Can Functional Training Build Muscle?

Woman performing deadlifts, one of the best functional exercises for whole-body strength and building muscles.

Functional exercises focus on full-body movements, like jumping jacks, instead of isolating only leg muscles while doing it on a leg press machine.

In addition to making you stronger, functional training trains multiple muscle groups in a single exercise, which promotes balance and endurance. As a result, you develop strength holistically and make your body work as a single unit.

Functional training exercises, and functional movement in general, are essential for improving your quality of life, but are they enough to build muscles?

Can Functional Training Build Muscle?

Yes, functional training can build muscle. Functional training uses different compound movements to build functional strength and teach your body how to function as a single unit while also promoting muscle growth.

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Quick Summary

  • Functional training focuses on exercises you can implement in your everyday life outside the gym.
  • You can improve your overall strength by including functional training in your routine.
  • A functional training session promotes balance and endurance.
  • Functional training helps everybody, even older people (increased bone density and body’s functional strength).

How Does Functional Training Build Muscle?

Functional training builds muscle by strengthening stabilizer muscles that support larger muscle movements.

Functional fitness training helps individuals build muscle, but because the required movements involve more muscles, the results might be less noticeable. 

As your body becomes stronger, you’re more likely to see toning and slimming, with specific muscles becoming more defined. 

The equipment for functional strength training is also more diverse.

You can incorporate bodyweight, dumbbells, kettlebells, ropes, resistance bands, or any combination of these in a functional workout.

Simple exercises like squats, pushups, and sprinting combine several muscle groups with building total-body strength.

Additionally, you can include any of these basic exercises with your body weight into much more challenging ones like burpees, pullups, or wall handstand pushups.

Functional training develops stabilizer muscles that support everyday movements, in contrast to the traditional strength training, which strives only to increase muscle volume and lay a solid foundation for your muscles to evolve.

Consider reading the following article on the topic of functional vs. conventional strength training:

Plus, before you add more muscle to your body, it adjusts any misalignments, something which regular weight training fails to do.

You can improve your overall strength by including functional training in your routine.

That will also keep you at your best in the real world, where you can implement the growth of these muscle groups, like when you need to run to catch a bus or lift a heavy object in your apartment.

“Think of your training as a vehicle to improve performance, not just improve strength.” – Michael Boyle, Strength and Conditioning and Strength Training Consultant

5 Benefits of Functional Training

There are plenty of benefits to functional training.

Although there are plenty of functional training benefits, here is the list of five main advantages of this type of training for building muscle.

1. Builds Strength

Functional movement training builds strength, speed, muscle mass, power, stability, and agility and improves muscular endurance and flexibility.

You can mix any number of functional movements, such as planks, pushups, pullups, cleans, and squats, to create an effective functional workout.

Try to concentrate most of your sessions on these total-body movements and general movement patterns (push, pull, hip-hinge, knee-bend) while interspersing heavier weights and more repetitions throughout the week.

In order to obtain a leaner, slimmer, more athletic-looking figure, functional training works on several muscle groups simultaneously.

Since their actions include the whole body, many athletes have fantastic bodies [1].

2. Improves Stability

When it comes to being able to lift and even just move effectively, stability is crucial.

Primary movers and stabilizers are the two kinds of muscles that compose your body and contribute throughout all movements.

The “large” muscles that carry out a movement are called primary movers.

Consider your biceps/triceps, chest muscles, or quadriceps.

On the opposite side, stabilizer muscles are minor muscles that help the primary movers while they carry out a movement.

In a more literal sense, while you’re lifting or dragging heavy objects, your shoulder’s stabilizer muscles keep your shoulder joint stable.

The stronger your stabilizer muscles get, the smaller the risk of injuring your joints [2].

Here are some basic balance exercises to check your stability, such as:

  • Are you able to walk from heel to toe?
  • Are you able to touch your toes?
  • Can you stand on one leg for 60 seconds with no difficulty?

3. Improves Mobility

Mobility is to move your joints through the full range of motion.

Functional movements emphasize full-body, holistic activities, constantly moving your joints through their full range.

Consider it this way: When you perform a static exercise, like an overhead triceps stretch with dumbbells, your joints only move in the downward and upward directions (flexion/extension).

The same is true for static squats and really anything else that requires workout equipment.

People occasionally spend more time in their cozy homes in stationary activities, such as spending hours in front of a TV, computer, or phone without moving.

This could result in a reduced range of motion, which could hurt our bodies and joints. This is why watching a movie passively for two hours may cause back pain.

4. Injury Prevention/Reduction

Injury prevention is a significant benefit of functional training for everybody, even sports athletes [3].

Unlike exercises that require you to lift heavy weights, which may ultimately increase the risk of injury accruing, functional strength training may ultimately reduce the risk of injury.

The movement in training is functional, meaning it is in human nature to do such activities.

This will integrate and teach all the muscles to work together in a perfect machine called the human body and not isolate them to work independently.

Doing this may lower the chance of getting injured.

An excellent example is a squat, which works various muscle groups, including the smaller ones we require for stability, and which we perform regularly.

In your day-to-day life, you can see the benefits when cleaning the apartment and needing to squat down to clean the floor.

5. Improves Function

Functional training can improve the overall function of your body and even change the body composition by inducing muscle growth and reducing fat.

The human body best operates when it has to move consistently.

By boosting endurance and muscle strength, you can develop stability in your body, allowing you to complete your everyday tasks much more efficiently than before.

These exercises offer an accessible and practical form of fitness since they center around the motions that can be done in day-to-day life.

Is this something that is appealing to everyone, even older people?

These workouts provide a  practical style of fitness that is appealing to everyone. You all need to be able to move your body effortlessly, no matter your fitness level or age [4].


How Many Times a Week Should I Do Functional Training?

You should do functional training at least 2-3 times each week. You can do functional training workouts frequently without worrying about damage because the movements match your daily tasks.

Does Functional Training Increase Testosterone?

Yes, functional training increases testosterone. The type of training you engage in will determine how much time it takes and how much testosterone levels increase.

Does Functional Training Make You Lean?

Yes, functional training makes you lean. The reason why functional training is so practical is the fact that these are compound movements, meaning that more than one muscle group is working at once. This is why it burns more calories and is efficient.

Why Is Functional Training Important?

The modern age forces us to sit a lot during the day, but we as humans were born to move in numerous ways.

No matter the circumstances, starting with functional training is never too late. There are always some things we can still improve. 

People of all fitness levels and ages are training to improve their health and mobility.

Even 65+ older men and women enjoy going to the gym and being able to play with their grandkids.

Let us know in the comments below your favorite functional exercise for building muscles and why.

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Vanja Vukas

Student at the Faculty of Sport and Physical Education and a hardcore functional training enthusiast. Heavily inspired by Michael Boyle, a strength & conditioning specialist, and by Adam Sinicki, the founder of Bioneer. Vanja believes that transitioning to a movement-based exercise program can drastically improve your fitness, balance out your muscles, and support your current lifestyle.

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