Functional Training– What is it actually? (Part 2)


In the first part of this post, we closely examined the philosophy behind functional training. Today we will look at the practical aspects. We’ll look at different exercises and training equipment. Have fun!


Strength exercises

The great thing about functional training is that you can do it almost anywhere and that you don’t need to be outfitted for it. For example, just with your own body weight, you can complete these fundamental strength exercises for the whole body:

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Push-ups
  • Planks and side planks
  • Various sit-up variations
  • Chin-ups

For every exercise, there is actually a regression and a progression. That means that there are variations for each exercise, some that are good for beginners and some that are good for those who are advanced. Let’s look at some examples:


Beginner variation: support hands on a raised surface

Advanced variation: place feet on a raised surface


Beginner variation: fewer repetitions, don’t go so deep

Advanced variation: squats on one leg


Beginner variation: put knees down

Advanced variation: hold longer, on one leg


Training equipment and aids

For more variety, you can find some great training gear and aids. In contrast to the traditional gym, this gear can be used in many different ways and provides for good fun.


Some of the typical equipment includes:

  • Suspension Trainer (TRX)
  • Medicine balls
  • Kettlebells
  • Mini bands
  • Gym balls
  • Ropes
  • Bosu

Even though I can only briefly explore all of the possible training equipment and aids here, I hope that it is clear that functional training is very versatile. Functional training offers a great variety of exercises and equipment, many of which can often be implemented at home. Your work outs can be varied and boredom is rare. In future posts, I will go into more detail on some of the gear. I welcome your comments. 🙂


Workouts: short and sweet

Regarding the length of your workouts, functional training also beats the competition. Above all, it is about efficiency, meaning going full throttle in a relatively short time frame: 30-60 minutes. So you see, a functional training work out really fits into any schedule. After a short warm-up, during which you stimulate your circulation, the actual work out starts. Depending on your training goals, one set lasts about 30-120 seconds, or 10-40 repetitions, and rests times are kept very short.


Functional training is also part interval training. This means that working very hard alternates with relatively short recovery, so your pulse stays up the whole time, and you really burn calories, even after your work out. A well-known example is the Tabata-Principle, that I have already talked about in another blog post. In a Tabata, 20 seconds hard work alternate with 10 seconds recovery, and the whole cycle repeats 8 times. But other combinations are possible, like 45 seconds hard work and 15 seconds rest.


Alternatively, you can also work out based on repetitions instead of time. For instance, you could do antagonist training or circuit training.



In this type of training, one set of exercises in one movement direction, for instance, a pulling exercise like a chin-up, is followed by a set of exercises in the opposite movement direction, for instance a pushing exercise like a push-up. The advantage is that you can use the rest times effectively, while the worked muscles recover. But the circulation continues to run a full blast.


Circuit Training

Circuit Training usually consists of 10-15 exercises that work out the entire body. After one set of an exercise, you switch immediately to the next exercise. After completing a set of each exercise, you rest for two to three minutes. Then you start the next circuit round with the same exercises. The goal is to complete three to five rounds.


My Experiences

Earlier in my life I also went to the gym regularly, diligently lifted my weights, and was bored from counting my repetitions. Functional training won me over based on the variety and range of exercises alone. Using a timer, I don’t even have to look at the clock any more. Instead, I just go full bore for each set until I hear the beep. It’s impossible to turn your brain off more. So try it for yourself, or tell me about your experiences.

Functional Training – What is it actually? (Part 1)

Functional training is currently experiencing a downright boom and is turning the fitness world completely inside out. You have probably already heard of CrossFit, Freeletics and Calisthenics. Ultimately, these are about holistic and functional training, usually with your own body weight.


Put an end to monotone work on weight machines, which looks, for some gym patrons, to be about as exciting as were folding laundry. They make themselves comfortable on the leg press for three sets, and switch after 45. Repetition is boring, even for the machine. Is it any surprise then, that working out isn’t fun?


What exactly is functional Training?

The basic principle of functional training is: train movements, not muscles. The isolated targeting of single muscles is non-functional, meaning that there is no equivalent for it, neither in normal everyday life, nor in any kind of sport. Bicep curls or working on the leg extension machine at the gym are great examples of this. It is highly unlikely that we will ever have the opportunity to use those 2 muscles in isolation in real life. Our body doesn’t function through muscles. It functions through movement.


In functional training, therefore, the priority is on basic movements and the improvement of basic skills that are universal to all sports. It also includes abilities like stabilizing joints, speed and having good body awareness.


An essential component is the completion of these movements with good quality, for two reasons. First, completing movements incorrectly usually leads to compensating movements, which, over time, can lead to problems with posture, muscular imbalance and signs of wear and tear. Second, completing movements incorrectly usually means that we don’t complete the movement in its entire scope, and lose important training results. We could actually train much more efficiently.


Training muscle chains – movement instead of muscles

Functional training is based on the natural fact that, for almost all body movements, a wide variety of muscle groups have to work together. Therefore, functional training comprises especially movements that work as many joints and muscles as possible. In many gyms, it is customary to work isolated muscle groups. Functional training is different: it always demands complex interaction of muscles. This especially improves the coordination of muscles and is a much better approximation of natural movements of humans in everyday life and in many sports.



Whereas on traditional weight machines, various cushions give you support, in functional training, movements are completed without support. In normal life outside the gym, we will rarely find guide rails and cushions to stabilize the execution of our movements. This means that functional exercises are decidedly harder in the beginning. But ultimately, every small, stabilizing muscle and every deep muscle around the joint is trained in every work out. And also the core muscles, which are important for good posture and the correct execution of many exercises. I really want to highlight the importance of the core muscles at this point. Strong exercises for abs and back are part of almost every functional training work out.


Balance and coordination

Functional training distinguishes itself also in the improvement of balance and intermuscular coordination. On the one hand, complex movement patterns demand that a wide variety of muscles work together. In order to increase performance, muscles have to communicate better and work together, so that strength can be transferred efficiently. On the other hand, movements in open space and uneven surfaces strengthen the stabilizing muscles around the joints. The training of balance and coordination lowers the danger of injury to ligaments and tendons. In old age, this kind of training can clearly reduce the risk of falling.


Second Part

Stay tuned for part 2 which will be about exercises and training equipment.