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What is Functional Training?

The term “functional training” has become quite a buzzword in the fitness industry. And as a result, it can be open to a wide range of interpretation. The true meaning of functional training is to perform exercises that lead an individual to perform the activities of everyday life more easily. In my interpretation, it is to practice fundamental movements and become proficient at them.

I believe I’m a very humble and modest guy. But I’m going to put my modesty aside for a moment and say, “When it comes to human movement, I know my $h!+”. Seriously, I know how to break down movement. You just need a system. And from my time at the institute of sport, I created a system. I created a list of regressions and progressions for each of the six fundamental human movements. And in total, there were over 250 exercises — about 50 exercises for each basic movement pattern.

I’ve just introduced two words — functional and fundamental, but they are not the same thing when it comes to movement. Functional, as I described above, refers to exercises that make your life easier, for example, doing squats as a way to make the activities of picking up bags and getting out of a chair easier. Fundamental is used interchangeably with foundational. They refer to movements that all other movements are built upon. All fundamental movements are functional but not all functional movements are fundamental. Let me explain.

There are six fundamental movements in all humans:

Push ups
Pull ups

In fact, brace (like planking), is fundamental to the other five. If the other five are the structure of a house, then brace is the slab.

If you were to break human movements down, you would end up with these seven movements. And each of the first six movements should be practiced at the level appropriate for you. Remember my list of nearly 50 levels for each. Performing levels too advanced for your level of competency nearly always results in injury — whether that’s acute injury or chronic injury.

Each of these fundamental movements are functional. Practicing them makes everyday activities easier. However, there are other movements that are also functional. Locomotive movements are movements that move the body from one place to another. 

There are eight fundamental locomotive movements:

Sliding or side-shuffling

There are more complex forms of locomotive movement, which should also be practiced. They include:


All these locomotive movements are underpinned by the six fundamental movements. While it’s good to practice these locomotive movements; particularly, running, jumping, crawling and climbing, it’s the six fundamental movements that give you the capability to do them properly.

In summary, functional training means to practice movements that make everyday activities more easily, and which reduce the risk of injury. Functional movements are underpinned by fundamental movements. Therefore, it is super important to practice all fundamental movements at the level appropriate to you.

Question: What functional movements make up your workout regime?  And what is your favourite locomotive movement?  Leave your answers, questions and comments in the discussion section below.

[Image source: Shape]

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