13 Best Functional Exercises of All Time

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Sure, there are more than 13 great exercises, and they’ll depend on what your exact goals are, but we’re covering one group of exercises that works every part of your body, covers each category from Pull, Push, Lift to Press exercises, and includes attributes for cardio, strength, flexibility plus explosiveness.

 

THE ONLY THIRTEEN EXERCISES YOU’LL EVER NEED

This list has been created by me and Anna, together we have a combined fitness experience of more than 30+ years, these are THE exercises that we use for our clients, and also for our own training.

 

No machines involved! You only require one Olympic Barbell, Sandbag or two Kettlebells to perform the whole set of exercises.

 

If you had only one set of exercises to work with for the rest of your life, one set that would work the whole body, and each one only targeting a specific muscle group, then this would be it! The beauty is that they’re all purely functional exercises.

 

  1. Hip Hinge Dead Lift Olympic Barbell, Sandbag or Kettlebell
    Two Handed Kettlebell Swing Kettlebell
  2. Suitcase Dead Lift Olympic Barbell, Sandbag or Kettlebell
  3. Sumo Squat Dead Lift Olympic Barbell, Sandbag or Kettlebell
    Pistol Squat Bodyweight or Kettlebell
  4. Pull-up Bodyweight or Kettlebell
  5. Chin-up Bodyweight or Kettlebell
  6. Chest Push-up Bodyweight or Sandbag
  7. Tricep Push-up Bodyweight or Sandbag
  8. High Plank Bodyweight or Sandbag
  9. Jumping Burpee Bodyweight
  10. Wide Grip Bent-Over-Rows Olympic Barbell, Sandbag or Kettlebell
  11. Close Inverted Grip Bent-Over-Rows Olympic Barbell, Sandbag or Kettlebell
  12. Shoulder Press Olympic Barbell, Sandbag or Kettlebell
  13. Bent Side Press Kettlebell

Note: other equipment can be used to perform the exercises, however, we chose three pieces of equipment to work with, see intro of this article. More muscles than listed are involved in each exercise, however, we’ve chosen each exercise to make sure that the whole as a group has targeted each big muscle group in the body.

1. Hip Hinge Dead Lift

Targets the hamstrings, glutes (gluteus maximus) and erector spinea.

Can be performed with Olympic Barbell, Sandbag or Kettlebell.

Erector spinae HamstringsGlutes

More info on the Dead Lift here and a video about the Dead Lift here. When you’ve mastered this exercise try the Single Leg HHDL variation!

A video about the HHDL from Schwarzenegger.com.

1. Two Handed Kettlebell Swing

Sharing number 1 with the HHDL. As a qualified and passionate Kettlebell Trainer I could not look passed the two handed kettlebell swing. It’s very similar to the Dead Lift in regards to movement and muscles used, but more explosive. If you want to get some more Cardio in, then swap the HHDL for the Swing sometimes.

Is performed with a Kettlebell.

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2. Suitcase Dead Lift

Targets the upper traps and obliques.

Can be performed with Olympic Barbell, Sandbag or Kettlebell.

Upper trapeziusExternal obliques Suitcase dead lift

3. Sumo Squat Dead Lift

Targets the quads, abductors and adductors.

Can be performed with Olympic Barbell, Sandbag or Kettlebell.

quadricepsabductorssumo-squat-dead-lift

3. Pistol Squat

There is some overlapping with the Sumo and Pistol, but they’re both so great that they share the number three spot together. This is such a great exercise, it almost makes me cry that I can’t put it the list of functional exercises.

Can be performed with Bodyweight or Kettlebell.

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4. Pull-up

Targets the lats and lower traps.

Can be performed with Bodyweight or a dipping belt and Kettlebell for added weight.

pull-up

5. Chin-up

Targets the biceps.

Can be performed with Bodyweight or a dipping belt and Kettlebell for added weight.

chin-up

6. Chest Push-up

Targets the pecs.

Can be performed with Bodyweight or Sandbag as added weight.

Chest push-up

7. Tricep Push-up

Targets the triceps.

Can be performed with Bodyweight or Sandbag as added weight.

Tricep pushups

8. High Plank

Targets the core muscles through isometric contraction.

Can be performed with Bodyweight or Sandbag as added weight.

9. Jumping Burpee

Targets the calves, core, also covers your cardio and explosiveness.

Is performed using Bodyweight.

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10. Wide Grip Bent-Over-Rows

Targets rhomboids and middle traps.

Can be performed with Olympic Barbell, Sandbag or Kettlebell.

Rhomboidswide-grip-bent-over-rows

11. Close Inverted Grip Bent-Over-Rows

Targets rear delts (posterior deltoids).

Can be performed with Olympic Barbell, Sandbag or Kettlebell.

Anterior deltoidreverse-close-grip-bent-over-rows-300x150

The following video is a good one to watch as most exercises are included in the list.

12. Shoulder Press

Targets front delts (anterior deltoids).

Can be performed with Olympic Barbell, Sandbag or Kettlebell.

kettlebell-shoulder-press

13. Bent Side Press

Targets side delts (lateral deltoids).

Is performed with a Kettlebell.

1274554

Also try this with a bottoms up grip

If you like this list, please share it. Ask any questions below if you want more information on each of the exercises.
WHY SO SPECIFIC WITH EXERCISE NAMING?
A Dead Lift can be performed in many ways, there is not just one DEADLIFT.

 


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