What Is Functional Strength Training? Trash Or Pass

Functional strength training has become the latest workout trend. But what does it actually mean? And is it better than traditional training?

What Is Functional Strength Training?

One day I was hiking and I am not sure why but I said to myself “I bet I could pick up that rock”. So I tried to pick it up and damn it was heavy but not really, but what do I mean by that? Well I consider myself decently strong but why was this such a struggle, well it was because of its awkward shape. I was so used to using dumbbells, barbells and machines that I got strong lifting objects of those shapes.

Well functional strength training is the ability to use your strength in everyday situations, or to use your strength in more functional ways. This could be picking up all the grocery bags in one go so you don’t have to make multiple trips, or the ability to help your friend more easily pick up their couch. Another thing about functional strength is that these movements use more than one muscle group.

What Are The Benefits Of Functional Strength Training?

It Builds Strength – Well my first point is that it does work, and not only that the type of strength that you will build will much better prepare you for carrying anything you see no matter the shape.

Increases Bone Strength – Though this is not exclusive to functional strength training it has been proven to increase the strength of your bones.

Improves Endurance – Unlike Traditional strength training most functional strength training movements are more full body movements, and that includes your cardiovascular health being great to also improve your overall endurance.

It Is Fun – I’ve been there, we have all been there in the gym just going through the motions not really paying attention to what you’re doing because you have done it 10,000 times already. Doing functional training every once in a while can act as a great break, and can be a new exciting challenge to tackle.

Prepares You For Anything – As the name suggests it is functional, meaning it prepares you for everyday life no matter what life throws at you.

What Are The Best Functional Strength Training Exercises

I know all of you reading this are dying to know what I think the best functional training exercises are, but the reality is that it is really an unsexy answer. It is the movements you do in everyday life.

Some examples include

The SquatFarmers Carry
Squat JumpKettleBell Swing
Pull UpsBurpees
Sled PushThe Push Up

These are just some of my favorites, don’t think you are just limited to these exercises, there are still plenty exercise out there to suite exactly what you need.

How Does This Compare To Traditional Strength Training?

Well as I said before traditional strength training looks something like I pick up a heavy dumbbell and rep it out until you fail, and with this it usually means you isolate 1 muscle group per exercise. Though it might sound like functional strength training is just down right superior traditional strength training also has many benefits that functional strength training does not.

Easier To Track – Training with weights is much easier to track your progression as you can see from last week you are lifting 2.5kg more or doing 3 more reps etc. But when talking about functional training exercises like boulder lifts, battle ropes, tire flips, and pull ups it is much easier to track how much better you got.

Easier To Progress – Another great point about traditional strength training is that it is easier to get better, as you can improve your bench just by 2.5 kg. Whereas if you do 3 more seconds on the battle rope you still might have to ask yourself were going as intense as last week.

You Can Isolate Muscle Groups – With functional training most of the exercises are full body movements, and with this you might unconsciously ignore your weaknesses making those muscles not grow. But with traditional strength training you can isolate one muscle and make it stronger. For example if your left bicep is smaller than your right one due to injury you can do one arm bicep curls.

Which Is More Effective

Neither is more effective, which type of strength training you choose to do really just depends on your goals. If you’re looking to build as much muscle and raw strength as possible I would say traditional strength training is your best bet. But if you’re looking to develop endurance, stability, and overall power then I would say functional strength training.

But that is not to say you can not do both, just because you do traditional strength training does not mean you are locked out of functional strength training. If your goals are a mix of both I would say go for it as do both.

In saying that no matter which one you choose you will be building strength and full body health.

Is It For Everyone?

I would say if it fits your goals for the most part, yes, outside of people with injuries doing some functional strength training every once in a while will benefit your overall health.

Though it is harder to progressively overload in terms of ability there is a functional workout that is a right fit for everyone no matter your fitness level.

It Is Not All About Intensity

I know you see a lot about going as hard as you can, making you unable to walk the next day. But the reality is that being functional means you can do your everyday activities and oftentimes mastering functional movements at moderate intensity is all what most people need. 

But once you have mastered these movements and choose to do these functional movements at a high intensity you will see great benefits.


Both traditional and functional strength training will help you grow muscle and get stronger. But one is not better than the other, rather depending on your goals, train how you like. But if I had to say one thing, if you’re only doing functional strength training or traditional strength training why not try the other side, it could be fun.

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