The fitness industry is one usually dominated by trends. Aerobics, spinning, bootcamp, Zumba, CrossFit. People are drawn to innovative ways of doing mundane things. In the past few years, though, functional fitness has dominated area of exercise and training. And even though many people say they practice it, is there a clear understanding of what functional fitness actually means?

“Functional Fitness is doing exercises we would do in real life”

False. Functional fitness is a lot more than that. When was the last time you snatched something at work? Or did a pistol to get off the chair? But those movements are definitely functional movements. By definition, these movements are multi-joint, multi-planar exercises that are based in real life mechanics. In my opinion, these movements are classified “functional” because of this main reason:

It teaches us how to use our body.

Kettlebell swings, power cleans, broad jumps teach us that power comes from our hips. Most movements should follow this idea of core-to-extremity force transfer. Presses and handstands teach us that the most optimal position for holding something overhead is when our elbows are locked, shoulders are fully extended and arms are by our ears. Wallballs, front squats and split jerks teach us to keep our chest up and be “stacked”.

It requires us to work on other aspects of fitness. Coordination, mobility, accuracy. This is the reason why it might be tough for some people to start functional fitness. After years of not being active, or being shoved into machines that do the work for you, people have no idea how to move or use their bodies. Also, that’s the reason why former athletes have an easier time learning functional movements.

Functional movements are rarely seen in real life exactly as we do them at the gym. You most likely won’t have to deadlift a barbell outside the gym. But what functional fitness teaches us is how to pick up your kid off the floor, or that heavy bag of old stuff in your attic, without throwing your back out. The goal is to get you to know your body. To know how it works and what you are capable of. So you know what to do and how to do things in real life.

Functional movements and CrossFit

Not all functional fitness is equal, though. It will look different from gym to gym. What makes it different in CrossFit gyms, is what movements we use and how we use them. Nothing is off the table, but we like Olympic Weightlifting and gymnastic movements. And our methodology involves high intensity short-timed training, as well as longer lower intensity workouts. We try to use functional movements in as many different forms, scenarios and time-frames as possible.

It’s important to know what you’re doing and why. Functional fitness is aimed at improving your life by improving everyday life, improve your muscle memory, increase mobility and other fitness aspects, improve posture and body awareness and reduce risk of injury outside the gym.


by Coach Matt