Functional Ability Information Page

New Fitness Center Functional Training Options

in Main Fitness Center Area and in the Fitness Class Space

XCreate Bridge and Wall Systems

The Best in Functional Training Equipment

Functional Training Equipment

The amount of functional training exercises and options are endless when incorporating equipment.

See Schematics of New Fitness Areas

Some possible equipment options include

     •     Dumbbells

     •     Medicine balls

     •     Slam Balls

     •     Wall Balls

     •     Kettlebells

     •     Bodyweight training

     •     Jumping Ropes

     •     Battle ropes

     •     Physioballs (also called Swiss balls or exercise balls)

     •     Resistance tubes

     •     Suspension system

     •     Climbing ropes

     •     Stall bars

     •     Parallel bars

     •     Cable machine

     •     Barbells

     •     Balance disks

     •     Rotational trainers

See Full List of Functional Training Exercises


In addition to performing traditional strength/resistance exercises (examples: bodyweight, machine, and free-weight exercises) as part of your exercise routine core, balance, and functional exercises should be incorporated to make a well rounded program. I also suggest a press (example: pushup), row (example: dumbbell or band row), squat (example: goblet squats, etc.), and lunge (example: standard lunges) be incorporated into most muscular workout sessions.

Before starting any functional training you should screen yourself with the Functional Screening Test Below. To perform advanced functional exercises you should be able to do pass all the tests below especially the deep squat and spinal flexion screens and the sidebridge, birddog, bodyweight squat and bodyweight lunge tests.

In addition to doing functional training screen tests listed below you should also do the muscular ability tests.

download pdf file

Are You Functionally Fit?

To Understand Your Functional Fitness you have to understand your core stability, balance ability, how your body moves in multiple directions, and your strength/endurance in all primary movements. In order to do more Advanced Functional training you should pass these tests first.

Self Functional Training Screen Tests


As with muscular fitness functional ability is an important component of a exercise program at any age and level and it is especially vital for athletes and for those who are older. It should not replace or be neglected by a traditional muscular fitness program. It should be incorporated into everyone's training. Functional fitness exercises are designed to be more real world, simulating common movements to prepare your body to do tasks at home, occupation, and sports. Use this page to gain a further knowledge of functional ability exercises and how to perform them properly.

Key Point:

A common definition of functional training is that it attempts to adapt or develop exercises which allow individuals to perform the activities of daily life more easily and without injuries. Functional training has it origins in rehabilitation of all abilities including athletes. Many of the functional training exercises mimic what is done at home, at work, and on the athletic field. In working with individuals treatments are designed after careful consideration of the patient's or athlete's condition, what he or she would like to achieve, and ensuring goals of treatment are realistic and achievable. This same philosophy of understanding the individual should be strictly adhered to when incorporating functional training in a fitness program. In other words what might look like a great and fun exercise might not be the right one for you. Please consult your trainer when incorporating functional training exercises into your program.

There is a larger training curve when learning many functional training exercises when compared to traditional isolation and compound exercises found in the Muscular Ability Section of this Website. It is highly recommended that you do a functional training screen test (see right) to determine if you are physically able to perform intermediate to advanced functional training exercises. Example: Can you perform a deep squat where your back does not flex in other words can you maintain a locked lower back throughout a deep squat. If not then doing exercises that require you to squat deeply to pick up something from the floor, like a exercise ball (medicine, slam, wall), kettlebell, or barbell, may be not right for you now. If your back does flex when squatting deeply your back may go through repeated bouts of flexion, which can cause injury when squatting deeply over multiple repetitions.

Functional training does not need to be complex. It can be as simple as doing Basic Core (Bridges, Planks, BirdDogs, SIdeBridges), Balance (One Leg Balance Exercises), and Compound Exercises like Push Ups, Squats, and Lunges found in our simple exercise program.

What is the difference between traditional strength/resistance training and functional training?

Also seen in Muscular Ability Section

Traditional strength/resistance training focuses on building strength, size, and or definition in one or more muscle groups. It includes circuit training machines that isolates one or more muscles (some consider these the safest and/or easiest to start with) as well as one joint isolation free weight exercises like the curls. Some consider the compound lifts like the olympic lifts, squat, deadlift, row, bench press, and shoulder press as traditional exercise, while some might argue as these being functional. Functional training focuses on large body positions and movements that stabilize specific muscle groups while other exercises mimic moves that are common to activities of daily life and sports. Functional training in most cases utilizes ones own bodyweight working against and with gravity as well as against itself. Most exercises require multiple body parts to work together. Functional training also incorporates a wide variety tools that include barbells, kettlebells, dumbbells, TRX, resistance tubes and bands, cables, medicine balls, sandbags and more. Key elements in functional training is physical endurance, agility, balance, core strength, proprioceptive awareness, and neuromuscular coordination, which is different from traditional training of strength and power.

A common traditional fitness based workout using weight machines and cardio sessions on treadmills, bikes, or elliptical trainers tend to isolate muscle groups and challenge them with one plane of movement. These workouts fall short of training the body for the multidirectional movements required for many common life activities, but they do offer a great deal of metabolic and fitness benefits as well as being very safe and easy to learn. It is therefore not uncommon for someone fit who has been doing these exercises to experience significant soreness after a weekend of yard work or sport. Therefore it is prudent to incorporate functional training into a traditional fitness program. In other words it is not one or the other it is a combination.

What does the ACSM* say about balance and neuromotor training?

According to the ACSM 2012 position stand on exercise, neuromotor exercise can be especially beneficial for older people to improve balance and muscle strength, reducing the risk of falls and other injury. In order to meet the neuromotor recommendations of two or three days a week, the ACSM suggests participating in activities like tai chi or yoga or basic balance training. Functional resistance movements involving a significant degree of balance and multiple muscle groups might also help fulfill the recommendations for neuromotor exercise. *ACSM American College of Sports Medicine-one of the leading authorities on exercise.

Most recently in a 2018 journal article the ACSM suggested that Functional Training is one of the biggest things trending in fitness. They go on to state that functional training is a broad and confusing concept because of the multitude of definitions and applications. It can be any type of training that is performed with a purpose to enhance movement and/or performance of movement.

The following is a list of common themes associated with functional training:




          Real-life activities



          Injury prevention

          Chain reaction with body

          Individualized program


          Real-life activities

According to the ACSM the current body of research focusing on functional training reflects a vast array of exercise options with varying designs, focus, and outcomes; however, there is very little research specific to functional training as a training program. The reason they suggest stems from the fact that functional training is a very individualized program, and no one program can address the general population. Traditional progressive resistance training focuses on increasing load/weight in a gradual manner with the purpose of strengthening major muscle groups often for performance and/or aesthetics. On the other hand, functional training focuses on enhancing the quality of movement through training specific skills associated with movement. Functional training is simple to understand on paper but complicated to implement. To this day, there are no universally accepted methods for how to train functionally. The ACSM states that health and fitness professionals must use their individual experiences and client feedback to decide the specific training method to bring about the desired outcome for participants. Therefore, it is up to us to help you select the best functional training exercises for your programming (see full article). One size fits all approach does not work with functional training.

FitTec and Functional Training

For FitTec functional training starts with the 5 essential core exercises that we recommend (see link). There is a safe version of these 5 exercises that most people can do. From there we always recommend 1-2 balance exercises and of course a squat and lunge exercise in each workout. To try other exercises we must know your goals and your  functional training screen tests results.

What is core training and why is it important?

I devote a lot of time and attention to the development of the core. I feel that core, balance, and the primary human motions of rows, presses, lunges, and squats to be the essential functional training exercises. When explaining what the core is I say it is everything in terms of the musculature below your chest and above your knees. It is just not the six pack abdomen that we all have despite some of us having a layer of fat over it. Core training is the strengthening and conditioning of the core muscles surrounding the middle of the body which is the abdomen, hips, pelvis, and lower back. These muscles protect the spine and are responsible for stabilizing and balancing the body during movement. It is essential in delivering performance from the legs to the upper torso and vice versa. It offers body stability so that we can move and play through life. A strong/durable core protects the spine while through the action of strong/durable hip musculature it protects the knees. Much less leg and upper body force generation would be developed without a strong/durable core. I use the words strong/durable because when it comes to the core ability muscular endurance may have a greater part in protecting the body than strength, but you should consider both in your training. Doing just one exercise like a plank or doing a bunch of crunches does not necessarily translate into a strong abs or a stable core. Even worse, if you develop your rectus abdominus muscle too much relative to your other abs and lower back muscles, you may be more susceptible to injury. You need to develop the entire core. Therefore make core training part of your functional training which is part of your overall fitness program.

What does core training look like?

Despite what you may think it does not include full sit ups and knee raises that is found in many widely followed programs. Rather it is a series of exercises that work all aspects of the core. If you ask a trainer what are the best core exercises you might get many varied answers. Most would agree that the side planks (side bridges) is one of them. Many would add the BirdDog exercise to the list, as well as the Plank and Crunch. Many knowledgeable trainers suggest the McGill big three, which include the BirdDog, Side planks (side bridges), and the McGill Crunch done together as a program.  All of these exercises have standard, modified, and advanced versions. This list would not be complete without mentioning the variations of the Bridge.

Bridges, birddogs, varied leg lifts engage the gluteal area at the same time as working the spinal muscles. Side Bridges work much of the lateral musculature of the spine, while also working the gluteal area as well. Planks work both the frontal muscle of the spine and the abdominal musculature.

So I highly suggest the McGill big three as well as the planks and bridges. I call these exercises the essential core exercises (Planks, Bridge, BirdDog, Side planks (side bridges, and the McGill Crunch). I also suggest adding bodyweight squats and lunges.  

If you go to Self’s Website you will find a list of exercises - the author suggests that these are the tope core exercises. Look over this list but many of them are not good for your back ( do not do # 3 Butterfly Sit up, #6 High Boat,  #9 Jackknife, #10 Hollow Hold to Jackknife, #11 Hollow Body Rock, #12 C Curve, #14 Rolling like a ball, #17 Row the Boat, #18 Single Leg JackKnife ). Nearly half are dangerous because there is a lot of spinal flexion under load. The Military no longer does tests or does  physical training with exercises like this, you should stop as well. Rather see the aforementioned exercises and see these links.

(Planks, Bridge, BirdDog, Side (side bridges), and the McGill Crunch).

article, article, and of course the McGill Big Three.

Benefits of Balance Training

We all need balance in our life, especially physical balance. Balance training develops proprioception; the body’s ability to interpret and use information of joint position in space. Training for balance is considered an important component of fitness. It requires a complex system of environmental feedback, cues from the bottom of your feet, the relation of your inner ear to gravity, and what you see. Through these systems the body senses which muscles to activate or deactivate to maintain your desired position. It does this when you stand, get up from a chair, or walk on the sidewalk. It also uses all of these cues when you're riding a bike, skiing, standing on your tiptoes to grab something, in other words all the time. When the information received is too complex to translate, the system gets overwhelmed and you lose your balance. But with practice and experience (i.e. balance training) you can master what once seemed like impossible tasks, like first time you successfully rode a bike or ski.

By developing greater balance improvements will occur in coordination, athletic skill, and posture. Resulting in fewer injuries and greater stability as you age, which can help prevent falls and keep you both strong and independent longer. These are the very benefits that have led many coaches, trainers, and athletes to incorporate balance training into their workouts.

How to Balance Train

You don’t need to buy expensive equipment to improve your balance; plus you can do these at your desk. Lift your foot off the ground completely-90 degree angle of thigh to body. From there, you can play around with the position of your lifted leg—holding it behind you, in front of you, to the side or for a greater challenge, moving the lifted leg while you balance on the other leg and perform upper body movements. To make it harder close your eyes Try adding 5 or 10 minutes of balance exercises to your workouts three times a week. How can you tell if you are getting better? When you can maintain your balance during the various exercises (or the balance-training tests above) for longer periods of time.

Burpees are considered by many a Functional Exercise, but are Burpees a good or bad exercise?

Well it is certainly tough, metabolic, and one that people love to hate, but I would not recommend it for most people. There are plenty of other exercises that you can do that have as much or more benefit with much less risk.

Why do I think this popular exercise is bad?

It does three motions poorly .

*squat - to do a burpee you must go into a deep squat which is too low for most people’s knee and forced extension from knee locked position can stress the cartilage of the knee

* push ups - push ups are great but falling and then jamming into a push up while doing a burpee puts the wrist into forced extension with too much pressure. This may injure this small joint while also putting a lot of stress on the anterior compartment of the shoulder at the same time, which is where the shoulder is weakest.

*plank - a push up positioned plank is a fairly good core exercise but going into a plank in a forceful nature from a flexed spine position is a recipe for damage to your spinal discs (when the spine is flexed your discs are more vulnerable). This repeated flexion to extension can make the disc in the spine more flexible and thus vulnerable to injury. The spine needs to be stable not that flexible.

Add to this that most people do them for many repetitions makes burpees a prime exercise for overuse injury.

Burpees was known back in the eighties as

the squat thrust. It was a contraindicated exercise in the nineties. It was banned by the military because of injuries.

If you must do a burpee try it with a Bosu Disc (see exercise). or try burpees off a bench or step.