What is functional fitness?

A buzzword that has been spreading around gyms and health clubs for some time now is ‘functional’. But what exactly is functional fitness?

Functional fitness explained

Functional fitness training is not training to look better but training to improve how well you function at a given task. Therefore true functional training is very specific to the individual. For example, a firefighter might train to be able to carry heavy equipment upstairs whilst a marine might train themselves to be able to carry heavy equipment whilst climbing over obstacles. Like any good fitness programme, a functional training programme should still consider the individual’s goals i.e what function do they want to improve on to improve their job performance, sports performance or just life in general!

Examples of Functional fitness training

If like me you don’t currently need to train for a specific function, but like the idea of being able to tackle most things pretty well then the following movements would be an excellent place to start.


Training yourself to pick heavy things off the floor safely is a sensible idea, as you never know when you might need to do this. I suggest you change up what you are occasionally lifting too. Barbells, dumbells, kettlebells, sandbags, tyres, rocks, whatever you can get your hands on.


Once you have picked up your heavy object, try carrying it for a given time or distance. There are lots of different ways you can carry heavy objects. Check out the video below for some ideas.


Being able to strike something with force may come in helpful one day but at the very least it can work off some stress! My personal favourites are punching a heavy bag, medicine ball slams, rope slams, or just walloping a tyre with a sledgehammer.


When you are a child, you probably jump several times a day, but as adults, how often do we jump? Not very often, but if I had to jump one day for whatever reason, I want to be confident that I can. My advice would be to practice both vertical jumps and horizontal ones. For vertical jumps try jumping on and off different boxes and gradually increasing the height as you get better. For horizontal jumps try jumping from one cone to another and occasionally changing from single leg to double leg.

Overhead pressing

Pushing heavy objects above head height may come in handy the next time you have to put something heavy in the loft. Don’t just stick to overhead barbell pressing, try mixing this one up too, use sandbags and kettlebells, and use one hand or two hands.


A common occasion for adults to injure themselves is when they rotate their torso under resistance. For example, picking up a child or moving a heavy bag of rubble in the garden. Your go-to exercise for this is the woodchop. Use a cable, medicine ball, dumbbell, kettlebell, or sandbag and try the exercise standing or kneeling for a bigger challenge.

Remember there is nothing wrong with training to look good naked, but why not train to improve your function at the same time?

Want to learn more?

Want to know more about functional fitness training and how to plan and deliver a functional fitness training programme/exercise class? Then book our next functional fitness workshop.

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