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Functional Strength Training: Training for Movement Not Muscle

*Have you ever heard the phrase, “Form follows function”?* This twentieth-century phrase was originally meant to describe modernist architecture-the idea being that the shape of a building should relate to its intended function or purpose. If you think about it, that same logic also applies to our fitness and exercise programs. At least, it should. The types of exercises we do in training should relate to the function or purpose of our bodies. When we use functional strength training movements, our body becomes more capable of performing and thriving in our daily lives. This means going outside the status quo or what we’re used to when we think of fitness or strength training. Functional fitness training *isn’t* just about using all the machines at a gym. So then, how are you to use your muscles to get stronger? In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about functional strength training. Treat this like a beginner’s guide to functional training. We’re especially going to focus on functional strength training for older people who may be focusing more on maintaining movement than, say, <a target="_blank" href=""><strong>adding lean muscle</strong></a>. You might also like our other guide, “<a target="_blank" href=""><strong>What is Functional Training and How Can It Benefit You?</strong></a>” <h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">What is Functional Strength Training?</p></h4> Here’s a simple way to think about functional strength training: it’s designed to mimic the demands of real-life activities. <div class="text-left my-5" style="width:70%; padding-left:20%;"> <img class="img-fluid w-md-75 image-center" src="" alt="DRINKING_BIRDS"> </div> For example, lunges and squats mimic the same movements as walking up stairs. Any hip-hinging exercise (like <strong>drinking birds</strong>) improves your body and spine’s ability to pick things up. <div class="text-left my-5"> <img class="img-fluid w-md-75 image-center" style="width:50% !important;" src="" alt="BURPEE_WALKOUT"> </div> Functional fitness training exercises are typically full-body exercises that incorporate the big muscle groups in your arms, shoulders, legs, and core. Instead of isolating a muscle group (like your biceps) by using a machine, a functional exercise (like the <strong>burpee or burpee walkout</strong>) uses every muscle from your head to your toes. <h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">How Do You Increase Functional Strength?</p></h4> Just like any other kind of exercise, increasing functional strength requires consistency and effort. If you’ve never done functional fitness training, have suffered from injuries, or it’s been a while since you’ve exercised, you’ll also need to make sure you start slow and progress correctly. This is why you’ll see that in most of our <a target="_blank" href=""><strong>workout articles</strong></a> and videos, we suggest starting with three sets of ten to twenty repetitions per exercise. Doing this a few times a week is plenty, and eventually, your body will be ready for more. Any type of exercise-functional strength training included-can result in injury if you push yourself too quickly when first starting out. <div class="text-left my-5"> <img class="img-fluid w-md-75 image-center" src="" alt="strong-woman-flexing"> </div> <h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">Can I Add Lean Muscle with Functional Strength Training?</p></h4> You bet! It just won’t be the bulky, bodybuilder sort of muscle you’re used to seeing. Functional motion tends to increase your body’s ability to move better, not necessarily pack on pounds of muscle. That said, you can certainly <a target="_blank" href=""><strong>add lean muscle</strong></a> if you are consistent and work hard when you exercise. <h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">What Are the Benefits of Functional Strength Training?</p></h4> Here are five benefits of functional strength training. <h5><p style="color: #000000">Increased Strength</p></h5> Just because you aren’t isolating muscle groups like you would with a gym machine doesn’t mean you can’t get strong from functional fitness training. It might be a different motion than you’re used to. For example, you won’t train just your biceps as much. However, your biceps, triceps, and shoulder muscles will all work together when you do things like push-ups or wall push-ups. <h5><p style="color: #000000">More Prepared for Daily Life</p></h5> You’ll find that functional fitness training makes daily life easier. You might notice it when you go for a walk and don’t feel tired, when you do yard work and aren’t sore the next day, or when you have no pain doing something you used to avoid (like picking something heavy up off the floor). Functional strength training teaches your muscle groups to work together as a unit, which takes pressure off your joints, alleviating pain and discomfort. <h5><p style="color: #000000">Lower Impact (or Allows for Modifications)</p></h5> One awesome benefit of full-body training is that you can almost always modify the exercise to meet your need. <div class="text-left my-5"> <img class="img-fluid w-md-75 image-center" style="width:50% !important;" src="" alt="SIT_TO_STAND"> </div> For example, you can still get a great workout using <strong>sit to stands</strong> in place of regular squats. <div class="text-left my-5"> <img class="img-fluid w-md-75 image-center" src="" alt="rolling-up-yoga-mat"> </div> <h5><p style="color: #000000">Increased Coordination, Flexibility, and Balance</p></h5> Instead of just focusing on adding muscle, functional training increases your body’s ability to be efficient, balanced, and coordinated. You might also find you have better flexibility and stamina from moving your body in ways it was designed to move. <h5><p style="color: #000000">Burn More Calories</p></h5> One reason we love functional strength training: working big muscle groups means you burn a lot of calories. All that motion is hard work, but it pays off! In <a target="_blank" href=""><strong>this article</strong></a>, we talk more about why functional fitness training, high-intensity interval training, and full-body exercises are our three preferred methods for losing body fat and burning tons of calories. <div class="text-left my-5"> <img class="img-fluid w-md-75 image-center" src="" alt="older-woman-with-glasses"> </div> <h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">Why is Functional Strength Training Better for Older People?</p></h4> The answer comes down to most people’s goals when they get older. At fifty or sixty, you’re probably not as worried about a six-pack or large arm muscles as you were in your twenties. Nowadays, you’re thinking about quality of life, longevity, fitness, and overall health. Functional strength training has been proven to noticeably impact people even into their elder years<sup>1</sup>. <h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">I Haven’t Exercised in Years. Is Functional Training Right for Me?</p></h4> Yes, absolutely! In fact, we’d recommend functional exercises over any other type. It’s easy to modify if you haven’t exercised in a long time (or if you have joint problems like <a target="_blank" href=""><strong>bad knees</strong></a>). And if you’re nervous about getting injured using functional exercise, think about it logically: performing movements your body was built to do actually means a lower risk of getting injured! It also doesn’t hurt that you can do most functional exercises from the comfort of your own <a target="_blank" href=""><strong>living room</strong></a>, either. <h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">How to Get Started with Functional Strength Training</p></h4> Seriously, you can do a full functional training workout at home! Between <a target="_blank" href=""><strong>Warrior Made’s YouTube Channel</strong></a> and <a target="_blank" href=""><strong>exercise articles</strong></a>, there’s a whole library of functional movements and workouts you can start with. <h5><p style="color: #000000">Functional Training Workout Sample:</p></h5> Ready to go? Here’s a workout you can try right now! Pick three full-body, functional strength training exercises: one upper body, one lower body, and one core. <div class="text-left my-5"> <img class="img-fluid w-md-75 image-center" style="width:50% !important;" src="" alt="BURPEE_WALKOUT"> </div> We recommend the <a target="_blank" href=""><strong>burpee walkout</strong></a>, the <a target="_blank" href=""><strong>sit to stand</strong></a> (or a squat), and the kneeling plank (Coach Tyler demonstrates this here starting at 4:21). <div class="text-left my-5"> <img class="img-fluid w-md-75 image-center" style="width:50% !important;" src="" alt="SIT_TO_STAND"> </div> Do a small interval training workout where you complete as many repetitions as you in one minute of each. Rest one or two minutes between sets, then move on to the next exercise.</p> Complete all three exercises two or three times, and bam, you’re done. Depending on how many rounds you choose, it’ll be a six- or nine-minute workout. <h4><p style="color: rgba(20, 117, 135, 1)">Wrapping Up</p></h4> Functional strength training is about using your body to mimic the demands of real-life activities. No matter who you are, your age, or how long it’s been since you’ve exercised, functional fitness training is perfect for you. Yeah, it might not focus as much on building huge muscles-but your body will perform daily tasks better, and you might find yourself feeling and looking better, too. If you’d like to learn more about functional training and how we use it as a tool for weight loss, check out, “<a target="_blank" href=""><strong>What is Functional Training and How Can It Benefit You?</strong></a>” Finally, there are plenty of functional strength movements and workouts available for free on <a target="_blank" href=""><strong>Warrior Made’s YouTube Channel</strong></a> and <a target="_blank" href=""><strong>exercise articles</strong></a> section. <h5><p style="color: #000000">Resources</p></h5> 1. <a target="_blank" href="">Effects of resistance training on functional ability in elderly individuals</a>

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