What Is Functional Strength Training? Everything You Need to Know 

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“What is functional strength training” is a search query that receives quite high traffic, and there is a good reason why. 

The promise of being physically strong in situations where it matters is appealing to many, and if you are new to the concept, there is some information you need to know if you want to gain real, functional strength.   

Let’s get right into it and take a look at the answer to “what is functional strength training”.  

What is Functional Strength Training? 

Functional strength training is training that aims to increase strength in real-life situations, such as carrying shopping or moving furniture.  

It differs from regular strength training because of its specificity. 

Unlike traditional weightlifters who perform exercises to gain strength for specific lifts like the bench press or squat, functional strength training athletes perform exercises with the intent of becoming stronger in the real world. 

Of course, there is some crossover even with traditional weightlifters when it comes to increasing functional strength, but a certain level of specificity is required to see a noticeable benefit.  

The Benefits 

There are a myriad of benefits to functional training

Functional strength training will allow you to do things that most people would think to be near-impossible in everyday life, such as moving extremely heavy objects.  

It can even build an impressive physique when paired with adequate rest and nutrition.  

There’s also the fact that functional strength training does wonders for injury prevention.  

This type of training will make your body adapt to everyday movements and make you grow stronger, so you will be much less likely to injure yourself when performing strenuous tasks that could otherwise pose a risk.  

That goes without even mentioning the various health benefits that physical activity has in general.  

Whether you want to gain muscle, lose weight, improve your health, or just get strong, functional training can do it all.  

What is Traditional Strength Training? 

Traditional strength training is the standard model of training that is most commonly seen in the lifting world that aims to improve performance on lifts like the squat, deadlift, and bench press.  

This type of training is great for building muscle mass and increasing strength on compound movements.  

How They Differ 

You may be wondering how functional strength training differs from nonfunctional strength training – strength is strength, right? 

Well, yes and no. 

While increasing your bench press or squat will make you stronger overall, they will have very little crossover when it comes to doing manual labour or moving heavy furniture.  

This means that even those who do have a huge bench press or squat but train for nonfunctional strength will only have a slight advantage in real-world situations thanks to their muscle, but those who specifically train for said situations will be much better equipped to handle them.  

A good example of this would be moving companies.  

Many employees have incredible strength from moving furniture all day long, but put them in a gym and they would just perform like any other average Joe.  

The same goes the other way around. 

Put a bodybuilder in a mover’s shoes for a day and watch him struggle to pick up even light items after just a few hours. 

Strength is specific, and in order to greatly improve at certain things, we have to specify and tailor our training to meet our goals. 

Which is More Effective? 

The answer to which is more effective between functional and traditional strength training will vary depending on your goals.  

If you want to get strong in the gym and have a huge squat, bench, or deadlift, then traditional strength training will be more effective. 

If you want to be stronger in everyday life, then functional strength training will be more effective.  

Both lead to muscle and strength gains, and both can help you achieve your individual goals depending on what you are aiming for.  

Who is Functional Strength Training for? 

Functional strength training is for people who want to spend their time developing strength that is applicable to the real world. 

Most strength training exercises have little to no crossover with many of the tasks we do that require strength on a regular basis, meaning even those who are extremely strong in the gym will not have that big of an advantage outside of the gym.  

If you want to be strong in everyday life, being able to move furniture, carry groceries, flip hay bales, or handle heavy equipment with ease, then functional strength training is for you.  

Functional strength training is also a good fit for anyone who just wants to stay healthy and get into good shape. 

From injury prevention and improving body composition to reducing the chances of developing certain illnesses, functional strength training does much more than just allow you to lift heavy things.  

How to do Functional Strength Training 

Beginner Functional Strength Training 

Beginner functional strength training centres around building a good strength base.  

This means performing regular strength training exercises like shoulder presses, squats, and deadlifts, as well as performing some beginner functional strength training movements.  

Intermediate Functional Strength Training 

Once you have a good level of general strength, you can begin to experiment with more difficult functional strength training exercises and variations.  

You should still continue to do exercises like squats and deadlifts alongside these new exercises, but make sure you manage recovery and rest to ensure that you are not overworking select muscle groups. 

Advanced Functional Strength Training 

At the advanced level of functional strength training, this is where you can start to delve into difficult exercise variations.  

It can take years of specified training to reach this level, so do not be disappointed if it takes you a while to get to this level.  

What is Functional Strength Training Defined & Sample Workouts 

Functional Strength Training Defined 

The definition of functional strength is strength that has crossover to the real world.  

While having a big bench might be impressive, it’s not going to help you get past a demanding obstacle course or move furniture around. 

Functional strength training rectifies this by having you perform exercises and movements that stimulate real-world activities. 

Sample Functional Strength Training Program 

Beginner Functional Strength Training Workout: 

Beginner Routine  

Glute Bridge  

The glute bridge is an exercise that targets the glutes and hamstrings. 

To perform this exercise, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.  

Lift your hips up towards the ceiling, squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement, and then lower back down to the starting position.  

Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. 

Squat  

The squat is a compound exercise that targets the quads, glutes, and hamstrings.  

To perform this exercise, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and toes pointed slightly outward.  

Keeping your chest lifted and core engaged, lower down by bending at the knees and hips, pushing your weight back onto your heels.  

Go as low as you can while keeping your form, and then push back up to a standing position. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. 

Pushup  

The push up is an exercise that targets the chest, shoulders, triceps, and core muscles.  

To perform this exercise, start in a plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your feet hip-width apart. 

Lower your body down towards the ground by bending at the elbows, keeping your body in a straight line, and then push back up to the starting position.  

Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. 

Lateral Lunge  

The lateral lunge is an exercise that targets the glutes, quads, and hamstrings.  

To perform this exercise, stand with your feet hip-width apart and take a large step to the side with one foot, keeping your toes pointed forward.  

Bend the knee of the lunging leg, keeping your other leg straight, and sit back into your hips.  

Push off with the lunging leg to return to the starting position, and then repeat on the other side.  

Alternate sides for the desired number of repetitions. 

Plank 

The plank is an exercise that targets the core muscles, specifically the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and obliques.  

To perform this exercise, start in a pushup position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your feet hip-width apart.  

Lower down onto your forearms and hold your body in a straight line, keeping your core engaged and your back flat.  

Hold for the desired amount of time, and then release. 

Intermediate Functional Strength Training Workout: 

Intermediate Routine  

Stepup To Shoulder Press  

The stepup to shoulder press is an exercise that targets the lower body, shoulders, and core muscles.  

To perform this exercise, start with a dumbbell in each hand and step up onto a bench or box with one foot, driving your opposite knee up towards your chest.  

As you stand up, press the dumbbells overhead, and then lower them back down as you step back down to the starting position.  

Repeat on the other side, and continue alternating sides for the desired number of repetitions. 

Deadlift  

The deadlift is an exercise that targets the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back muscles.  

To perform this exercise, start with the barbell on the ground in front of you, with your feet hip-width apart and your hands gripping the bar just outside your legs. 

 Keeping your back straight and your core engaged, lift the bar by standing up, pushing through your heels and lifting with your legs, hips, and back muscles.  

Lower the bar back down to the ground, keeping your back straight throughout the movement. 

Goblet Squat  

The goblet squat is an exercise that targets the quads, glutes, and core muscles.  

To perform this exercise, start by holding a dumbbell or kettlebell with both hands at chest height, and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.  

Keeping your chest lifted and your core engaged, squat down by bending at the knees and hips, keeping your weight over your heels.  

Push back up to a standing position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions. 

Single-leg Dumbbell Row  

The single-leg dumbbell row is an exercise that targets the back, shoulders, and core muscles.  

To perform this exercise, stand on one leg and hold a dumbbell in the opposite hand, with your arm hanging straight down towards the ground.  

Hinge forward at the hips, lifting your free leg behind you and keeping your back straight, and then row the weight up towards your ribcage, keeping your elbow close to your body.  

Lower the weight back down, and then repeat for the desired number of repetitions before switching sides. 

Woodchop 

The woodchop is an exercise that targets the core muscles, specifically the obliques. 

 To perform this exercise, start with a weight or medicine ball in both hands and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.  

Twist your torso to one side, raising the weight up and over your shoulder, and then chop it down towards the opposite foot, keeping your arms straight.  

Return to the starting position, and then repeat on the other side, continuing to alternate sides for the desired number of repetitions. 

Advanced Functional Strength Training Workout: 

Advanced Routine  

Single-leg Romanian Deadlift  

The single-leg Romanian deadlift is an exercise that targets the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back muscles.  

To perform this exercise, stand on one leg with your knee slightly bent and your foot flat on the ground.  

Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand and hinge forward at the hips, lifting your free leg behind you and lowering the weight towards the ground.  

Keep your back straight and your core engaged throughout the movement, and then return to a standing position.  

Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, and then switch sides. 

Front Squat  

The front squat is an exercise that targets the quads, glutes, and core muscles.  

To perform this exercise, start with the barbell racked across the front of your shoulders, with your hands holding the bar in front of your body.  

Keep your elbows up and your chest lifted, and then squat down by bending at the knees and hips, keeping your weight over your heels.  

Push back up to a standing position and repeat for the desired number of repetitions. 

Reverse Lunge With Rotation  

The reverse lunge with rotation is an exercise that targets the quads, glutes, and core muscles.  

To perform this exercise, start by standing with your feet hip-width apart and your arms extended in front of your body. 

Step back with one leg and lower your body into a lunge, while rotating your torso to the side of your front leg.  

Return to the starting position, and then repeat on the other side. 

Renegade Row  

The renegade row is an exercise that targets the back, shoulders, and core muscles. 

 To perform this exercise, start in a plank position with a dumbbell in each hand. Row one dumbbell up to your side, keeping your elbow close to your body, and then lower it back down.  

Repeat on the other side and continue alternating sides for the desired number of repetitions. 

Burpee To Broad Jump 

The burpee to broad jump is an exercise that targets the legs, glutes, and cardiovascular system.  

To perform this exercise, start in a standing position, and then drop down into a burpee by jumping your feet back into a plank position, doing a push-up, and then jumping your feet back up towards your hands.  

From the standing position, jump forward as far as you can, landing softly on your feet, and then repeat the burpee and broad jump for the desired number of repetitions. 

How To Maximize Your Training 

In order to maximise your training, there are a few key things that you need to do.  

One of which is being consistent. 

Gaining strength takes time, and if you do not stick to a routine for a long period of time, your results will be minimal. 

Another factor is diet.  

In order to build muscle and strength, you need to be in a calorie surplus and eat at least 0.8g of protein per pound of bodyweight.  

You can find how many calories you need to consume each day by using our free calorie calculator, and we also have a protein intake calculator on our site that can help you figure out how much protein you need to perform optimally. 

Lastly, you need to understand the importance of rest. 

You should leave at least 48 hours between training the same muscle groups, and you should aim to get around 8 hours of sleep every night.  

What Is Functional Strength Training – FAQs  


What Would Be Considered Functional Strength Training? 

Functional strength training can be considered as any exercise or movement that is performed with the sole purpose of increasingly applicable strength in real life.  

What Is Functional Strength Training on Apple Watch? 

Functional strength training on an Apple Watch is an assortment of exercises that are intended to improve strength for everyday tasks like carrying shopping or moving furniture.  

Is Functional Training Same as Strength Training? 

No, functional strength training is not the same as strength training.  

Strength training involves lifting weight to get stronger at certain exercises, like the bench press or deadlift. 

Functional training, on the other hand, focuses more on improving strength for real-world situations, such as carrying the shopping.  

What Is Functional Strength Training Good For? 

Functional strength training is good for increasing strength for everyday tasks such as carrying shopping or moving furniture, as well as for injury prevention.  

What Is Traditional Strength Training? 

Traditional strength training is training with the goal of being able to lift heavier weight on certain exercises, such as the deadlift or squat.  

What’s Better Between Functional Strength Training vs Traditional? 

Neither functional strength training or traditional strength training is better than the other. 

Both serve entirely different purposes, and depending on your goals, either one of them could be the better choice for you 

What Is Better Between Functional Strength Training vs HIIT? 

Both functional strength training and HIIT (high intensity interval training) have their place.  

The type of training that is better for you depends on your personal goals.  

What Is Traditional Strength Training on Apple Watch? 

Traditional strength training on an apple watch revolves around performing traditional strength training exercises for 4-5 sets of 8-12 reps.

It is the standard type of training that aims to improve strength and build muscle.  

What Are The Best Functional Strength Examples? 

The best functional strength examples would be a man carrying the shopping to the car in one trip, or a woman holding her baby without struggling.  

Is There a Functional Strength Training Program PDF? 

Yes, there most likely is a functional strength training program PDF out there.  

A quick Google search will display a variety of options, both paid and free.  

What Are the Functional Strength Training Calories Burned? 

The number of calories you burn from functional strength training depends on your gender, age, height, and weight, as well as the exercises you perform.  

We hope we have been able to give you a better insight into what functional strength training is as well as how you can get started.  

Functional strength training comes with a ton of real-world benefits, and if you are more interested in being genuinely strong rather than being strong at impractical lifts that have very little crossover to real-life situations, then functional strength training is for you. 

If you would like more info on functional training or just training in general, feel free to go to MovingForwards to check out our other articles. 

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