Improving your athleticism starts with functional workouts.
Any good coach will tell you that becoming a great athlete isn’t about bench pressing 400 pounds or leg pressing a house. While incredible feats, neither necessarily has a direct impact on the way you perform in game. Now while I’m well aware that trying to counteract the information you’ve accumulated from muscle mags over the years may be an epic fail, I’d like to discuss functional training workouts and the ways they can help you become a better athlete.
Before giving you a sample workout let’s discuss some of functional training’s basic rules…
Rule #1: No isolation exercises
Since there’s never a time during an athletic event that you’d be using just one part of your body, we’ll leave these exercises be. That means absolutely no sitting dumbbell curls or tricep extensions! Don’t worry, for you’ll still get toned, strong arms with the functional workout program… you’ll just look a lot better during the process.
Rule #2: Use full body workouts every time
The idea that your workouts should be divided into power, strength, endurance, upper body, or lower body is out of date and simply not functional for any athlete. When was the last time you played football and decided to only use your chest and no legs? Ever played soccer without sprinting and jogging for long bouts? This doesn’t mean you can’t emphasize one quality over the other, but coming into the gym and doing 10 sets of bench, and following those with some curls isn’t helping anybody’s on-field performance.
Rule #3: Make workouts as functionally dense as possible
If you only have a set amount of time, get as much work in as you can. You’ll notice that most functional workouts are presented circuit style. This will enable you to maximize your working sets so that you’re getting the most out of every session. When resting after an upper body emphasized exercise, you can easily be doing a lower body exercise set. Heavy breathing and sweating aren’t illegal in the gym.
Rule #4: Everything is done in all three planes of motion
For further explanation, refer to my Introduction to Functional Training which lays out all three planes.
With the rules out of the way, let’s discuss the structure of each workout. The skeleton of the functional circuit has 4 stations: a push, a pull, a double leg exercise, and a single leg dominate exercise. These will be alternated upper body dominant and lower body dominant exercise, with three rounds per exercise. The reason for three rounds is each round has a different plane of motion tweak (Round 1= Sagittal, Round 2=Frontal, Round 3= Transverse) and to simplify matters there will be only 10 reps for each exercise in each round.Take a look at sample circuit below to make things more clear.
After finishing your functional warm up, start with the first round ofpush-ups. Once done with the first 10, move onto dumbbell squat jumps, then cable stack single arm rows, and then finish up the first round with dumbbell step ups. After you’re finished with the first circuit, feel free to take a short break (think a minute or so), before starting Round 2.
The best part about these types of workouts is that they’re so easily amendable to suit your needs. Want to make it more cardiovascular challenging? Instead of straight reps, do each exercise for a minute straight with 10 second breaks in between each set. Want to make it more hypertrophy emphasized? Add more weight to each exercise and rest more in between each set. You can even make the workout sport specific. Make your double leg exercise lateral jumps if you play basketball, or make your pushing exercises jammers for football.
The point is, functional training can be used in any situation. Follow the template above, use a little creativity, and you’ll be well on your way to better athletic performance.