The BEST Functional Training Article on the MF’n Interweb

featured image: MadisonLapre

A few things so you can’t be all like: “Sean, I saw blah blah blah…” and I don’t have to be all like: “Neat. You’re not coming to my B-day party. Now, scram, Chump.”

  • It would be impossible to write this article if Mike Boyle didn’t cut the first Functional Training stone 15-the-fuck-years ago.
  • Tony Gentilecore’s (aka for real word-sorcerer) content has been highly influential for me. His work was the first in the industry that I could relate to on a unique level. Tony props.
  • Yes, my soapbox is plenty sturdy. With that said, if any of this does offend you I really am sorry. I do have a soul and believe that most people in the fitness industry have the right intentions. I understand that people getting a workout in is better than them doing nothing, but I am also a bit tired of fitness professionals leaning on that as an excuse to design what-ever-the-shit workouts.
  • I can’t draw, I know.

The term “Functional Training” has been fucked 6-ways toward Wednesday.

Screen Shot 2017-09-24 at 2.30.59 PM.png
I just figured that’s what a ‘Wednesday’ would look like…?


I’m sick of it, you’re sick of it, now let’s take it back.

In fact, you can find “functional” everything now. Below are actual things:

  • Functional chiropractors
  • Functional nutrition
  • Functional coffee
  • Functional physical therapy
  • Functional medicine
  • Functional massage therapy
  • Again, these are actual things.
  • Functional underwater basket weaving w/ free Mai Tais

Ok, that last one was a lie, but that shit wouldn’t surprise me with the way that word is being pimped out like a ride on MTV.

Let’s get a few things clear before we un-fuck the term:

a) Just because you are in shape does not make you a fitness professional.

b) Just because you throw medicine balls, jump on shit, use barbells, and tie bands to people’s knees does NOT make the training functional. In fact, you are scaring people, likely injuring them, and letting the terrorists win. Taking a perfectly good exercise and adding 9 BOSU Balls to it doesn’t make it better. It makes it worse. Less is more.



c) Taking 1000.09 (+/- 13) exercises and doing them for time is not a health/wellness/fitness program, it is an extreme sport which means that a calculated assumed risk is a part of the equation just like dropping in on a 14-foot halfpipe in the X-Games is cool, there is an assumed risk. That type of workout should not be marketed to or executed by people who are looking for a general fitness experience. Getting hurt should never be a part of training. Mike Boyle says that is the same thing as saying that getting hit by a car is a part of crossing the road, and I would have to agree.

I am beginning to see that the term ‘Functional Training’ becoming laughable amongst not only the fitness community but also throughout society in general. In my not-so-humble opinion that is because too many fitness professionals highlighted the “look what I can do” exercises. Too many of them said to their clients “I can throw the barbell above my head 36 times in a row so you should too” -or- “I can quadruple jump this high which is cool” -or- “I can attach a band to my leg and do this so you should too.” We cannot live out our personal fitness journey and/or circus acts through our clients.

The program should be one that actually gets them to where they want to go and to be able to effectively do this the fitness professional needs to study the best minds and practices in the industry. Being the ego-centric “I’m in great shape and I did it using exercises that look really cool and you’re going to be just like me” trainer is bullshit. Respectfully, fuck your ego. The job is to help people not to help yourself by validating your awesomeness through other people’s slim chance of getting in shape based off of your made-up bogus workout.

Functional training and fitness, in general, is the best industry in the entire world and we have a responsibility to up the ante of our reputation. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather run through a wall of spiders before I see the outlandish practices in the industry become the norm.

F spiders.

So, what is Functional Training then?

A good functional training program should make you more athletic. This means that your joints move properly, you’re symmetrically strong, you are fast, and you have a good cardiovascular system (SUPER SMART CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH ARTICLE).

Ohhh. If you tune-in your nutrition, the awesome side effect is that you’ll look a lot more athletic. It’s science.

I’m not the nutrition guy, but HE is…and so is HE.

A more athletic person is in a better place to live a better life. They are better professionals because they aren’t distracted by back pain or by how their stomach rolls over their pants when they sit down. Their minds tend to be healthier due to reduced stress from their new healthy habits. They are a better spouse because they are more productive at work which or generally happier. They are better parents because they can keep up with their kids and enjoy active things. They are generally better friends, humans, and back-flippers.

So, what’s involved in a good program?

From 30,000 ft up:

  1. Movement Screen (so that you know what to load and not to load)
  2. Warm up (Foam roll, dynamic flexibility, ankle/hip/shoulder mobility)
  3. Correctives (the ones that actually correct something not the weighted shoulder circle thingger-mah-jiggers that tank top beer gut guy does before 1/4 repping a bench press. Ouch. Get some, guy.)
  4. Power/Speed development (Upper and Lower body)
  5. Strength (Push, Pull, Hinge, Squat, Core)
  6. Conditioning (Sprint, rest, repeat)

Or you can just check out Thrive and get some speed.

Oh, come on, you knew I couldn’t get through an entire article without 1 plug for the best program on earth. Ok 2…2 plugs.

We have to stop solely trying to describe functional training as awesome because it will help you in life with carrying groceries or get something out of a high cabinet. Can a good training program do these things? Yes. Can it be an important benefit for some people? Yes. But, is it enough to really grasp the fitness market? No way. It’s not sexy enough and at some point, we have to meet the market where they actually are vs where we think they are. So, what about the people who simply want weight loss or to look better naked (slash 99% of the market), is “carrying groceries better” really something that you think will get them excited?

I’ve got your back.

A good functional training program can be sexy if described AND executed properly. It can help these people by:

  • If you get hurt during the workout, good luck staying consistent with it and without consistency, there is no chance that someone will be able to change their body.
  • A good program should focus on important lifts in enough frequency so that someone can actually get good at them. Getting good at a lift means that you’ll get stronger in that lift which will create change in how you look.

P.s. if you can include having the ability to SPEAK CLIENT you’ll be even cooler. Certified cooler even. So cool.

I’m assuming that most of my readers are fitness professionals (or my mom. Hi mom) but if you happen to stumble across this one guy’s effort in helping to get some good info out there as a regular gym goer please hire a professional if you want to do this right. If this “professional” does not give you a movement screen and is unable to educate you on the workout in a way that you understand, find a new one.

There is a fine line between a good functional training program and a chaotic mess of intensity with barbells and ropes.

Here’s the line.


^ Nice, right? I call it “Line on a Monday” and think it has a lot of artistic depth. 

Oooook. Here’s the line.

Can a good functional training program help you pick up groceries or your kids better? Yup.

Can it keep you living a more athletic life for longer i.e. not feel as old? Yup.

Those are all good things, but what if you don’t give a hoot about those things? What if you want to look better? Can a good functional program give you that? Yup.

My friend and actual badass Kevin Carr mentioned in this article that:

Strength is a skill, and to get better at that skill you have to do it often…and when you get good at it , you get stronger.

Kevin, you’re so wise. Like a miniature Buddha covered in hair. 

So, the reality is that a good functional training program follows these rules (simple, but complex in execution) and never deviates:

  1. Don’t get hurt in the gym
  2. Choose exercises that help reduce the risk of injury outside of the gym
  3. Improve performance/look


So, to look better you need a program that gets you stronger, influences nutritional adjustments, and KEEPS YOU CONSISTENT.

As an example, a good program will focus on a warm-up that actually creates sufficient movement so that when you do strength related exercises you do it in a way that allows you to get stronger without blowing out your joints.

When you’re hurt, you don’t workout. That makes it the likely the most important piece of a good program and a good program WILL get you in shape. Most people workout to improve some aspect of their life. The sexy part is actually achieving that. The sexy part isn’t your Bosu Rope Shoulder Press thing-thing. There’s the line.



Oooooooo look a kettlebell. image: MadisonLapre


Will that great guy in the picture get super buff shoulders from that exercise? No…

Will it create a platform of stability so that when he goes to bench press heavy weight it is more effective? YES.

Would that exercise offer a weight loss client some resistance as a strength training exercise and keep her shoulders healthy to reduce the risk of injury and overall quitting the gym? YES

Will it help someone carry a kid in one hand and the groceries in the other? YES

Functional Training experts catch a lot of BS in the industry:

“They never actually lift”

“They spend too much time warming up”

“Faom rollers won’t give you a six-pack, bruh” *Foam, they just usually misspell things and I wanted you to get the full effect. I’m here to help you.

A good functional training program requires a lot of strength work, but we want to do it in a way that sets people up for long-term success as opposed to the short-term “Wow that workout was neat and mah back hurts.” Because we want someone to live their best life and they can’t do that if their shoulder always hurts when they play with their kid so they stop doing that…or they are thinking about how their fat roll feels on top of their belt while they are supposed to be engaged in an important meeting…or their back hurts so bad that they have to take a week off from work…or they never have the body that they want which makes them a more irritable spouse.

Real life, G.

A good program that keeps people consistent is a really good way of preventing all of the above. That should be the norm in the industry.



“My friend, Sarah, said that I need to switch it up.” I’m assuming that Sarah has read a total of 19 magazine articles and completed 3-months of a program that sounds like “free-ninety-ex”. Don’t listen to Sarah or how her Kale Klense is the bee’s knees.

“I heard that stretching is bad for you” You heard wrong.

“Yoga is all that my yoga instructor said I need to be in shape.” Puppies are great, but if all of your friends are puppies, then your social life would be kinda weird. And awesome. Ok. Yoga has a lot of really great things about it, but it is not a complete program. 

“Sarah said that I should run to get in shape.” Do I need to tell you about Sarah again?

“My friend said that there is this colorful fruit theoretical program that invented EPOC…aka I will lose fat, shouldn’t I just do that?” EPOC has been around for 10,000 years, they didn’t invent it. Yes, it is legit and highly beneficial, but it cannot be the entire program nor is it something that prioritizes reducing the risk of injury. The lights are cool though. p.s. Didn’t we already talk about Sarah?



Thanks for reading and Kaizen on, Beast



Sean is a part of the startup team with MBSC Thrive since 2010. We license the MBSC Program and provide business and operations systems in close to 40 locations across the world. I do a lot on the business and operations side, but the most important role that I have is to make sure that the program in all of our locations is as good as it is at MBSC and that the coach’s culture and coaching ability is top-notch. Coffee. Coaching. Vibes. Dreams.


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