Functional Training

In recent years, hardly any type of training has been as trendy as functional training. And when something is trendy, as many people as possible want to profit from it and use the hype to make a profit. We want to explain a bit about what functional training is and what it brings you.

What is Functional Training?

Functional training has its roots in professional sports, where specific movement sequences are trained that have a direct transfer to the athlete’s sport. Hence the word part “functional”. It is based on the function that the body parts have to fulfil during the game or competition. Functional training is also frequently used in physiotherapy in order to return patients to physical exertion as quickly as possible.

Combined training

Muscles are not trained individually during functional training, but always in combination. To make it clear with a striking example: A footballer not only trains their leg extension to shoot harder, but should also train their core, hips and entire leg for more shooting power. After all, all these body parts interact with each other when the soccer player shoots the ball. This is the central approach behind Functional Training: A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Muscles are not seen as lone fighters, but as gears in a clockwork.

Training for everyday use

Since functional training often gets by with your own body weight as training resistance, it can be scaled very well and is suitable not only for professional athletes, but also for everyday athletes. It quickly brings improvements in everyday situations where the interaction of entire muscle chains plays an important role. For example, when carrying a water tray or heavy shopping bags. The main focus is on the core, i.e. the torso. This is heavily used in everyday activities and functional training forms a good basis for preventing these stresses. And as we sit more and more in our modern professional lives, Functional Training is the optimal approach to actively counteract this harmful posture.

revvll rope training functional woman gym

Is Functional Training Cardio Training?

The question can be answered quickly: No, functional training is not cardio training. However, due to its holistic claim to always train several muscle chains in combination, the strain on the cardiovascular system increases and more calories are burned than with conventional training on machines. You only have to bear in mind that workouts on machines, with guided movements, are carried out while sitting or lying down. Functional training usually takes place while standing or in active support positions (e.g. in a plank). This alone shows that training the cardiovascular system is more important in functional training.

Additional weight is not always better

Since the weights are often smaller than those used for strength training on machines, functional training is often mocked by opponents as cardio training. However, you have to keep in mind that guided exercises on machines often allow you to train with higher weights than you can move in reality. To check this, you can test how much weight you can press in the leg press and how much you can do with the barbell when squatting during your next visit to the gym. We are sure that you will be able to move a lot more with the leg press. The sheer number of weight plates says little about your functional strength.
In summary, one can say: Functional training has a stronger cardio component than machine training, because the focus is not only on pure muscle power. But to reduce it to cardio training is clearly wrong and simply sweeps the countless other positive aspects of strength, flexibility, coordination and general body awareness under the carpet.

Differences to conventional training

The differences to conventional training can be broken down into two important aspects. While with conventional training on guided machines you often only train individual muscles, with functional training muscles are always trained in combination, i.e. several muscles at the same time. This is more oriented to the real load that the athlete experiences outside of training.

Form vs. Function

The traditional equipment and machines that populate the world’s gyms are not only easy to use (allowing you to profitably optimize the t instructor-to-trainer ratio), they also focus on individual muscles. They have their origin in bodybuilding, where appearance is the most important thing. There it is crucial that each muscle is trained as perfectly as possible. The best way to achieve this is to work each muscle individually to maintain its proportions. Functional Training, on the other hand, follows the “Form follows Function” approach. The good appearance is achieved by getting your body to be optimally prepared for challenging strains.

The nervous system is trained as well

The second big difference is the instability factor. In functional training, the athlete is often brought into positions where he must actively stabilize and maintain his position. This is where the core stability comes into play, which is needed to keep the body in balance and to coordinate the upper and lower body with each other. During machine-guided training, instability is deliberately avoided because the focus is solely on the muscle. Here, too, the bodybuilding background of the machine training becomes clear. The athlete should be able to concentrate precisely on the individual muscles in order to be able to work out his overall picture perfectly. In functional training, if you like, an element of chaos is deliberately added to prepare the body for the unpredictable. This improves the interaction of the individual muscles and that of the muscles and nervous system. You’ll be better in other sports because you’ll be able to move faster over uneven terrain, react faster and more powerfully to external influences, or simply be more explosive and agile.

alphaband resistance band functional training man outdoor
aerosling suspension trainer functional training woman gym

Advantages of Functional Training

The biggest advantage of Functional Training results from the claim to prepare the athlete optimally for his sport or physical challenge. Concrete movement patterns are trained that have a direct effect on performance in the target sport or in everyday life. Ideally, the user will become a little better at the following challenges with each workout because he is physically better prepared for them. In everyday life, for example, this means that you will have fewer problems carrying two shopping bags of different weights up the stairs. For sports, for example, it means that your serve is faster in tennis and you can jump higher to the header in football. With conventional strength training you can above all strengthen your strength. This also leads to the fact that you can shoot the ball harder, but the result is here (exaggeratedly said) rather coincidence. The training focus is on increasing strength, not on better soccer skills.

Coordination and Explosiveness

In addition, machine training probably makes you stronger, but in the worst case it reduces your explosiveness because your body does not learn to effectively control the new muscle mass as a whole. Isolated muscle training turns your muscles into lone fighters who can handle the demands placed on them alone. They have to learn how to interact with other muscles and nerves. And in the communication between different muscle groups some strength is lost if the coordination is not trained. Functional training also has an advantage here, because the coordinative aspect plays a central role in training. It makes your body much more effective in movements, which makes you a bit better in sports and everyday life.

A strong core as a basis

The third major advantage of Functional Training is Core Training, which is an integral part of every workout. The torso has to do a lot of work during the complex movements, which are often supplemented by an unstable component, in order to stabilize you and to optimally ensure the transfer of force from one part of the body to the other. If you want, you can take a little test: Throw a tennis ball as far as you can with full use of your body. Now try to throw it without moving anything other than your throwing arm. At the second attempt you will never be able to throw as far as with full body effort. This shows that your trunk plays an important role in generating strength. It transports energy from your legs, hips and back to your arm so that the tennis ball can fly as far as possible. In Functional Training, your core must work continuously to perform the complex movements. Positive side aspect: Functional training optimally prevents modern everyday problems such as neck and back pain. It improves your posture and ensures that uneven power relations between your body halves are balanced.

For whom is Functional Training suitable?

In short: for everyone. The goal of making the athlete fitter in order to better master everyday challenges benefits every age group, gender and fitness level. The fact that functional training is primarily based on your own body weight means that the maximum loads are manageable. At the same time, training equipment such as sling trainers can be used to adjust the training weight very well and continuously. The fact that Functional Training is used both in physiotherapy and in top-class sport shows how versatile this training method is and that all athletes can train with Functional Training regardless of their current level of fitness. Functional Training thus makes a certain universal claim to make every athlete fitter.

Functional Training makes everyone better

Whether you want to take part in next year’s Strong Man Run, support your soccer club better with faster sprints and better one-on-one fighting, have to regenerate yourself from a surgery or want to physically survive the stressful everyday life with the children and the shopping more easily: Functional Training is the right training for you, because it systematically and specifically addresses your demands and goals and effectively makes you better.

aerosling suspension trainer functional training group lunge exercise

Functional Training Equipment

Even if functional training is often equated with bodyweight training, the training possibilities can of course be extended with some equipment. This allows you to control the training intensity better or to adapt the workout even better to the target sport. We would like to introduce the most important functional training equipment here.

Suspension Trainer

The Suspension Trainer is the most universal training device for functional training. Although the straps look simple and are easy to attach with the anchor sling, no other training device offers as many exercise and adjustment possibilities as the Suspension Trainer. The aeroSling Suspension Trainers from aerobis offer even more possibilities than static suspension trainers with their central pulley.
You can vary the difficulty of the individual exercises by the angle at which you position yourself to the suspension. For example, when doing push-ups, the exercise becomes more difficult if your body is parallel to the ground, i.e. the suspension trainer hangs at 90 degrees to the ground. The further you deviate from these 90 degrees, the easier the exercise becomes. So even absolute beginners have a chance to do their first push-ups here.

Unbeatable variety of exercises

The variety of exercises with a suspension trainer is enormous. Since you can either hold the handles with your hands (single or double) or push your feet through the loops, you can effectively train every part of your body. The continuous variation of the training angle means that you can train at exactly the intensity you need. Furthermore, it can be attached almost anywhere thanks to the anchor sling and you can start training immediately. So the Suspension Trainer offers perfect adaptation to your needs, not only in terms of the number of exercises, but also in terms of training intensity and choice of location. Not for nothing has the Suspension Trainer become synonymous with functional training.

Sandbag

Conventional training weights such as barbells and dumbbells have a major disadvantage when it comes to functional training: they are rigid and have little to do with the loads we have to move in everyday life. A shopping bag or a box of water do not distribute their weight evenly, but there are places where more weight prevails and places that are lighter. So the weight is unevenly distributed and has a certain instability.

Real weights are instable

Often the contents can also still move around, thus constantly generating new impulses while carrying, which must be balanced with muscle power. A sandbag imitates these stresses optimally, as it enables its filling to move inside. With different carrying handles, a Sandbag also offers considerably more exercise options than a barbell, as the grip can be changed continuously during training. You can also grab the sandbag by its outer shell without using the handles to make the workout even more “lifelike”.

Water as workout weight

Sandbags like the blackPack also offer the possibility to fill them with water instead of sand. This results in a completely different dimension of instability, as the water never stands still during the exercise. Then it doesn’t matter anymore that sandbags are partly loaded with much less weight than barbells.
This instability, which is central to functional training, can only be found in sandbags. And due to the different handle variants and the compact form, there are more versatile exercise possibilities than with barbells or dumbbells. You can swing the sandbag like a kettlebell, but you can also hold it by the baton handles and whirl it around your body. All these possibilities paired with the unstable weight result in great training effects for the core, which has to balance out all the stress. You should definitely have tried Sandbag training!

Resistance bands

They look simple, yet they are amazingly versatile and can be damn challenging: Resistance bands. These are endless elastic bands that offer different resistance depending on thickness and diameter. The special thing about training with resistance bands is the strength of the resistance, which increases the more you stretch them. In pulling and pushing movements, you have the maximum resistance in the end position, where the muscles are tightened to the maximum. This makes the training particularly easy on the joints and also allows fast, explosive movements.

Strength training in all directions

A great advantage that resistance bands have over dumbbells: They can be used at any angle and always produce the desired resistance. Unlike a dumbbell, the resistance does not result from gravity, but from elongation. Therefore, you can train standing up most of the time and don’t have to make do with a bench. This also shows that the core once again plays a central role in functional training with resistance bands, because it has to stabilize the body while the limbs try to work with all their strength against the resistance of the band. If you train lying on a bench with dumbbells, you don’t have to involve the core so much to master the movements cleanly.

The lightweight alternative to dumbbells

Although the resistance bands are often seen in gyms, they are usually not used to their full potential. Most of the time they are used as support for pull-ups or dips. That they can do much more, however, can be seen above all with the alphabands in connection with the Double Handle and the anchor sling. This makes strength training with resistance bands much more comfortable. The alphabands are not only a light, compact alternative to dumbbells, which you can use anywhere, but due to the described advantages they also offer a versatile functional whole body workout, which is completely independent.

Endless rope training

One skill with which one is rarely confronted is rope climbing. This is a great pity, because rope climbing is an excellent whole body exercise that combines strength, endurance and coordination in one. However, there are probably only a few gyms that can meet the necessary requirements for ceiling height (and at the same time are willing to take the risk of injury). The revvll Endless rope trainer is therefore the perfect alternative to emulate the functional upper body training of rope climbing, and also offers important advantages that greatly expand your training.

The most variable rope training

The big disadvantage of rope climbing is that the rope is eventually ended and you have to stop climbing. With the revvll you don’t have this problem. The rope continues to run until you have no strength left or your timer has run out. In addition, with its resistance settings the revvll offers the possibility to adjust the training exactly to your fitness level. So if you are still at the very beginning or undergoing physiotherapy, the resistance can be adjusted so that you can do the exercise optimally. At the highest resistance level, you have to give your all to avoid giving up prematurely. The revvll offers difficulty levels from very easy to challenging. This is where the universal claim of Functional Training mentioned at the beginning comes into play, to really make every user better. The fact that the revvll offers even more training possibilities than simulating rope climbing makes it a unique functional training equipment that is unrivalled worldwide.

Battle Ropes

Even though functional training trains complex movement patterns to train not only muscles but also muscular coordination, the training equipment does not have to be complex. On the contrary, most of the training devices presented here are extremely simple and yet offer a wide range of exercise possibilities and areas of application. Battle Ropes are an exception, because they have one main purpose: to exhaust your power.

Simple is not always easy

The training with the training ropes is as simple as you think: You grab the rope at each end and try to keep it moving as long as necessary. This usually happens in wave movements, so that the waves run to the anchor point. What sounds simple and looks simple, however, is not easy at all, if you have to move it. The ropes demand a lot from you. However, you can control the intensity of the training well by choosing a thinner and shorter rope for the beginning. The longer and thicker the rope, the harder the training will be. With each wave more weight has to be moved.
The functional training with the Battle Ropes is a challenge in the beginning, but it is a lot of fun to use it.

aerobis app fitness tracking workout

Functional Training App

The aerobis fitness app is the ideal companion for your functional training. It offers hundreds of exercises with or without weights, which are shown in detailed videos. So you always know exactly how to do an exercise. You can also track your functional training optimally. In the aerobis fitness app, record all important performance data for each exercise and then analyze your progress.

Hundreds of exercises and workouts

Ready-made workouts give you a lot of inspiration if you don’t know exactly what your workout should look like. But you can also put together your own individual workouts from the hundreds of exercises in a flash. And if your motivation isn’t quite at the level you want it to be, the badges you can earn with your workouts may provide the impetus.
The aerobis fitness app works with both Android and iOS. So you can connect it to your Apple Health or Google Fit account and get started right away. Learn more about aerobis fitness app now.

Functional training exercises & training plans

Functional training exercises and training plans are of course available directly from us. For the beginning you can prepare yourself for the new training form with pure body weight exercises. For this purpose we have developed the Bodyweight Training Plan A, which is intended for beginners. If you have already built up a certain strength, you can try the pull-ups of the Bodyweight Training Plan B. For the first weeks of training you are already well set up.

Exercise videos from aerobis

If you would like to expand your functional training with functional training equipment such as a suspension trainer or a sandbag, we also have the right help for getting started. When you purchase any aerobis product, you get exclusive access to an online DVD containing introductory videos and real-time workouts, which our coach Fabi first explains in detail and which you can then complete at the same time as our trainers. Here you will get an impression of the included videos. The online DVDs also contain downloadable training plans that will make it as easy as possible for you to get started with functional training with aerobis equipment.
For each of our products, we have also created a series of exercise videos that explain some functional training exercises. Here you will find an overview of all the exercise videos we have published so far:

All the exercises shown are of course only a fraction of what the Functional Training Equipment from aerobis can offer. The aerobis training equipment offers a large variety of exercises and the presented functional training exercises are only a first starting shot into a varied training.

aerosling suspension trainer functional training group pistol squat exercise

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The most popular articles from our Functional Training Blog

You can find more information about Functional Training in our blog. Here, friendly personal trainers and Fitness experts explain their favorite exercises or give important tips on how to get the most out of your workouts. So check back regularly or subscribe to our Newsletter to stay up to date. The following articles are only a small excerpt of all articles on the subject of functional training: