Strength Training – Functional v Traditional Strength Training

 In Exercise and Health

To understand or define functional strength training (FST) the clue is in the name. It is, as it suggests, functional i.e. it serves the purpose for which it is intended. By that I mean it is designed to improve your performance of daily physical tasks or sports specific activities with ease, efficiency, strength, control and without risk of pain of injury.

FST exercises are full-body integrated movements. Upper body actions are performed in conjunction with the lower body. There is no use of seats and benches. Therefore we have to use the smaller stabilizing muscles that do not get attention in traditional strength training.

With FST we can only train the big muscles to the extent that the little muscles can keep up. It is not simply about how much you can push or move but with how much control you can do it. ‘You can’t fire a canon from a canoe.’

FST promotes movement and rotation and develops dynamic stability i.e. ability to maintain joint control throughout a full range of motion under varying weight conditions. Not rigidity but optimal motion control.

People training at elastic rope in gym

Now that we have defined FST a little more let’s look at a direct comparison between Functional and Traditional strength training.



– Focus on movements

– Rarely isolation exercises

– Commonly whole body movements

– Always requires dynamic stability

– Supports activities of daily living and

sporting activity

– Movements in multiple planes

– Enriches balance and proprioception

– Requires coordination and


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– Focuses on single muscle groups and

isolation exercises

– Rarely whole body movements

– Rarely requires dynamic stability

– Rarely supports everyday activities or

sporting movements

– Rarely involves trunk rotation

– Movements typically in a single plane of


– Rarely effects balance or proprioception

– Rarely requires co-ordination.


If you would like to learn more about setting up a FST program or if you are unsure what to do when you walk into a gym Peter is a qualified personal trainer and has a keen interest in functional strength training he will empower you with the knowledge to take your gym workouts to another level. These exercises will help you to improve strength, power, core control and dynamic stability. You can contact Peter by emailing him on


Peter Ledwidge
Pilates Instructor and Fitness Coach

Related Articles:

1. Why Is Body Mobility So Important? HERE

2. Pain and Discomfort in Exercise – When to Push On and When to Stop HERE


Wayne Rodgers, Sports Physiotherapist, B. App. Sc., Grad. Dip. Sports Physio.

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