By Erin Mahoney, VP of Education at ISSA

The human body is a complex mechanism, where muscles, bones, joints, and ligaments all work together as one. The more effective the components of the body are, the better movement in activities of daily living, which can lead to a better quality of life.

Q: What Does Functional Strength Training Mean?
A: The goal of a functional strength training is to practice physical activity that translates to actions we do every day. These movements include being able to get out of bed, standing from a seated position, opening the refrigerator door, or reaching for a glass from the kitchen cabinet. In exercise terms, we use different movement patterns such as pulling, pushing, squatting, hinging, pressing, and lunging every day.

Functional training improves coordination, balance, and body awareness and reduces risk of injury. As range of motion is enhanced, day-to-day activities become easier. Functional strength training is important in general, and even more so as a we grow older.
Q: What Are the Best Functional Strength Training Exercises?
A: There are countless functional strength exercises we can perform to improve our health and wellbeing. The following four exercises focus on strengthening common muscles used in daily life.

1. Good Morning – This is a great exercise demonstrating a hip hinge movement pattern. When you lean over to pick something off the ground, you are performing this same movement. Good mornings help provide resistance for the hamstrings to avoid unnecessary lower back stress. No weights necessary.

2. Dumbbell Reverse Lunge with Rotation – This can improve getting in and out of a car by improving rotational core strength. This can be done with one or two weights.

3. Single-Leg Dumbbell Row – This is great for balance and stability, relating to picking something up off the ground. This exercise will also strengthen the back musculature for all pulling movement patterns, such as pulling a door open. This can be done without weights or with a light handheld weight.

4. Farmers Carry – This is a great exercise for improving grip strength, but also posture. Posture is vital to optimal health, strength, and fitness. Considering all the sitting and standing we do at work all day, spine health should be at the forefront of our minds. If we properly strengthen the right muscle groups, then there should be no need to think about sitting up straight all the time. This can be done with two heavy handheld weights or one heavier handheld weight, one side at a time (be sure to do both sides to stay even). One side at a time will also help strengthen your core.

Whether a you are a seasoned-gym goer or just starting your fitness journey, functional training is an important component to add into your daily routine. Get started by practicing these four movements, with 10 to 12 repetitions, three times.

Erin Mahoney is the VP of Education at International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA), a global leader and pioneer in the personal training certification industry. For more info visit