Functional training builds strength with movements that are taken from you and will help with the routine of your daily activities. Instead of the repeated movement to build one particular muscle, functional training builds strength in smaller, stabilizing muscles, in addition to the large ones. But is it enough to help you get ripped?
It is possible to get ripped with functional training. Not only is functional training an effective way to build muscle, but it’s usually safer than traditional bodybuilding. Since an entire muscle group is activated with functional exercises, you can often end up stronger with this type of routine.
In this article, I’ll be giving a detailed outline of how functional training can get you the muscle mass you’re seeking. Additionally, you can read on to learn the benefits of functional training compared to other forms of exercise, as well as the best schedule to implement into your workout routine.
How Often Should You Do Functional Training?
The right routine is a bit of a Goldilocks scenario. Too little, and the gains won’t come. Too much, and your muscles can actually deteriorate from overuse without rest.
It’s advised that an hour of functional training, approximately every other day, is enough to see results in most people. This gives your body plenty of time between workouts to recover and use all the protein you are eating to build up your muscles.
That said, it will depend on your overall goals and how much effort you’re willing to put into the exercises. For example:
- To see results – you should aim to do functional training four times a week.
- To get ripped – you’ll need to commit to at least three sessions a week along with at least one day of cardio.
- To build muscle – go for three sessions per week and be sure to remain consistent and pair it with a balanced diet.
- To get in shape – aim for two to three times per week, especially if you’re just starting out.
Functional Exercises To Incorporate in Your Training
The best functional exercises will use compound movements and increase your strength, mobility, and balance.
Here are three of my favorite functional exercises to increase muscle mass:
Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts
Here are the steps to do the single-leg Romanian deadlifts:
- With your chosen weight in both hands, bring your hands to your sides.
- Next, root down with your right foot.
- Hinging at the waist, raise your opposite leg behind you and bring the weights to your rooted foot.
- Bring your raised leg back to standing.
- Repeat 8-12 times.
- Switch legs and repeat.
Step-Ups With Strict Press
Here are the steps to do the step-ups with strict press:
- With your hands holding your weights, bring them to your shoulders.
- Place your right foot on a step.
- With control, step into that foot while bringing the opposite leg up with your knee bent to 90 degrees.
- At the same time, raise the weights above your head.
- Step back down and repeat 8-12 times.
- Switch legs and repeat.
Plank Up and Downs
Here are the steps to do the plank ups and downs:
- Depending on your core strength, come to either your knees or your toes and plant both hands on the ground, shoulder-width apart.
- Fire up the core, creating a straight line with your body.
- Alternate from your hands, down to your forearms, and back up to your hands.
- Repeat 8-12 times.
What are the Benefits of Functional Training?
I had a trainer years ago who despised crunches. To him, the only benefit that came with this specific exercise was that you get pretty good at it. Not very useful, broadly speaking.
The main benefit of functional training is that you will look proportionate to your muscle mass. Compound, functional exercises activate an entire muscle group and use movements that help in everyday settings. Plus, functional training has proven to be much safer than other forms of exercise.
For example, a plie squat with an overhead lift will work a whole bunch of muscles, big and small. They were incredibly helpful when my children were young, and I spent a lot of time crouching down and standing up.
By not isolating muscles, the surrounding smaller and stabilizing muscles will also get stronger and increase their mass. Isolating a muscle can lead to looking like you’ve skipped leg day.
Can You Build Muscle With Functional Training?
Practitioners do build muscle with functional training, but because the necessary movements work more muscles, it may not be as noticeable. Instead, you’re more likely to see slimming and toning, with some muscles becoming more defined as your body strengthens as a whole.
But how is it done?
This section will detail what you need to get started on your journey to living your best, absolutely shredded life. Becoming a beefcake takes more than just lifting heavy objects over and over. So, let’s start with the most important elements of getting ripped with functional training.
Start in the Kitchen
It’s an adage that abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym. This particular saying isn’t from an old wives tale, as there’s a lot of truth.
No amount or type of training is going to give you the results you want if you’re always eating like my teenage son — pizza rolls, donuts, and chicken nuggets, all washed down with a large glass of Dr. Pepper.
This diet might not make you gain fat if you have a high metabolism, but it definitely won’t provide your body with the nutrients required for muscle building either.
The Diet for More Muscle
In order to build up muscle, your body requires protein and carbohydrates.
Protein is essential for muscle growth and maintenance. It’s often called the building block macronutrient for its role in your body. By getting enough protein, your body is able to use those nutrients to build mass.
The recommended intake for increasing muscle mass is about 0.5-1 grams of protein per pound you weigh. So a 160 lb (72.57 kg) male wanting to gain muscle would need to consume between 80-160 grams (0.18-0.35 lbs) of protein each day.
However, this article isn’t advocating for a low-carb diet!
Carbohydrates are crucial for building muscle mass, so be sure to get plenty of complex carbohydrates daily as well. Without a sufficient amount of carbs, your body will then turn to protein for fuel, meaning that it won’t be available for your muscles to get swole!
Eat Plenty and Often
On top of what you’re eating, be sure to also get into a habit of eating enough and often throughout each day. Instead of two or three large meals, try to schedule five or six medium meals throughout the day so that you’re well-fueled for your workouts!
If you’re waiting too long in between meals, that gives your body an opportunity to break down proteins and muscle for fuel. This is counterproductive, so a steady intake of carbs is needed to avoid this.
Create a Schedule You Can Stick With
In addition to making changes in how and what you are eating daily, you will also need to create a schedule for yourself. The point is not to maximize the amount of time you spend working out. Rather, you will want to be realistic and set goals that you can achieve long-term.
When starting a workout routine, many people will burn themselves out by starting an unrealistic daily workout routine while eating an unsustainable, fad diet. This might give you two weeks of results but this is not the route to getting ripped and living a healthy lifestyle.
Instead, try the following routine and adjust it if you feel uncomfortable:
- 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps of a functional, compound movement
- 1 min rest between each set
- Repeat for each exercise, with a 2-5 minute rest between exercises
Differences Between Functional Training and Strength Training
There’s no arguing that traditional strength training will also get you shredded, especially when paired with the right diet and training schedule. It might even get you there faster.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s the better option.
Strength training tends to focus on a specific set of muscles. So, one day you might be working your biceps and triceps, then the next day, you’ll focus on your glutes. During your time in the gym, you’ll likely do cardio to warm up and then only work on those specific areas.
Functional training, on the other hand, includes larger movements that spread out over multiple muscle groups at once. After a functional training session, you’ll be closer to a full-body workout.
Differences Between Functional Training and Full-Body Workouts
So if a functional training session works so many different muscle groups, does that make it a full-body workout?
Yes, this type of training will activate a lot more muscles than regular strength training (in one session), but its goal isn’t always to work out the whole body.
In contrast, a full-body workout routine will be specifically designed to hit every muscle group during the session.
With that in mind, you could say that while most full-body workouts are functional, not all functional training sessions are full-body workouts.
Functional training, when done correctly, is an incredibly efficient and effective path to gaining muscle and living a healthy life. Health is more than just muscle mass, and functional training is able to deliver on all fronts.
Though there may be faster ways to get ripped, you’ll get there more steadily, and it’s more likely to last with this method.
- WebMD: What Protein Does for Your Body
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Dietary Protein and Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application and Health Benefits
- PubMed.gov: When Much Is Too Much-Compared to Light Exercisers, Heavy Exercisers Report More Mental Health Issues and Stress, but Less Sleep Complaints
- PubMed.gov: Muscle Dysmorphia Symptomatology and Associated Psychological Features in Bodybuilders and Non-Bodybuilder Resistance Trainers: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
- RealSimple: How to Do a Plié Squat