A weight loss journey can be full of ups and downs or gains and losses. But rather than giving up when you don’t see the numbers decreasing on the scale, sometimes all you need to do is go back to basics.
Functional training is a popular form of training based off movements that mimic those you do in your day-to-day life. Think of exercises similar to lifting and placing your bag into an airplane overhead compartment, doing laundry, or even carrying your grocery bags down the street. It was first created as a form of exercise by physical therapists, and now is recognized as a safe and thorough way to work out your essential muscles. Most exercises include full-body, multi-plane movements that utilize several muscle groups at once. Since this requires more energy expenditure on your end, it also means you burn more calories, which is what you’re aiming for when trying to lose weight!
Here’s what you need to know about functional training for weight loss:
- When trying any new workout plan, you want to give your body new challenges to have to adapt to. With functional training that ‘newness’ continues, even as you improve. With nearly every functional training-based workout, your body is constantly having to adapt to the demands placed upon it. This is why it’s the workout style of choice for those looking to lose weight.
- In addition to avoiding those frustrating plateaus, functional training also promotes safe, injury-free training. Since many movements require the use of your core and balance skills, this type of training focuses more on your stability muscles that support your larger muscle groups. It’s an excellent format to mix in with other strength-based or more cardio-centered workouts.
- If you’re not working with a personal trainer or other fitness professional, it can seem cumbersome to have to come up with your own multi-joint, multi-plane workout day after day. It's possible that your motivation will decrease if you have to think of new workouts every day.
- Doing too many whole-body functional workouts back to back can make you too sore to work through the movements in their entirety. Aim to break up your workout week with rest days or days during which you focus more on yoga, stretching or cardio to prevent overtraining.
Functional Training Exercises to Try
How exactly do you take your day-to-day activity and work it into a gym routine?
Try these functional exercises for starters:
Start with your feet together. Step out to the left and bend your left knee into a lunge while keeping that right leg straight. Sink your left glute down towards the ground. Come back to center and then lunge over to the right side. Think of this as something you would do if you were moving groceries or other items from the back of your car to the ground.
Grab a medicine ball or the handle of a Freemotion machine (with the weight of your choosing), for this move. Place your feet wide with the toes comfortably turned out. Start with the ball or handle in front of your right shoulder. As you rotate your torso down and to the left, use your core to bring the ball or handle down, across, and through a diagonal to your left hip. This is similar to the muscles you would use to put your airplane carry-on into an overhead bin.
Transverse Lunge with an Overhead Press
With a set of free weights racked steadily on your shoulders, step out in a diagonal towards the right in a lunge position. Push your way back to standing and press the weights up overhead. This one mimics the movement of placing something from the floor to the top shelf of your closet.
Using a medium-weight kettlebell, stand with your feet apart and toes slightly turned out. Hold the kettlebell down in between your legs with your palms facing towards you. As you hinge your hips back, let the power of your hips, glutes, and abs thrust the kettlebell up and forward. Let it swing back in between your legs as you hinge your upper body forward. Try not to use your upper body or neck. Does this remind you of picking up a kid? Great! But remember to use your legs!
Two Functional Training Circuits Just For You
Forward Lunge with a Curl
Hold free weights at your side. Step one foot forward into a forward lunge with your back knee hovering above the ground. While in lunge, curl your palms up towards your shoulders. Keeping your core engaged, lower the arms back to your sides, step back, and then repeat on the other side.
Triceps Extension in Airplane
With the weights you used for the above exercise, hold them again at your sides. Pick one leg up and bring it off the ground and behind you so that your body looks like an airplane. Start with your arms at your sides. Keep your shoulders back. While holding your shoulders and hips parallel to the ground, bend the elbows. From there, straighten the arms and push them back into a triceps extension. Repeat all reps in this hold and then repeat on the other leg.
Transverse Lunge into a Single Leg Balance
Lunge out to at right diagonal, and pivot your feet so that right-to-left, your toes point in the same direction. When you come back up, instead of setting your right foot back on the ground, keep it up so you work on stabilizing with your left leg.
Squat and Overhead Press
Stand with your feet hip-width apart, your chest up, and your abs engaged. Weights start at your side. Bend the knees into a squat position. As you come back up, curl your weights up to your shoulders and the press them up towards the ceiling as you stand. Lower back down with control.
Come into plank position (but feel free to do these on your knees!). With hands underneath your shoulders and your legs strong behind you, bend the elbows and slowly lower your body all the way down to the ground. Once you get there, pick up your hands from the floor, and then set them back down as you go into your next push-up. These require lots of core activation!
Lateral Lunge with Axe Handle
Taking some inspiration from the moves we talked about earlier, grab a medicine ball or Freemotion handle and hold it at your right shoulder. Step out to the left in a lateral lunge as you twist your torso in an axe handle down towards the left.
Deadlift into an Upright Row
With a medium set of free weights, hinge at the waist into a deadlift letting the weights drop to your knees. Hinge at the waist and use your glutes, hamstrings, and abs to come back up to a standing position. From there, lift your elbows up towards the ceiling and back into an upright row, or like you’re holding two buckets full of water.
Chest Press in Hip Bridge
With only your head, neck, and shoulder blades on a bench and your legs off the bench into a bridge position, hold the free weights at your chest. Keeping your hips up and level to that of your torso, push the weights up to the ceiling into a chest press.
Step Up with an Overhead Press
Find a moderately high step or box. Start with the free weights at your sides. Step up onto the bench and as you come up, curl the weights up to your shoulders and into an overhead press. Step down and repeat on the other side.
Roll Down Abs
Start in a seated position with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Pull in your lower abs and with the utmost control, slowly roll your upper body down towards the ground but not all the way touching. Roll back up.
If you want to lose weight, aim for full body workouts like these functional training circuits. It gets your heart rate up, works several muscle groups at once, and helps you increase your metabolism. You can’t go wrong!
Want better numbers on the scale? What will your next session of functional training for weight loss be?