The Fitness Zone

The 2023 Top Fitness Trends Review: #5 Functional Fitness Training

Nov 29, 2023 | by Steve Irwin

In this series of articles we are going to take a look at the top ten fitness trends for 2023 as created for the annual ACSM’s (American College of Sports Medicine) Health & Fitness Journal worldwide survey [1]

The survey list actually covers 20 fitness trends as collated as part of the survey, but we’re just going to focus on the Top 10 and dive specifically into some background information about the trend, how it can benefit you as a fitness consumer, as a fitness professional and also add some general guidance and / or recommendations.

So here we go… It is Number 5 on the List: Functional Fitness Training

The Number 5 Fitness Trend for 2023: Functional Fitness Training

Achieving peak physical condition goes beyond aesthetics; it’s about empowering ourselves to live life to the fullest. Functional fitness, a trend that emerged in the fitness world over the past decade, has paved the way for a holistic approach to exercise. It is all about improving balance, coordination, functional strength, and endurance, with a direct impact on our daily activities.

Functional fitness routines are designed to mirror the activities we encounter in our daily lives. They rose to prominence, claiming the #4 spot in fitness trends back in 2007, but their importance waned in the following years. Nevertheless, they made a remarkable comeback in 2010 and 2011, climbing the charts once again.

This trend is particularly beneficial for older adults and clinical populations. By incorporating strength training into your routine, you can enhance essential components like balance, coordination, muscular strength, and endurance. These improvements make a world of difference in your daily life, making tasks simpler and more enjoyable.

The History of Functional Fitness Training in the Modern-Day Fitness Industry

The history of functional fitness training in the fitness industry is a dynamic narrative that has evolved over the past several decades. Functional fitness focuses on improving one’s ability to perform everyday tasks and activities through exercises that mimic real-life movements. 

Functional fitness training gained significant traction in the late 20th century when physical therapists and trainers recognized the limitations of isolated, machine-based exercises. Instead, they started promoting compound movements and exercises that engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

One of the foundational elements of functional fitness is the concept of primal movement patterns. These patterns, which mimic fundamental human movements, include pushing, pulling, squatting, bending, and carrying. These movements have been essential to human survival throughout history, making them a critical aspect of functional fitness. The founder of the primal movement patterns concept is often attributed to Paul Chek, a renowned fitness expert and holistic health practitioner. [2] Chek’s work emphasised the importance of incorporating primal movement patterns into exercise routines to enhance overall functional strength and mobility.

Another leading name in modern-day functional fitness, Juan Carlos Sanatana has a philosophy that revolves around cultivating strength, mobility, and stability for practical daily living and sports performance. [3] Santana advocates exercises that mimic natural movements, emphasising multi-joint, multi-planar actions. By incorporating squats, lunges, kettlebell swings, and bodyweight exercises it’s a method that not only fosters muscle growth but also enhances overall health and functionality, making it a vital component of modern fitness.

As functional fitness continues to evolve, it incorporates elements from various disciplines, including callisthenics, yoga, and functional training equipment.

The Benefits of Functional Fitness Training for the Fitness Enthusiast

This versatile and dynamic approach to fitness offers a wide array of benefits for enthusiasts looking to take their performance, cross-training, and functional mobility to the next level

  1. Improved Performance:

Functional fitness training has a great transference to enhancing your overall physical capabilities. Whether you’re an athlete aiming to up your game or an individual looking to tackle daily chores with ease, functional fitness can help you reach your goals. By targeting multiple muscle groups and improving your coordination, balance, and strength, you’ll see substantial enhancements in your athletic performance and overall fitness.

  1. Cross Training:

One of the standout advantages of functional fitness is its emphasis on cross-training. Traditional workouts can lead to overuse injuries and plateaus. Functional fitness, on the other hand, introduces a variety of exercises that engage different muscle groups, reducing the risk of overuse and keeping workouts fresh. This diversity not only challenges your body in new ways but also promotes holistic fitness, ensuring you’re well-rounded in strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular endurance.

  1. Functional Mobility in Everyday Life:

Functional fitness training doesn’t just benefit you in the gym; it enhances your everyday life. The movements you practice are directly applicable to real-world activities, making tasks like lifting, bending, and reaching more manageable and reducing the risk of injury. By improving your functional mobility, you’ll experience increased comfort and agility in your daily routines.

My Top 3 Functional Fitness Workouts

Regardless of what stage you are at with your health and fitness journey, I always find the K.I.S.S (Keep It Super Simple) principle to program design works best… there’s no need to overcomplicate things!

Here are three functional fitness-focused training programs tailored for beginners, intermediates, and advanced clients.

Remember to consult with a fitness professional or physician before starting any new exercise program, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions or concerns.

30-Minute Beginner Functional Fitness Workout:

Warm-up (5 minutes):
– Light cardio (e.g., brisk walking)

Workout (20 minutes):
Cardiovascular Exercise (5 minutes)
– Brisk walking or light jogging

Bodyweight Circuit (10 minutes):
3 sets of:
– Bodyweight squats (10 reps)
– Knee push-ups (8-10 reps)
– Plank (20 seconds)
– Reverse lunges (10 reps)

Kettlebell & Medicine Ball Circuit (5 minutes):
1 set of:
– Kettlebell goblet squats (10 reps)
– Medicine ball slams (10 reps)
– Medicine ball Russian twists (10 reps)

Cool-down (5 minutes):
– Gentle stretching and deep breathing

30-Minute Intermediate Functional Fitness Workout:

Warm-up (5 minutes):
– Light cardio (e.g., jumping jacks)

Workout (20 minutes):
Cardiovascular Exercise (5 minutes)
– Jump rope

Bodyweight Circuit (7 minutes):
3 sets of:
– Bodyweight squats (12 reps)
– Push-ups (12 reps)
– Plank (30 seconds)
– Reverse lunges (12 reps)

Kettlebell Circuit (6 minutes):
2 sets of:
– Kettlebell goblet squats (12 reps)
– Kettlebell swings (12 reps)
– Kettlebell Turkish get-ups (1 set per arm)

Medicine Ball Circuit (2 minutes):
1 set of:
– Medicine ball slams (12 reps)
– Medicine ball Russian twists (12 reps)

Cool-down (5 minutes):
– Gentle stretching and deep breathing

30-Minute Advanced Functional Fitness Workout:

Warm-up (5 minutes):
– Light cardio (e.g., high knees)

Workout (20 minutes):
Cardiovascular Exercise (5 minutes)
– High-intensity running or cycling

Bodyweight Circuit (6 minutes):
3 sets of:
– Jump Lunges (6 reps per leg)
– Diamond push-ups (15 reps)
– Plank (45 seconds)
– Burpees (10 reps)

Kettlebell Circuit (6 minutes):
2 sets of:
– Kettlebell goblet squats (15 reps)
– Kettlebell swings (15 reps)
– Kettlebell snatches (8 reps per arm)
– Kettlebell windmills (6 reps per arm)

Medicine Ball Circuit (3 minutes):
2 sets of:
– Medicine ball slams (15 reps)
– Medicine ball Russian twists (15 reps)
– Medicine ball wall throws (10 reps)

Cool-down (5 minutes):
– Gentle stretching and deep breathing
Top “Tips” for Fitness Professionals When Using Functional Training with Clients

Fitness professionals can incorporate functional fitness seamlessly into their training programs, here are some top tips to consider when using functional training with your clients:

  • Assessment: Begin with a thorough assessment of your client’s needs, weaknesses, and goals. Customise exercises to address specific areas of improvement, ensuring a tailored approach.
  • Progressive Overload: Implement a gradual increase in resistance or complexity in exercises. This progression helps clients continuously challenge themselves, promoting strength gains over time.
  • Variety and Creativity: Keep sessions engaging by varying exercises, equipment, and training environments. Incorporate elements like kettlebells, medicine balls, TRX straps, and bodyweight exercises to provide a diverse and engaging experience.
  • Education is Key: Stay updated with the latest functional fitness trends and certifications. Continuous learning will help you provide the best guidance to your clients.
  • Safety First: Always prioritise proper form and technique over heavy weights or intensity. A strong foundation is essential to prevent injuries.
  • Client-Centric Approach: Tailor programs to your client’s specific goals, limitations, and preferences. Building a strong trainer-client relationship ensures better adherence and long-term success.
In Conclusion

Incorporating functional fitness training into your programs is a strategic move that can set you apart as a fitness professional. By harnessing its benefits and following the tips mentioned, you can provide your clients with a well-rounded, effective, and enjoyable fitness journey, ensuring that they achieve their fitness goals while improving their overall quality of life.

Please Note: The information provided in this article are the opinions and professional experience of the author and not all activities are recommended for the beginner or participants with underlying health conditions. Before following any advice or starting any fitness, health, and wellbeing journey please consult with an Allied Health Professional and / or General Practitioner.

REFERENCES

  1. ACSM’s Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2023: Thompson, Walter R. Ph.D., FACS
  2. The Origins of Primal Pattern® Movement Training: Paul Chek
  3. JC Santana
  4. The benefits of functional fitness for everyday life
Steve Irwin

Steve Irwin

Steve has spent the last 19 years in the Australian Fitness Industry as a Group Fitness Instructor, 1-1 Coach, State Manager, Business Owner and is currently an Educator for the Australian Institute of Fitness. A lifelong fitness enthusiast he started his working life in the Military which guided him into the fitness industry where his passion for helping others on their health and fitness journey has been realised. Steve believes that for anyone thinking about getting fit or healthy they should “just get started” as “doing something is better than doing nothing”.

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