landscape gardener would have back orientated strength training exercise in their workout. This type of tailored programme began to have far reaching implications on the way many viewed fitness.

Functional training is centred on recreating the natural movements of the body and so distances itself from training machines that only allow for one plane of movement. Functional training focuses on complex movements which use more than one muscle group and engage the stabilizers and peripheral muscles as well as core muscle groups.

There is a range of equipment used but the emphasis is on bodyweight and different types of weights that promote a free range of movement, and balance as well as stability, where the bodies core needs to engage for correct execution. You could use: clubbells, macebells, cable machines, barbells, dumbbells, medicine balls, kettlebells, bodyweight, exercise balls, resiatnce tubes, wobble boards, balance disks, sandbags and suspension systems.

The ideal is to have a functional training programme written up so that it is tailored specifically to your requirements. However, if we are honest with ourselves then we are aware of our own bodies. Think about any weaknesses you have, any stiffness, adapted ranges of motion, old injuries, or repetitive strain issues caused by work/training patterns. You should be able to make a basic assessment as to whether your training should require some back strengthening exercises, a low weight rehabilitation move for a stiff shoulder, focus on core exercises or be endurance orientated.

Functional workouts typically involve a variety of exercises that work on flexibility, core, balance, strength and power. If you currently undergoing rehabilitation then consult a physio before undertaking your own exercise plan.

Here are a few workouts that will satisfy your functional fitness requirements – adjust the weights/reps to control the intensity to match your level of ability. As will all exercise make sure you follow the generic warm up provided at the start of this book before completing a workout and the cool down and stretching at the end of the workout.

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Functional 1 (Core and Legs emphasis)


Squat with medicine ball – squat holding ball at chest height and extend straight above the head when standing x 20

Push up into side plank – one push up – then into left side plank position (hold 3 seconds) – one push up – then into right side plank (hold 3 seconds) x 15

Lunge with a twist alternating legs x 20

Turkish Get up hold ( see glossary) x 6 each arm

Torso rotation with medicine ball – top of the V in a sit up position – holding the medicine rotate left and then right x 20

Plank x 30 secs


Functional 2 (Core & Arms emphasis)


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Use heaviest weights possible for each exercise:

Squat and press – squat and shoulder press a barbell/dumbbells x 1 min

Inchworm (see glossary) x 1 min

Dumbbells wood chopper (see glossary) x 1 min


Single arm rows x 30 seconds each arm

Push up and jump – press up then jump in with both legs and jump back out – press up and repeat x 1 min

Deadlift into upright row x 1 min


Leg raises x 30 seconds

Elbow to knee x 30 seconds

Supermans/back extensions x 30 seconds

Plank x 30 seconds


Functional 3 (All over body workout)


Kettlebell swing x 10

Calf raise with lateral raise – stand up onto your toes and raise the arms by your sides to shoulder height x 10

Lying dumbbell pullover (see glossary) x 10

Cable lat pull down x 10

Lunge with bicep curl –alternate legs x 10

Push ups x 10

Sit ups x 10

Burpees x 10

Summo squat (point the feet out and assume a wide squat stance) x 10

Tricep dips x 10



Turkish Get up hold – Hold dumbbell in hand with straight am. Keep the arm straight (slight bend in elbow) and take yourself down to a sitting position. Then continue down to a lying position with your back flat on the ground. Make sure the dumbbell remains pointing towards the ceiling and the arm straight out above you. Then get up as quickly as you can and repeat the movement.

Lying dumbbell pullover – Hold the end of a dumbbell in the palms of both hands, above the chest. Lie with the back flat on a bench or stability ball, the feet firmly grounded on the floor. Slowly extend the dumbbell behind the head, allowing a slight bend at the elbows. Return the dumbbell to start position, elbows tucked, making sure the back stays flat to the bench

Inchworms – Reach down with both arms to the floor. Walk them along the floor until in a downward dog position (bum high – arms and legs straight creating a reversed V). Then walk the legs towards the hands and repeat the movement.

Hip extension with reverse fly – A single legged deadlift held stationary at the downward position – balancing on one leg. Perform a bent over fly and then carefully return back to standing and repeat on the other leg.

Dumbbell wood choppers – Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell out in front of the body (like you’re handing a bouquet of flowers to someone). Squat down, and rotate the torso to the right while bringing the dumbbell to the right foot. Make sure to keep the chest upright and maintain a neutral spine. As you come to standing, keep the arms straight as the dumbbell diagonally crosses the body until it reaches overhead to the left side.