It’s possibly the buzziest term in fitness today. But what does “functional” really mean? “When we’re doing functional training, we’re doing training that helps people perform better. It’s training movement, not muscle," explains Dejuana Richardson, a fitness advisor and a personal trainer at New York City’s Asphalt Green.
For an athlete, that might mean training drills that mimic the experiences he’ll have on the field or court. For a more regular Joe, it’ll involve multi-joint movement patterns that make up everyday life: squats, carries, lifts, chops, as well as plyometric moves such as hops and jumps. “It’s about how we walk, sit, stand, reach, bend, etc.,” says Sean Alder, CSCS, personal trainer and team educator at SOLDIERFIT in Maryland. “These take more than just one muscle group, requiring core stability paired with multiple joints moving at once.”
Functional fitness is also a lot of fun—it’s not just, ya know, in the name—and training it will make you better at real-world activities like putting that suitcase into the overhead compartment and pretty much every sport out there. Try one of these workouts, designed by Richardson and Alder, and see for yourself. Chose your level (I is beginner, II is intermediate, and III is advanced) and add both A and B workouts to one week or alternate one each week in addition to your regular workouts.
Before you jump right in, warm up with a couple minutes of cardio, some dynamic stretching (such as walking high knees), and some light plyometrics (like skaters or skipping).
For all workouts, do three sets circuit-style, one exercise after the other, resting a minute between sets.