Although the training places emphasis on the trunk region (hips, lower back and abdomen), which is the center of strength of the human body, the exercises aim to work the muscles in general, without overloading muscle parts, which helps to reduce the risk of injury.
With more diversified movements, which may or may not be done with the use of accessories, such as ropes, bars, balls or weights, functional training is an option for those who are tired of maintaining a routine with only weight training or aerobic exercises on the treadmill.
This type of activity can be done in gyms, outdoors or even at home. However, the ideal is always to be accompanied by a physical educator to perform the movements properly and avoid injuries.
Functional training for beginners
Before starting the functional training classes, it is important that the student undergo a physical evaluation with a doctor or a physical educator.
Usually, an interview (anamnesis) is carried out, in which they are asked about the use of medications, surgeries, injuries, previous illnesses, illnesses in the family and about smoking. After assessment and the release of the physical educator, the student can begin classes.
They last an average of 1 hour – even for those just starting out – most of the exercises are done with the use of body weight and some of them are performed with accessories, such as ball, platforms for balance, trampoline, ropes and dumbbells.
As there is a wide variety of movements that can be performed, classes are always varied. It is possible to do different combinations of activities so as not to leave any training the same as the other, which makes the sport more dynamic and interesting for those who do not like routine.
It is an exercise that can be performed inside gyms, in parks, beaches or sports courts, with an average of 3 times a week being recommended.
How is a functional training class?
Classes are structured based on natural human movements, such as running, pulling, crouching, turning, pushing and jumping. Through this, balance, flexibility, strength and physical conditioning are developed.
For this, the physical educator guides the students to perform the functional exercises, after being properly warmed up and stretched.
Classes can be practiced in gyms, at home, on open courts, in groups or individually. Learn more about the practice:
Functional training at home
The student who intends to do the functional training at home can count on video lessons that guide in relation to the exercises, setting up a series of movements or with the help of a private physical educator.
It is worth mentioning that, if there is no professional supervision, the care and attention with the movements must be great to avoid injuries.
Since most exercises are done without accessories, training at home is not much impaired in relation to that done in gyms.
There are several exercises that can be done only with the weight of the body and others that can be adapted to what you have at home, such as step ladder, squat chairs and using the walls for supports, for example.
Jumping jumps, running and different types of sit-ups can also be done.
Functional training to lose weight
Functional training, the way it is done, is already a resource for those who want to lose weight, as it provides a high caloric expenditure in each class held.
But the dynamics can be adapted to burn more calories. With many repetitions, faster movements, light weight and no rest between exercises, 1 hour of functional training can burn up to 800 calories.
If weeks of at least 3 times, a balanced diet and healthy habits in general are carried out, weight loss is favored.
Functional circuit training
Functional circuit training is based on a rotation of exercises in “stations”. Each season has a specific exercise, which can be done with the use of accessories or only with the body itself.
Before class begins, the instructor must separate the necessary accessories and position them around the room according to the sequence in which they are to be performed.
To be considered a functional circuit, this sequence must follow a logic that encourages the student to perform the functional movements with their maximum potential, but without causing excessive wear at the end of each season.
Some examples of activities done during functional circuit training include squats, jumping jacks, rope exercises, use of trampolines, dumbbells and balls.
The objective is to rest less between the exchange of activities, varying the movements and optimizing the caloric expenditure.
Benefits: what is functional training for?
Functional training is an exercise that provides greater quality of life, physical conditioning and mobility, both for sedentary people or high-performance athletes.
In addition to the goals of moving the body, training can be done as part of the rehabilitation of people who have suffered some type of injury (as long as recommended by the physiotherapist) or to improve performance in certain movements.
Thus, balance, strength, flexibility, endurance, agility and conditioning can be optimized or developed.
As a complete physical exercise, functional training ends up reflecting on several benefits for the body. Check out the main ones:
Spend calories and lose weight
In each 1-hour class it is possible to lose up to 800 calories, which is considered a high expense. So, for those who want to lose weight and want to start a significant calorie burning workout, this is an interesting option.
Because it is adaptable, the exercises can vary constantly, causing several muscle groups to be worked and the caloric expenditure to be optimized.
Even though it is not a physical exercise that works the muscles in isolation, as in bodybuilding, functional training also promotes muscle definition, defining and toning especially the glutes, legs and belly.
Although there is no focus on the exercise of strength, the intensity and repetition promote great work of the muscle fibers, causing them to be strengthened.
Strengthens core muscles
The core represents the muscles of the trunk region, such as navel, lumbar, pelvic, hip and abdominal. The better this region is worked, the better it will be for the protection of the spine and support of the trunk.
It is from the core that all power movements begin and, thus, the strengthening of these muscles becomes indispensable, especially in athletes.
Decreases the risk of injury and joint pain
Functional training reduces the risk of injury and joint pain by providing greater preparation to carry out daily movements correctly, such as carrying bags, boxes, crouching or standing up.
In athletes, it helps prevent injuries by optimizing performance during sports, preparing them for different movements when working on more specific muscles or skills.
Improves balance and posture
These benefits occur precisely because the functional training works to strengthen the core muscles and because it has exercises that require greater balance. In addition, by stimulating the habit of contracting the muscles of the abdomen and aligning the shoulders, hips and neck, it stimulates greater body awareness.
Thus, people who have greater difficulty in standing upright or who spend most of the day sitting also gain an improvement in posture. However, this must be a habit created, as it is common for people to relax a little and stay with the crooked spine most of the time. Therefore, keeping an eye on your posture should also be a daily and constant exercise.
Read more: What is Pilates, what is it for, benefits, exercise, lose weight?
Hypertrophy is an increase in muscle mass, also called lean mass . In general, it consists of muscle strength and endurance exercises.
Although functional training is not so focused on strength activities and the use of weights, the practice stimulates muscle fibers and gives more resistance to the practitioner.
Anyone who is predisposed (ie, easy) to gain muscle, can see results only with the practice of the modality.
But, for those who need more effort to increase lean mass , find in the functional training improvements in physical conditioning, making the bodybuilding also benefit.
That is, with more physical resistance, increasing the weights in muscle work is much easier.
Improves flexibility and coordination
Within a functional training there are some specific exercises that help to improve motor coordination, flexibility and balance, being an important benefit for everyday life.
This is also done by strengthening the core muscles, central muscles that help provide balance.
For elderly people, functional training is very advantageous because, by improving balance and coordination, it helps to reduce the risk of injuries caused by falls.
It is dynamic and adaptable
Functional training can be a more attractive option for those who do not like routine and need more dynamic activities to feel motivated, as different from weight training, movements are more free and varied.
According to the teacher and the student’s profile, training can vary both in the exercises and in the objectives: more speed, more strength or more pace, for example.
The songs can help in the fun, helping to combine movements and make each class more fun and interesting for those who don’t like monotonous training.
Improves cardiorespiratory fitness
Not only are the muscles benefited by functional exercises, the cardiorespiratory system as well.
During training, the speed of the exercises and the time spent in each position increase the heart and respiratory rate, making, in the long run, the person more resistant and with better physical conditioning.
Helps fight stress and anxiety
Practicing physical activities, whether functional training or not, helps to increase the feeling of well-being, contributes to the reduction of stress and anxiety .
One reason for this is that during exercise the body releases substances such as endorphin (a neurotransmitter related to well-being), helping to reduce tensions.
So, in addition to the physical benefits, practicing functional training can become a pleasurable, fun activity and a time to let go of everyday stress.
Functional training exercises
The exercises performed in functional training are quite varied, but well known by those who already practice some type of physical activity. They can be made with the use of balls, ropes, dumbbells, cones or other types of devices, but also only with the use of the body’s own weight.
Below, we list some of the main functional training exercises that can be done without the use of devices:
The squat is a complete exercise to work the muscles of the legs, abdomen and glutes, for example.
It is considered a functional movement, as we perform it at various times throughout the day, in the movement of sitting, getting up and crouching to pick up objects, for example.
Performing squats helps to improve cardiorespiratory capacity, reduces spine problems and assists in performing daily tasks, so squatting, getting up and sitting becomes easier.
Classic isometric board
The isometric board is an exercise that uses only the weight of the body and that stimulates the contraction of the core muscles, promoting greater protection and support of the spine.
It is an exercise that helps to improve posture, provides an increase in muscle strength, improves balance and flexibility.
With the tip of the feet and the arms flexed (making the elbows and forearms of support) in contact with the ground, the person must raise the trunk, keeping the whole body aligned.
It is necessary to pay attention to the posture and not to leave the hips above or below the line of the shoulders, as it is common that during the effort made to maintain the correct posture, people relax the region, leaving the butt upright or hanging more to the floor.
To avoid this error, it is important not to forget to contract your glutes.
The ideal is that each elevation is maintained for about 10 seconds or more, and may vary in the amount of repetitions according to each workout.
Bridge (hips elevation)
The bridge is an exercise that basically consists of lifting the hips. It is a movement that works with greater intensity the muscles of the hips, glutes and lumbar, promoting greater body awareness, balance and strengthening of muscles, without overloading the joints.
In this activity, the person remains with the body on the floor, knees bent and, from there, performs the movement to raise the hips. It can be done only with the weight of the body (as in the figure) or with the use of additional weights.
It can be done in consecutive repetitions or with pauses. That is, when lifting the hip, the person must keep it supported in the air, well aligned, for about 10 seconds. Then, return to the ground and repeat the movement.
The number of repetitions varies depending on the training, but in general it is between 10 and 30.
In this activity, the person must keep the arms straight and supported on the floor, keeping the body upright and contracting the abdomen. In the meantime, you should bend your knees alternately and in quick movements, as if you were actually climbing a mountain.
It is a movement that requires greater breath, as it is necessary to make effort with the muscles of the legs, belly and arms, in addition to working balance and the cardiorespiratory system.
On average, between 10 and 30 movements of each leg can be performed in a single series.
The burpee is a very complete exercise, which works with various physical skills, such as coordination, muscle strength, power, breathing and endurance.
The movement starts with a squat and hand support on the floor, throwing the body backwards (staying in a plank position), following with the return of the legs to the squatting position and standing up with a jump. It is an exercise usually done in repetitions.
For it to be carried out correctly, it is essential to have the accompaniment of a physical educator. Because the movements are complex, greater care is needed to avoid injury.
There are several types of sit-ups that can be performed within a functional workout, with the abdominal bike being just one example.
The variation requires the contraction of the core muscles, improves cardiorespiratory capacity, stimulates greater body awareness and balance.
It is done with the elevation of the trunk, as in the common abdominal, but with alternating elevation of the legs.
On average, between 15 and 30 torso elevations are performed for each leg.
Running on the spot with knee elevation
This exercise moves the gluteal, calf and hip muscles, in addition to stimulating the contraction of the abdomen and back to maintain an upright posture.
It is done with the elevation of the knees and movement of the arms, being necessary to pay attention to the posture, avoiding leaving the back curved.
There is not much secret, just simulate a run, raising your legs until your knees form a 90º angle (hip height), but without moving.
Plyometric sinking jump
This movement, which joins the sink (called forward or unilateral squatting) with alternating jumps, is considered a functional exercise that works on power and strength, with the most required muscles being those of the hips, buttocks and abdominal.
It is a more advanced activity, so it may not be an easy one for beginners in functional training or sedentary.
The execution consists of placing one foot in front of the other (anteroposterior) and flexing the knee in front at a 90º angle, causing the entire body axis (hip and trunk) to descend.
The foot positioned in front should be fully supported on the floor, while the rear foot should keep the heel elevated (only the tip of the foot touches the floor).
Functional Circuit Training Exercises
Functional circuit training is the performance of movements in an accelerated sequence, without pauses and combined.
During the circuit, the proposed exercises can be very varied. We list some main ones, remembering that they must be programmed together and alternately:
Side steps with elastic band (mini band)
This exercise moves the stabilizing muscles of the hips, which are difficult to move on a daily basis, especially in people who have a more sedentary routine and who work most of the day sitting.
It is made with the mini band, a small and narrow elastic in a circular shape (like a hula hoop), which must be positioned around the legs.
The goal is to limit movement, making it necessary to employ more strength and muscle contraction to walk or make lateral strides.
It is a very common accessory within gyms and allows a series of movements that work the muscles of the arms, legs and hips. It can be used in the circuit for squats, hip elevation and elbow flexion.
Jumping is an aerobic activity performed on trampolines and can also be included in functional circuit training. The exercises performed in the jump can vary in intensity and movement, contributing to the toning of the muscles, improvement of coordination and balance, for example.
Functional Training Accessories
There are some accessory options to add to the functional training and make the activity even more dynamic and with complete movements. Some examples of accessories that can increase training are:
- Dumbbells : allow the execution of squats, sink, burpee and flexion of the elbows;
- Swiss balls : can be used for sit-ups (board or classic) and squats;
- Balance boards : as the name says, it is used for exercises that work the balance. It allows the performance of squats, for example;
- Trampolines : used in circuit training or jumping classes, this type of accessory allows the execution of many movements, such as running in place, squats and jumps;
- Elastic tapes : in addition to being used in functional training, they are also used in physiotherapy, pilates and stretching. One of the activities done with the tapes is the bench press, which works the pectoralis musculature;
- Ropes : there are naval ropes (thick and heavy), used as weight in squats, and jump ropes (thinner and lighter).
Who can do it?
Functional training can be done by anyone who is in good health, in general. But, before starting an activity, it is important to seek medical clearance and inform the physical educator about the presence of any health problem or restriction that may be aggravated with the practice of exercise.
Doing other sports or physical activities does not interfere with the performance. That is, whether you are a sedentary student or a sportsman, functional training is a good option. The difference consists of conditioning, since you already carry out activities, in general, you can keep up with the pace more easily.
For sedentary people it may not seem like the best option, however, at the beginning, the intensity and training time are reduced to suit the student.
Functional and crossfit training: what’s the difference?
For those already familiar with crossfit , you may have noticed several similarities with functional training so far, and it is even confusing to understand the difference between the two modalities.
However, there are some peculiarities in each modality that may be more suited to each student’s objective and profile.
For example, every crossfit workout is functional, but not every functional workout is a crossfit, because to be crossfit you also need to be constantly varied and of high intensity.
In this sense, crossfit is a modality that works with more physical capacities than functional training, which are cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular endurance, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility, balance, precision and coordination.
Read more: What is Crossfit for?
Although they are also found in the functional realm, it is not a rule and they are not always present in class.
In addition, crossfit is also a brand. The academies to use this name need a license and also that the physical education professionals take a course offered by Crossfit inc.
But these are not the only differences. Unlike crossfit, usually practiced in large warehouses (or boxes), functional training can be done in conventional gyms, outdoors and even at home.
In addition, functional training is usually aimed at those who want to have (or maintain) a more athletic and defined body, without so much focus on hypertrophy (muscle growth). In the crossfit audience, however, gaining lean mass is one of the recurring goals.
Functional training or weight training?
If the functional training works all the muscles in a more complete way, this type of exercise may seem to be more beneficial instead of the isolated bodybuilding, done with localized devices. However, when it comes to physical activities and results, it is difficult to list which is the best, as each person has different needs.
In this case, there is no right answer as to which is the best, as everything depends on the desired goals.
For those who want to gain muscle mass (hypertrophy), for example, weight training may be the most recommended, as there is more focused training, with increased strength work.
In the functional area, this growth is not the main objective. It is more recommended for those seeking physical conditioning and greater caloric burning.
In addition, it is also a more attractive option for those who do not like routine and want more motivation. In addition to the variety of classes, music and circuits, students can take classes in groups, which can be more motivating.
Functional training lose weight?
Functional training is a physical activity that, when done correctly, provides a high caloric expenditure. It is possible to lose up to 800 calories during a complete lesson. Therefore, combined with a healthy and balanced diet, it helps with weight loss.
As the functional training works the whole body in associated and accelerated movements, promoting the contraction of the muscles in a constant and integrated way.
In addition, when functional training is done in a circuit format, that is, without rest breaks between one exercise and another, the energy expenditure becomes more intense, which is different in activities such as weight training, for example.
Intermingling exercises and speeds of execution, each class can have an even higher intensity, making the metabolism work faster. That is, spend more calories.
But, as said, functional training is an activity that helps with weight loss when within a healthy lifestyle routine. Taking intense classes is no use if it is not associated with healthy and moderate eating.
Read more: Exercises to lose belly: how to do, aerobic and abdominal
Does functional training leave the body defined?
Yes , it is possible to work on muscle definition in functional training, as this is a modality that also improves muscle tone, helps to reduce fat percentage and increase lean mass. As a result, we have a body with greater definition.
Does functional training generate hypertrophy?
In parts, yes . Hypertrophy is the increase in the amount of muscle mass in the body, being generated by exercises done with weight. In a hypertrophy workout, the muscle suffers a micro injury to the fibers and, during rest, undergoes a healing process, increasing protein synthesis and increasing muscle size.
For this, the movements need to have a greater focus on strength and power, usually done with some extra weight – like dumbbells and elastic bands – , not just the body.
Read more: Whey Protein: types, what is it for, how to take it, price, fattening?
In this sense, functional training can help with hypertrophy, but it is not the main goal of training. In addition, for muscle growth to occur, other factors need to be considered, such as diet, genetic predisposition, quality of sleep and frequency of training.
How much does a functional training class burn?
A functional training class lasting 1 hour can generate a caloric expenditure of up to 800 calories when done properly. However, for beginners, this value may be slightly lower, due to lack of conditioning and little experience to perform all activities in the most efficient way.
What to eat before functional training?
Before functional training it is important to invest in energetic foods , rich in proteins and good carbohydrates , as they help to improve performance during exercise and avoid the process of catabolism (loss of muscle mass).
Good options are sweet potato foods, whole grain breads, eggs, low-fat yogurt, fruits and grilled chicken. The ideal is always to seek guidance from a professional in nutrition, who will indicate a suitable diet for each objective and need.
Read more: Foods rich in carbohydrates: what to eat and what to avoid?
How many times a week can I do functional training?
The frequency of functional training can vary according to the physical condition and objective of each person. On average, it is recommended 3 to 5 times a week, in classes ranging from 50 minutes to 1 hour.
How long does it generate results?
It depends . The time needed to reach a more athletic body or to lose a few extra pounds is very relative and depends on several factors, in addition to the physical exercise itself. In the case of weight loss, it is necessary to evaluate diet, habits and quality of life, in general.
But to improve conditioning and physical endurance, it takes just 2 to 4 weeks for the results to start showing. In that time, the breath, coordination and the ability to accompany the lesson improve.
Functional training is a modality of exercise designed in the movements performed on a daily basis, such as squatting, lifting, pulling, running and jumping. Working the muscles in a general way, provides several health benefits.
If you practice the activity or are interested in getting started, feel free to leave your opinion on the topic in our comment space. Thanks for reading!