What is Functional Strength Training?

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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 28 January 2020
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Functional strength training is essentially exercising in a way that will increase a person’s power when performing her normal daily tasks. If a person is an athlete, like a baseball player who swings a bat a lot, then functional strength training might focus on building strength and other attributes for swinging motions. On the other hand, if a person is not an athlete, functional strength training might be focused on developing the ability to lift a heavy garbage or grocery bag.

Most functional strength training programs are built directly around common everyday movements. An example would be swinging a sledgehammer or squatting down and then standing again. These movements may be repeated several times in a given workout session, and there might be an addition of some kind of resistance or weight to increase the effectiveness of the exercise.


People who focus on functional strength training are interested in looking at the body as a set of muscle groups instead of individual muscles. Any basic movement that a person may perform will generally require several muscles to work as a unit in a smooth and effective way. In real life, it is rare for muscles to work in isolation, so people who favor functional strength training don’t usually think it is wise to isolate muscles during exercise. Sometimes people who focus on isolation training can build a lot of physical size, but they may not be able to perform as well as a smaller person with a lot of functional training.

One of the main disadvantages of this kind of training is that it doesn’t lead to huge muscles. People can improve their overall muscle tone with functional exercises and build a lot of real-world strength, but they don’t normally get as big as people who do a lot of isolation exercises. Many people who focus on functional exercises aren’t so concerned with the cosmetic aspects of fitness programs, but instead are focused on improving their ability to perform activities.

Some functional strength training is performed without equipment, and some isn’t. For example, some people consider push-ups a form of functional strength training, while others might consider kettle bell workouts functional because they put a lot of different support muscles into action, and many of the motions mimic regular daily activities. Many people also use isometric equipment to add a bit of resistance to their functional movement routines, or they might wear weights around their wrists or ankles.


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