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Functional Movement Training: Healthiest Way to Train Your Body

Jason Mills

14 May 2024

Functional movement training incorporates multi-joint exercises that allow you to move your body freely in space, in all planes and axes

Functional Movement Training: Healthiest Way to Train Your Body



Functional fitness is all about training for multiple abilities. Functional movement training incorporates multi-joint exercises that allow you to move your body freely in space, in all planes and axes. In many different, unpredictable ways.

To be able to jump, crawl, swim, run, roll, sprint, and walk with ease, is such a gift. Don’t let the pain be the major sign for you to start working out. Start now and move, there is nothing better than ease, fluidity, mobility, and a sense of flow.

What is Functional Fitness?

Functional Fitness is a type of training that incorporates compound movements with the goal of improving the functionality of our bodies.

This can translate into everyday life, as the point is to improve your body’s ability to move, twist, lift, and so on. The point is to enable your body to function optimally.

Functional training is also useful in many different areas, such as injury prevention, cognitive boost, postural alignment, pain reduction, performance enhancement, and increased range of motion. (1) (2) (3) (4) Before starting any exercise, it is important to note that a functional warm-up protocol needs to take place.

Functional Movement patterns 

Every functional workout should incorporate multi-joint or compound movement exercises, also known as primal movements. These are well used in everyday life, whatever you are doing, and can improve your posture and form.

By building the needed muscular strength, improving joint mobility, and increasing specific muscle flexibility, we can learn to improve our muscle activation, posture, and form to live longer and healthier lives.


The 5 Main Elements of Functional Fitness

Functional fitness is made to improve your everyday life. It is compound and multi-functional with reason. Many people have high points of strength and low points of weakness. In the modern environment, rarely there is any balance.

To combat this, we need to exercise different moves and do different types of workouts. What have you gained if you can lift 400lbs on the bench press when you can barely breathe when climbing the stairs?

There must be some balance in our workouts that can include all important components of physical fitness. This doesn’t mean we should excel at everything, that is simply impossible. But we can work on our weaknesses to achieve some balance.

1. Muscular Strength

Strength refers to your muscle’s ability to generate force. The higher load a muscle can push, the higher resistance tension it can provide, and the stronger it is. This can be divided into strength (amount of weight you can lift) or power (amount of weight in a certain time, known as explosiveness).

2. Muscular Endurance

Endurance is the ability of a muscle to repeatedly perform, contract, and produce force for extended periods of time. Workouts that implement both strength and cardio are most popular for this component, an example would be HIIT.

3. Balance & Coordination 

It’s the ability of our bodies to feel where we are in space (proprioception) and produce efficient compensatory movement, also known as balance, while coordination has to do with our programming, anticipation, and preciseness of our movement. This one is especially important for older people, to prevent falls.

4. Flexibility & Mobility

Flexibility is the ability of a muscle to stretch out to a certain length. Mobility explains the range of movement a joint has, as a complex structure including the connective tissue and muscles surrounding it. The better your mobility and flexibility, the more fluid and painless your movement will be, plus the risk of injury is reduced. More doesn’t always mean better, so excessive flexibility and mobility can be detrimental to your stability.

5. Cardiovascular Endurance

It’s the ability of your body to perform physical activity for a longer duration of time. This has to do with how your cardiovascular system, heart, lungs, and muscles work together to keep you moving. Running, swimming and cycling are great examples of workouts for endurance. Subtypes can include anaerobic (lactate) and aerobic (oxidative) endurance.

So the point of a functional fitness workout would be to include a great ratio of all these components: strength, balance, endurance, mobility, and flexibility. This doesn’t have to mean that all these components are part of one workout, but a weekly regime of functional fitness should incorporate all of them.

Even though there are many other subtypes or components of physical fitness, some of the basic ones our workout routine should take care of are:


7 Primal Movement Patterns and Exercise Examples



The hinge happens when you decrease the angle in your hip joint, by bending your torso forward. Anytime you stand up, tie your shoes, or pick something from the ground you are actively doing the hinge. Keeping a neutral spine here is a crucial step.

The top hinge exercises incorporated in functional fitness are barbell deadlifts, good mornings, kettlebell swings, and pull-throughs.


The ultimate compound exercise is the squat. It is the most natural, most popular, and most common exercise that we should do. Not that it just works our hip mobility, core, and leg muscle strength, it also activates the biggest muscle groups.

When squatting, we activate almost all muscles of our legs, especially the quadriceps, gluteus, hamstrings, tibialis anterior, calves, core, upper and lower back muscles.  

The most important element you should work on to improve your squat form is hip mobility. An optimal squat would be the one in which we keep our spine neutral, knees are pointing in the same direction as our toes, and feet are hip distance apart.

Some exercise examples would be goblet squats, dumbbell front squats, barbell squats, front squats, barbell overhead squats, Wall squats, pistol squats, pile squats, frog squats, and many others.




Push and pull are the two most important compound upper body movements, that work the back and chest muscles, along with traps, shoulders, and triceps.

Now push motion is a complex compound movement involving force transmission through the wrists, elbow, and shoulders. This usually requires quite good shoulder mobility and stability.

Anytime we push something, especially higher loads of weight in the gym we should strive for an optimal line of gravitational force, which means a straight line from the lift to the shoulders which are the endpoint of force transmission of the upper extremities.

Also, if lifting overhead, positioning the spine, knees, and feet is very important. We should strive for a neutral spine and knees that point in the direction of our feet. Sometimes when dealing with higher loads, it is good to push the head forward (without causing kyphosis) to allow full shoulder extension (upward).

Pushing motion occurs:

  • Horizontally (frontal)

  • Vertically (upward)

  • Vertically (downward)

An example of push motion exercises would be the dumbbell bench press, barbell bench press, elevated push-up, decline push-up, overhead military press, dips, incline press,


The best effect of the pulling exercise is straight back. Yes, improved posture is the main side effect of properly exercising pulling motion. This is why the back day is equally as important as chest day, to prevent the forward-headed kyphotic posture.

Pull motion exercises can be highly manipulated, made both unilateral and bilateral, a combination of hinge and pull, standing or sitting pull (horizontal on the machine), and lying on a bench (on your stomach).

Most pull motion exercises are compound since they involve your back, shoulders, elbows, and wrists.

An example of pulling exercises would be pull-ups, barbell row, chest-supported dumbbell row, seated wide grip pull, bent-over dumbbell rows, barbell deadlift, dumbbell single-arm row, and an inverted row



One of the most important bilateral symmetrical balancing exercises is the farmer’s walk. Humans, we walk, a lot. Many times we carry a bag on our shoulders, talk on the phone, and hold the groceries in one hand. This requires stability, balance, and symmetricity.

Whenever we are carrying something in our dominant side, the other side is compensated by lateral flexion. This puts extra pressure on our joints because we are too lazy to activate the right muscles.

Farmer’s walk is one of the most popular exercises here, which is characterized by carrying weights (usually dumbbells, kettlebells, or even barbells) with proper walking posture. This is meant to strengthen your traps, arms, shoulders, grip, core, and legs.



The force produced in the lunge is split onto both knees forward and backward, but the lever is different. We have our feet further apart, which makes it harder for us to lift the same amount of weight, as in a squat.

The leg in the front is usually the one doing the repetitive contractions, while the back leg acts as a supporter but also contracts and is well-worked. Significant core stabilization is required for proper weight lunge.

Some variations are single-leg deadlift, Bulgarian split squat, clock lunge, reverse lunge, lateral lunge, kickstand dumbbell deadlift, curtsy lunge, lunge pulse, and dumbbell reverse lunge.




Twisting motion happens daily. Anytime we try to see something on the side, we twist our neck and torso. Obliques are the most important core muscles responsible for this motion. Whenever we twist to the right, we turn our ribs to the right, and we activate both left and right oblique muscles – left eccentric, right concentric.

Exercises that involve twisting can include rotation or anti-rotation and can be static or dynamic in nature. Some of these include Russian twists, medicine ball throws, criss-cross, hip twists in plank, side plank and many more.



Functional Fitness is about building a broad range of physical abilities that can practically help you move in everyday life. This is supposed to allow for higher movement fluidity, improve your posture and reduce chronic pain.

Functional Fitness is not just strength, but also aerobics, coordination, endurance, balance, and so on. Compound exercises are a big part of functional fitness, as optimal mobility is important for fluid movement.

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