For years, split training had been the most popular workout approach even among bodybuilders. However, this training style has one major shortcoming: development of muscles that are not functional in real world situations.
For this reason, there is a growing shift towards functional training, which advocates developing a physique and muscles that are useful everywhere, not just inside the gym.
For instance, developing strong arms, back, legs and shoulders that you can use to lift, heave, pull, throw and push heavy objects. To achieve this goal, functional training focuses on developing body strength without necessarily pummeling muscle groups into submission.
Below is some more information about the benefits of focusing on functionality rather than aesthetics while in the gym.
Tactical Physique Sculpting
The term “functional” refers to practical or performance-based outcomes while “physique” is associated with the overall physical aesthetics. However, the aim of bridging these two concepts is to help enthusiasts sculpt well-toned bodies with muscles that are beneficial in real world situations. As such, expect your gym workouts to be different and enjoyable instead of feeling like torture.
Changing Your Mindset
To start with, forget all you know about bodybuilding and start with a clean slate. In particular, forget the single school of thought that champions training a single muscle group with every ounce of body strength.
Instead, start thinking about gym workouts that target the entire body.
This approach helps one develop a functional physique instead of good looks alone. To understand why this is important, consider individuals in elite police, firefighting, or Special Forces units. They must be physically fit and able to perform to the best of their abilities in different theaters of operation.
Inability to perform tasks such as carrying/lifting/lugging heavy loads can cause serious injuries or lead to loss of lives. For this reason, it is necessary to rethink training variables that determine optimal muscle growth and improving performance.
This means adopting an entire body rather than compartmentalized workout view.
Traditional Training Weaknesses
This section addresses traditional workout shortcomings. While not exhaustive, the list below covers strength related training aspects:
• Overhead press
Although overhead presses are highly beneficial, very few bodybuilders perform them. This is sad considering properly performed overhead presses target shoulder muscles as well as improve strength and stability required to execute other upper body exercises such as pullups and bench presses.
• Bodyweight strength
Another problem area is the inability to control and manipulate bodyweight. This problem stems from overuse of gym equipment such as plate-loaded machines. Unfortunately, overreliance on gym equipment has a negative impact on core body strength.
• Posterior chain
The term “posterior chain” refers to the muscles found in the posterior part of the body including glutes, hamstring, lumbar, and every back musculature category. Sadly, most gym goers focus on anterior muscles such as pecs, lats, and biceps while neglecting the posterior chain.
Such an approach causes problems such as concaving chest, overworked anterior muscles, and development of asymmetrical of shoulder muscles. Moreover, neglecting the hamstrings and glutes hinders proper development of quads and performance when executing lower body exercises such as squats.
• Unilateral training imbalance
Over utilization of gym equipment and bilateral weight movements generally cause muscle and strength development imbalances, which may result in muscle asymmetry.
• Lower body motion range
Lower body exercises such as half and quarter squats are popular in the bodybuilding community. However, packing more weight or completing more reps while only covering a limited lower body motion range is not beneficial in the real world. For the best results, you should focus on completing full range motions.
• Stabilization and core
Overreliance on seated and machine-based exercises has fueled the spread of a weak core epidemic. Remember, a strong core stabilizes the body and is the foundation of a steady truck and lower back strength.
Rectifying Traditional Training Problem Areas with New Variables
Fortunately, you can rectify the problem areas discussed above with a new set of training variables. To achieve the best results, you should focus on one variable while using the others to buttress the main one. The new variables include:
Focus on developing power such that you can handle and manipulate your bodyweight with ease.
Unlike split training, functional training advocates a low rep approach to develop and improve raw strength. In addition, aspects such as multi-joint movements are regulated carefully to suit specific workout volume goals.
Perform warm-up routines such as stretching before starting a workout session. This increases blood flow as well as primes and preps the body before you plunge into workouts. Some of the benefits of warming-up include injury prevention and performance improvements.
Hypertrophy refers to performing exercises that increase muscle size in the traditional sense. By increasing muscle size, you will aid other training aspects such as developing an impressive physique.
• Cardiovascular endurance
Unlike traditional training programs that focus on low intensity steady state (LISS) cardio workouts, functional training is based on high intensity interval training (HIIT). Exercise intensity is the most efficient way of developing a well-rounded physique.
• Stretching and motion range
This component covers stretching pre and post workout as well as completing the full range of exercise motions. Remember, the more you stretch muscles, the more they contract and grow.
• Muscle endurance
Functional training does not overlook the importance of muscle endurance because it is a key cog in the fat loss chain.
• Speed and agility
To improve speed, your training program should include interval sprinting sessions, which is an efficient way of burning excess. At the same time, sprinting will improve your reaction times and ability to manipulate bodyweight fast and accurately. Finally, sprinting is a great cardio workout.
Sculpting A New Physique
This section covers several issues related to developing a functional physique. Firstly, do not expect reprogramming your mind and adopting new beliefs that conform to functional training to be easy. In fact, shifting from a traditional training mindset requires discipline, holistic approach, consistency and fully committing to change.
After adopting a new training approach, turn your attention to improving the intensity of workouts. In particular, focus on increasing the number of reps you can complete before taking a break. The more reps you can complete, the more strength, muscle, and power you will develop.
This is in addition to burning fat to reveal sculpted muscles. To achieve this goal, create a tactile physique-training program with the following components:
• Training program that runs for about 4 to 6 weeks. Expect a few challenges during this period as your body and mind adjusts to non-traditional workouts. Avoid diverting your attention to quick fixes and solutions. Slips are normal and affect most people during this transitional period.
• Warming-up at the beginning of each training session.
• Adopt a quick training pace with rest periods in between sets. Furthermore, your training sessions should run for about one hour. It is not advisable to exceed 60 minutes because you will be simply wasting time.
• Set increasingly harder workout goals and focus on accomplishing them. This includes lifting heavier weights and completing more reps per set.
• Follow proper workout technique and form. If you find it hard to maintain proper form, use lighter weights to avoid developing a sloppy physique.
• If you cannot complete a workout session because you are too tired, it is advisable to lower the number of sets to a more realistic figure. Do not force yourself to complete reps even when it is clear your energy stores are empty. Moreover, do not lower workout intensity.
• Focus on one of the training variables discussed earlier at each workout session. You should also cover the other training variables to some degree.
• When you hit the 4 to 6 week mark, evaluate how you feel about functional training. If you do not fancy keeping up with the new way of training, it is okay to revert to training the traditional way.
• Keep up with the new training program if you are up to the challenge.
Perform each training session once per week. A weekly training program may consist of the following workout sessions:
• Monday: Day 1 – Strength
• Tuesday: Day 2 – Hypertrophy and muscular endurance
• Wednesday: Off
• Thursday: Day 3 – Power
• Friday: Day 4 – Speed and agility
• Saturday: Day 5 – Optional full body strength and conditioning workout
• Sunday: Off
Tactical Physique Training Plan
Spend a few minutes performing a few foam rolling exercises or massage targeting the quads, shoulders, hips, hams and lats.
At the start of each workout session, perform any of the following warm-up/stretching exercises:
• Inverted rows: 10 reps
• Push-ups: 20 reps
• Side lunges: 10 reps per body side
• Lying ab windshield wipers: 10 reps per body side
• Burpees: 10 reps
• Jump squats: 10 reps
• Long stride walking lunges: 20 paces
After completing your gym session, perform thorough stretching with special focus on body parts and muscle groups affected during training.
A Detailed Look at the Exercises You Can Perform Each Day
Day 1: Strength
To warm up, complete:
3 sets × 8-12 reps Barbell back squats (120-second breaks)
1 × 12 Barbell Romanian deadlifts (120-second rests)
2 × 12 Incline bench dumbbell press superset (60-second rest after each superset)
2 × 12 wide-grip pull-up.
After warming up, perform:
4 × 5 Barbell back squats (120-second rests)
4 × 5 Barbell Romanian deadlift (120-second breaks)
4 × 5-8 Incline bench dumbbell press supersets (60-second rest after each superset)
4 × 5-8 Wide-grip pull-up supersets.
You should also perform:
3 × 10-15 TRX row and plyo push-up supersets (60-second rest after each superset)
3 × 15-20 Hanging leg raise with planks (no rest).
Day 2: Hypertrophy and muscular endurance
During warm-up, perform:
2 × 12 Standing barbell shoulder presses without resting
2 × 12 Rear delt rope pulls without resting
2 × 12 Bulgarian split squats with 30-second rests
1 × 12 TRX curls with parallel bar triceps dips (no rest) superset.
For the main workout, complete:
4 × 10-15 Standing barbell shoulder presses (no rest)
4 × 10-15 Rear delt rope pulls
4 × 10 Bulgarian split squats on each leg (30-second rests)
1 × 12 TRX curls with parallel bar triceps dips.
This is in addition to:
3 × 10-15 Dumbbell deadlift with single leg calf raise (no rest)
3 × 10-15 Incline 3-way sit-up with lying leg raise (no rest)
3 Lengths of sled pull or drag or farmer’s walk (60-second rest).
Day 3: Power
Warm up routine includes:
2 × 12-15 clean and press (60-second rest)
1 × 10 jump squat/box jump (30-second rest)
1 × 10 plyo (hand clap) push-up (30-second rest)
1 × 12 bent-over barbell or dumbbell row (60-second rest)
Main workout would include:
3 × 5-8 clean and press (60-second rest)
4 × 10 jump squat/box jump (30-second rest)
3 lengths walking lunge (60-second rest)
3 × 5-8 plyo (hand-clap) push-up (30-second rest)
3 × 5-8 single arm dumbbell or kettlebell flat bench press (60-second rest)
3 × 5-8 bent-over barbell or dumbbell row (60-second rest)
3-way plank (1 alternating set every 10-seconds/1-2 minutes).
Finish with 8 sprint intervals with one-minute rests.
Day 4: Speed and agility
A 3-minute jog
1 × 12 reverse-grip chin-ups with flat bench barbell press
After this, perform:
5 rounds of full-speed running (at least 10 yards) with 60-120-second rests
3 × 5 (each direction) front, side, side and reverse weighted goblet grip (120-second rests)
3 × 12 seated calf raise (30-second rest)
You should also perform:
3 × 8-12 reverse-grip chin-up with flat bench barbell press superset (60-second rest)
3 × 8-12 dumbbell shrug with hyperextension superset (60-second rest)
3 × 15-20 floor crunch with bent-knee hanging leg raise (no rest).
Day 5: Optional full body strength and conditioning workout
Push-ups (20 reps)
Prisoner squats (20 reps)
Pull-ups (10 reps)
Walking or stationary lunge (10 each leg)
Triceps bench or parallel bar dip (10 reps)
Ab crunches (20 reps)
If you want to develop a well-sculpted physique and pack muscles that are useful in the real world, consider adopting and following a workout program based on functional training.
This new training approach emphasizes performing exercises that target all body parts rather than singling out specific muscle groups. Furthermore, this training approach advocates warming up pre and post-workout to prevent injuries and improve performance across board.