What is Functional Fitness??

Justin Schardt 2022 Commonwealth Fitness Championship

Fitness is full of buzzwords and jargon—so what is functional fitness training, and why is it important? 

Here’s the answer: 

Functional fitness training is used to help people become better at things they do in daily life. The movements used in this style of training are often—but not always—very similar to the movements you do every day. 

For example, squats are an important functional movement because they help you rise from seated to standing. Deadlifts help you pick objects off the floor—like groceries, a kid, a pet or a box. Shoulder presses can help you put a bag of dog food on a shelf, and farmer carries can help you get the trash to the curb. 

Other movements, like kettlebell swings, have significant carryover into daily life: If you learn to open your hips quickly, you’ll likely be able to hop over a puddle or run to catch the bus. 

If you compare functional training to bodybuilding, the concept is even more clear. 

The goal of bodybuilding is to gain muscle mass, so people use all kinds of machines, implements and movements to isolate certain muscles in training. Then they use specific sets, reps and rest intervals to encourage muscle growth. Bodybuilders are generally interested in size, tone and symmetry, not cardiovascular endurance, stamina, flexibility and so on. 

One more comparison: powerlifting. Powerlifters want to become as strong as possible in just three movements. So everything they do is designed to help them move more weight in the squat, bench press and deadlift. They also use specific equipment and training plans to achieve these goals. 

With functional fitness training, the goal is much more general: increased total fitness.

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