Over the last decade, the term ‘functional training’ has been thrown around way too much, along with odd hypes and weird, almost nonsensical types of training. The term ‘functional’ is a bit ambiguous since a barbell curl may be ‘functional’ for a bodybuilder and a ‘snatch high pull’ might be ‘functional’ for an olympic weight lifter, but for brevity’s sake: let’s use an easy definition where the training in question focuses on results that can be transferred to daily life and overall health.
- You want a strong, rigid back? Get your squat and deadlift up.
- You want more stability? Get your squat up or pick up some gymnastic movements.
- You want stronger knees? Get your squat up.
- You want strong, stable shoulders? Get your overhead press up.
- You want more explosive strength? Get your power clean up.
- You want more endurance? Do more kettlebell swings.
Really, if you can squat and press a decent amount of weight for reps without aches all over, I think you’re pretty fucking functional. How much more functional do you want it to be?
Provided that your body is otherwise healthy, maintaining proper posture and movement patterns while getting stronger is enough for the vast majority of people to be ‘functional’ in daily life. Even if you’re training for another sport or the upcoming zombie apocalypse, the same principles initially apply. Add some extra skill-based zombie survival activities to finish it all off and you’ll see there’s really not that much reason to do one legged overhead squats on a BOSU ball or a “squat to 1-armed dumbbell press” with 10% of the weight you can actually squat.
Getting better at the basics already puts you ahead of the vast majority of people, which immediately explains why so many people in the gym achieve so little. They don’t (want to?) realize that 15 minutes of squatting has more benefits than 60 minutes of leg extensions, adductor machines and leg curls when it comes to ‘being functional’.
Always stick to the 80-20 rule. Invest in the 20% effort that gives you 80% of the results.
If you want to know why these exercises and principles have more to do with ‘functional training’ than many other things touted as ‘functional’, read this brilliant article by Mark Rippetoe. He explains why getting stronger is functional despite people generally not having to lift more than 50lbs in daily life, and why progress on the basic (symmetric) exercises transfers so well to daily life despite most of our daily movements being assymetrical. It’s fine to do your unilateral work, prehab exercises and whatever you think might help you, but the basics are the basics for a reason: they follow the 80-20 rule.
Please share this post with everyone that believes that doing reverse overhead lunges is more functional than getting stronger in the squat or deadlift.
“Isn’t my tired old advice to stick with basic barbell exercises done with absolutely perfect technique and working up to brutally heavy weight getting just a little boring by now?” – Mark Rippetoe