Common and Effective Functional Strength Exercises
This list should have been written a long time ago, but better late than never…Here is a list of exceptional functional strength exercises:
- Pull Ups: The standard pull up is an exceptional functional strength workout. Pull ups can be modified to focus on various muscle groups — the back, the biceps, or the forearms. Many body weight exercises make for great functional workouts as you’ll see throughout the list.
- Push Ups: Like the pull up, this old-fashioned body weight exercise is great for building strength in multiple muscle groups (ex: chest, tris, back, abdominals)
- Burpees: This multi-faceted movement is incredibly impactful and doesn’t take a lot of space (could be why they are so popular in prisons). Another benefit of this whole body workout is the fact that it doubles as a great cardio workout.
- Anything Kettlebell: almost all kettlebell movements are complex and engaging. The two handed swing is probably the simplest most complete workout. The Turkish Get Up is another great workout, but is far more difficult to learn to do properly. Check out YouTube clips from certified kettlebell instructors for a cheap, and effective way to stay safe. Want a rough estimate of what weight you should be using, check out our kettlebell weight calculator.
- Squat: Simple exercise, but extremely effective. As with all of these lifts, ensure that you use excellent form and appropriate weights to avoid injuries. Many squat workout routines revolve around your one rep max, but performing maxes can be dangerous. Use our squat max calculator to avoid injury, while still getting a great estimate for your squat max. Remember that there are many forms of squats…and…front squats often more closely mimic realistic strength movements.
- Deadlift: Another simple, but extremely effective workout. Good form and proper weights are critical for maintaining safety in all lifts, but this one particularly. Make sure you have a certified lifting coach to help you learn the nuances of this lift. Like the squat, many deadlift routines are based on your one rep max, which is a dangerous metric to gather. Use Functional Strength Lab’s One Rep Deadlift Max calculator to estimate your one rep max.
- Battle Ropes: Battle Ropes have grown in popularity after their use by MMA many fighters prepping for their bouts. Battle ropes engage the core, the arms, and the legs all while providing a great cardio workout. The undulating resistance mimics many functional movements.
- Club Bells: Club bells are ancient workout equipment, but they have also grown in popularity based on their functional strength range of motion. All signs point to Asia as the birthplace of club bells, but regardless of where they originate from, they provide excellent functional movement resistance. It also provides a great cardio workout.
- Jump Rope: A lot of people don’t equate jumping rope with strength, but jumping rope is tremendous for developing strength in the shoulders and the calves. To top it all off, it is developing this strength all while improving balance and eye hand coordination.
- Lunges: Another simple body weight exercise with the option to add weights. There are TONS of variations of lunges, and they can be made more difficult by adding bands or weight resistance. Lunges are great for developing lower body strength, explosiveness, and balance.