What is functional fitness?

Who rarely suspects their fitness levels – until an everyday task challenges them.

For example, your body copes with the pavement miles and, albeit with exertion (and first gear), you hack the menacing Suffolk hills.

But you’ll be damned if your arms can carry three full loads of shopping from Tesco to the car.

Enter functional fitness…

What is functional fitness?

“Functional fitness exercises train your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by simulating common movements you might do at home, at work or in sports.”


This is the definition offered by The Mayo Clinic, a leading medical research facility in the US. Functional fitness has become a global phenomenon, as common in the US and Australia as it is here in the UK.

Whilst functional training is nothing new, it’s being hailed as one of the top fitness movements of the time. It continues to swell in popularity all the time, reaching 12th place in a 2018 survey on worldwide fitness trends.

How does functional fitness work?

Think of functional fitness as ‘life training’. The goal is to set you up for everyday tasks like climbing the stairs, playing a sport, landscaping the garden or moving furniture without injury.

Not surprisingly, we don’t have shrubs or sofas in the middle of our gym facilities here at Abbeycroft. Instead, we have barbells, medicine balls, deadlifts – equipment that trains multiple muscle-groups in one hit, by simulating common movements carried out in your day.

For example – squats mimic the motion of a person rising and sitting back into their desk chair.  Stair climbs with bicep curls improves a persons ability to carry loads up the stairs.

What are the benefits of functional training?

Everyone can do it

Most people experience movement in their everyday life, even if that movement is simply getting in and out of their chair. This makes it accessible to everyone. Functional fitness is particularly common amongst older adults who struggle with mobility and want to improve their quality of life. But it’s also popular among athletes who want to tailor their workouts to improve their sporting performance.

It works your whole body

Functional fitness can generally be broken up into four categories: pushing movements, pulling exercises, squatting workouts and rotational movements to improve balance and flexibility.

You don’t need machines

Functional fitness uses you own body weight, weights and medicine balls as resistance so there’s no need to wrap your head around complicated machinery

Fat-burning and muscle strengthening

The emphasis is on core fitness because this is activated in all our movement. But the combination of movements also works every major muscle set with plenty of cardio thrown into the mix.

Improved posture

Functional training is hugely advantageous to anyone chained to a desk for their 9-5. Functional workouts can reverse a lot of the damage caused by years of poor posture, by reducing slouching and straightening our backs and shoulders. People will look, feel and walk better as a result.

Sport conditioning

Functional fitness isn’t just about climbing the stairs more easily or digging holes in the garden. Many athletes use functional fitness to condition themselves for movements and patterns specific to their sport.

Commonly asked questions

What’s the difference between functional fitness and bodybuilding?

For starters, the purpose. Bodybuilding is a type of training focused on altering one’s appearance. Typically, bodybuilders will train their muscles in isolation – we’ve all heard of leg day and arm day.

Functional fitness works on the principle that muscles need to be trained in sync to accomplish movements. It encourages exercising multi-muscle in one hit to give your body an all-over workout.

As a beginner, should I do functional fitness under supervision?

Much like learning the basics of any workout, you’re better to do it under supervision to reduce the risk of injury. Initial instruction will also guide you on best practice which equals faster results. Once you’ve had some guidance, it’s easy to continue functional fitness alone.

Should I do functional fitness in a class or solo?

This is really specific to the individual. Some people love the energy of a class exercise and benefit from mimicking others in the room.

Other people prefer to go alone or partner up with a buddy. There’s no right or wrong answer.

What type of training is best for me?

We suggest chatting to one of Abbeycroft’s experienced fitness staff to determine the best starting steps for you…

Getting started…

Take a look at your local Abbeycroft Leisure fitness timetable to see when our functional fitness classes are on. Alternatively, get in touch here to get started with one of our personal trainers.

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