Functional Training involves training the body for the activities performed in daily life.

Functional training has its origins in rehabilitation. Physiotherapists often use this approach to retrain patients with movement disorders.

Functional training attempts to adapt or develop exercises that allow individuals to perform the activities of daily life more easily and without injuries.

Strength vs. Functional Training

Strength training is basically for building muscles (lean tissue), stronger bones and for health related fitness. Functional training involves mainly weight bearing activities targeted at core muscles of the abdomen and lower back.

Most fitness facilities have a variety of strength/weight training machines that target and isolate specific muscles. As a result the movements do not necessarily bear any relationship to the movements people make in their regular activities or sports. Functional training emphasises the body's natural ability to move in multiple planes freedom. In comparison, though machines appear to be safer to use, they restrict movements to a single plane of motion, which is unnatural. We need base strength and core strength to progress to functional training for sports.

The human brain understands movements and not muscle action and hence, it makes more sense to incorporate movement patterns, like wood chopping or drawing out a sword.

Equipments Required

Standard resistance training machines are of limited use for functional training; their fixed patterns rarely mimic natural movements, and they focus effort on a single muscle group, rather than engaging the stabilisers and peripheral muscles.

Some options include:

Cable machines


Medicine balls


Bodyweight training

Physioballs (also called Swiss balls or exercise balls)

Resistance tubes

Rocker and wobble boards

Balance disks


Suspension system


Proper supervision and form is required. If not it can lead to injuries

Basic core strength, flexibility and strength is essential for functional training and, for sports, skill related fitness (agility, speed, balance etc.) is essential as well.

Progression of exercise to unstable platform (BOSU, Physio ball, Trampoline, Coreboard) should be done only when the person is able to balance/execute proper form on stable surface

Warm up and cool down is essential

People with pre-existing injuries need to take proper advice from their physiotherapists or doctors before venturing into functional training

Earnest is a sports Physiotherapist & ACSM certified Health Fitness Specialist, and the Fitness Director at O2 Health Studio

Benefits in sports

Functional training may lead to better muscular balance and joint stability, possibly decreasing the number of injuries sustained in a sport.

Functional training may enhance sports performance and activities of daily living.

Doesn't replace a good cardiovascular programme. It complements other types of resistance training


First thing to remember “Draw In” the Transverse Abdominus and stabilise the spine with all movement

Incorporate exercises involving multiple joints/muscles in multiple planes/positions simultaneously

Emphasise working in a closed kinetic chain environment challenging mobility, stability, strength, balance and power

Integrate the inclusive concept of “Pillar” or Core strength and stability Progress to single extremity exercises when able

Don't forget to practice good posture… your starting point will determine the movement to follow

Try these

Squats with upright row

Lunges with a trunk twist

Both/Single leg dead lifts

Step ups with Knee raise


Push ups

Pull ups

Press ups

Single leg Pelvic bridge

Wood chopping and lifts in a cable pulley

Medicine ball trunk rotations

Planks/Side Planks/Birdie and Dog/Physioball knee tucks