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Become a Pro at F45 Training’s Top 10 Essential Functional Fitness Exercises

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  • Post last modified:September 25, 2023

When it comes to how you decide to work out, you essentially have endless choices. High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is the name of the game for those seeking to perspire through a fast-paced routine. And yoga is an excellent method to relax your mind, while strength training demands a substantial amount of concentration. However, when it comes to the type of exercise that most closely resembles the movements you perform in your everyday life, functional fitness surpasses all others. Functional fitness workouts are renowned for their association with everyday movement patterns (think: sitting and standing, bending over, and twisting from side to side) and make those subconscious movements simpler or free from pain, according to Scott Thompson, director of athletics at F45 Training.

What “Functional Fitness” Actually Signifies

In theory, all of your workouts should ultimately improve your life – period – but functional fitness takes living your best life to the next level. Functional fitness workouts combine the finest aspects of aerobic and resistance training (i.e., exercises like push-ups that cause the muscles to contract in response to added resistance or weight), as per Thompson. Specifically, functional fitness exercises encompass various styles within these two categories and can frequently include powerlifting, compound exercises, isolation movement, mobility training, and core work. Peloton’s Yoga Conditioning is another instance, as it integrates yoga postures with strength training using accessories such as weights, sliders, and yoga blocks.

This combination leads to a workout routine that enhances your overall quality of life. “Our F45 functional workouts strive for comprehensive improvement, including better exercise technique in functional movements over a period of time, improved sense of where your body is in space (proprioception), enhanced mobility, cardiovascular endurance, and strength,” explains Thompson.

Benefits of Functional Fitness Workouts

Over time, this effort translates into simply feeling more comfortable in your body as it moves throughout the day – hence the term “functional.” For example, perhaps you start incorporating squats – one of the original functional fitness exercises – into your strength training regimen, and suddenly you find that carrying your Trader Joe’s bags and crouching down to pet your dog feels less painful.

While this may appear as a minor advantage initially, research indicates that practical fitness training is advantageous for muscle strength, equilibrium, and flexibility — all of which aid in protecting against disability in everyday activities as one ages. It’s accurate: Falls and vehicle accidents are the primary causes of injury and mortality in older adults, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Mobility plays a significant role in preventing both types of accidents, so it makes sense that functional training is not only an investment in your current health, but also an investment in feeling secure, mobile, and well later in life. Additionally, other research has demonstrated that functional fitness workouts may help keep you motivated since you’ll quickly notice a difference in your movements.

That being said, not all of your workouts have to fall into the “functional” category, says Thompson. “While functional fitness is efficient and offers several benefits, not every session needs to be classified as ‘functional fitness,'” he says. “Working out should be something enjoyable and it’s important to choose different fitness methods that align with your interests and motivate you.” So if you prefer other workout techniques that may not fit the “functional” label, don’t feel obligated to abandon everything and start from scratch. (Plus, another advantage of functional fitness is that it has been shown to enhance your performance in other training styles. A win-win.)

Of course, it’s always a good idea to consult your doctor before starting any new fitness regimen. Below, Thompson presents a functional workout that involves 40 seconds of effort followed by 20-second breaks — commonly known as a Tabata-style circuit. Grab a mat and a water bottle, and let’s get started.

HIIT-Style Functional Fitness Workout

You can perform the following functional fitness workout, specifically designed by Thompson for Shape, as a full-body routine several times a week alongside other modalities you enjoy.

How it works: Each functional fitness exercise or combination move should be performed for 40 seconds, followed by a 20-second rest. Repeat the entire circuit a total of 3 times.

What you’ll need: You can do this workout without any equipment.

High Knees to Inchworm

This exercise duo is an excellent way to elevate your heart rate and warm up your body for the rest of the workout.

A. Begin with your feet hip-width apart, then lift one knee to chest height. Return your foot to the ground.

B. Bring the converse leg up to chest-height, return the foot to ground. Continue alternating, while accelerating. Complete a total of 20 high knees, 10 on each side.

C. With both feet back on the ground, reach arms down to the ground and walk hands out away from feet coming into a high plank position, palms directly under shoulders and pelvis tucked. Begin to walk the hands back to feet, before returning to standing.

D. Repeat the inchworm for a second rep before going back to high knees for the rest of the working time.

Continue to perform 20 high knees and 2 inchworms on repeat for 40 seconds, then rest for 20 seconds.

Broad Mountain Climbers

Enhance your endurance, core strength, and agility with this lethal functional fitness move.

A. Begin in a high plank position with palms directly under shoulders, legs extended long and glutes squeezed. Exert pressure into the balls of the feet, and ensure the core is activated.

B. Bring one foot to the outside of the same hand, then return the leg to the starting position. Repeat this motion with the opposite leg.

C. Continue to alternate legs and increase the pace, keeping the hips tucked and facing forward throughout the motion.

Continue for 40 seconds, then rest for 20.

Sideways Lunge and Hop

Practice lateral movement patterns, promote joint mobility, and raise your heart rate with this simple — but not so easy — functional fitness workout move.

A. Transfer weight into one leg, and take a large step out to the side with the other, bending at the knee, sitting hips back but keeping chest lifted.

B. Squeeze glutes, and push through the foot with the bent leg to propel the return to center as you drive knee to hip height, hopping off the ground. Alternate sides with each repetition.

Continue for 40 seconds, then rest for 20.

Plank Diagonal Reach

A. Commence in a forearm plank position with shoulders stacked over elbows and straight alignment from the head all the way to feet.

B. Keep the core stable while reaching one arm out at a 45-degree angle, hovering above the ground. Simultaneously step the opposite leg out to the side at a 45-degree angle so the opposite arm and leg are out at a diagonal.

C. Return the arm back to plank and repeat this motion on the other side. Continue alternating.

Continue for 40 seconds, then rest for 20.

Rapid Feet Sprawl

Another excellent exercise for elevating your heart rate and assessing your agility.

A. Lower the body into a half squat position, with feet hips-width apart, knees bent, descending only halfway to your typical squat position, and weight in the heels.

B. Raise onto the balls of the feet and start running as fast as possible, tapping both feet quickly on the floor without fully returning to standing.

C. After a few seconds, drop hands to the ground and jump both feet back to come to a high plank position with both hands planted and arms straight, with the core and glutes engaged.

D. Release grip from the mat and leap your upper body forward and return to the half-crouch position.

Continue for 40 seconds, then take a break for 20.

Curvy Squat

Test your hip mobility and gluteal strength with this action.

A. Start with feet wider than shoulders and feet angled somewhat outward. Push hips backward while bending at the knees into a squat.

B. Position elbows on the inner sides of both knees, press palms together, and ensure the back is level.

C. Bring hips down low to intensify the squat until a stretch can be sensed in the adductors (inner thighs), then thrust hips upward so that the legs are nearly straight. The upper body remains folded over the torso with a level back and hips aligned with the shoulders, forming an L-shape.

D. Repeat the squat to hinge movement without ever lifting the upper body.

Continue for 40 seconds, then take a break for 20.

Butt Thrusters

Another glutes-focused functional fitness movement, you can also attempt this at the start of a lower-body workout to warm up the main muscles of your hips and legs. Increase the challenge by avoiding your buttocks from touching the ground in between repetitions.

A. Lie on your back with your knees bent and palms placed on the floor.

B. Tighten the gluteal muscles to raise the hips, engaging the core.

C. Pause at the peak before lowering the hips back to the ground.

Continue for 40 seconds, then take a break for 20.

Bicycle Crunches

A. Begin by lying on your back and bringing your legs to a tabletop position, with feet off the ground and knees bent directly over the hips.

B. Brace the core, place your hands behind your head, and bring the opposite elbow to the opposite knee while extending the other leg forward.

C. Alternate legs while keeping the core contracted. Relax the neck.

Continue for 40 seconds, then take a break for 20.

One-Leg Deadlift

Challenge your hamstrings, glutes, and core with this variation on traditional deadlifts.

A. Begin standing and shift your weight to the left leg, which should be straight with a slight bend in the knee.

B. Start to send the right foot back, keeping the leg straight and hips parallel to the ground. At the same time, slowly begin to hinge at the waist, tipping the torso forward until it is almost parallel to the ground.

C. At the bottom position, the body should be in a straight line from the head to the back foot.

D. Push through the hamstrings and glutes to return to the standing position. Repeat on the other leg.

Continue for 40 seconds, then take a break for 20.

Lateral Quick Feet with Ground Touch

This agility finisher will test your footwork and exhaust your glutes and leg muscles.

A. Begin standing and shift the hips back slightly into a partial squat position, then take several rapid, small steps in one direction while keeping the chest lifted.

B. Tap the ground swiftly with the hand before making your way back for fast feet in the other direction, then tap the ground again on that side.

Keep shifting left and right.

Keep going for 40 seconds, then take a break for 20.