5 Daily Functional Movements to Improve Performance

Young female athlete running.

By Kyle Decker, FAST Facility Manager, ATC, CSCS (Glendale Location).

The importance of daily functional movements becomes amplified when wanting to achieve greatness in your sport. In this article, you’ll discover essential movements to serve as the foundation for building the strength, agility, and mobility needed to excel in any sporting endeavor.

A Functional Approach to Training

For years, we were conditioned to believe we must spend countless hours in the gym doing strength training and cardio exercise to achieve most fitness goals. However, discoveries in science and fitness have been uncovered in the last decade. For example, isolation exercises that work for only one muscle group at a time have become the norm. We now understand that the body works through a chain of movements rather than one isolated movement at a time. As a result, more people have begun performing functional training programs that work the entire body.

Functional training programs offer a fantastic solution for individuals with limited time but still desire to improve their fitness and strength levels. These programs engage the muscles to elicit increased effort, resulting in heightened strength and a boosted metabolism. By committing to a routine of functional movements, athletes cultivate a mindset of continuous improvement, setting the stage for long-term success.

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5 Functional Movements

If you incorporate just five different functional movements in every workout, you engage multiple muscle groups throughout your body, infuse diversity into your routine, and effectively alleviate exercise monotony.

The five movements I recommend performing daily are: push, pull, hip-hinge, squat, and plank. Each of these movements requires multiple joints and body systems to work together, and they are also incorporated into activities we do every day. When you pick something up off the floor, you squat down to pick it up, pull it towards the body, and push it away to place it somewhere. A plank strengthens your abs, helping you maintain core control while lifting and carrying.

1. Push

Suggested exercises: push-ups, incline press, single-arm kettlebell or dumbbell press, push press

Trainer assisted client with incline press.

2. Pull

Suggested exercises: dumbbell rows, cable rows, pull-ups, lat pull downs

Young male athlete performing functional movements using cable row exercise.

3. Hip-Hinge

Suggested exercises: Kettlebell swing, Romanian deadlift, deadlift, glute bridge

Athlete performing kettlebell swing exercise.

4. Squat

Suggested exercises: Body weight squats, dumbbell goblet squats, weighted front/back squats, lunges, split squats

Young female athlete doing squats for a functional movement.

5. Plank

Suggested exercises: plank for time, plank with movement, bird dogs, side planks, heavy carries (farmer and suitcase)

Functional exercise: Women athlete performing plank exercise.

If these exercises are done correctly, every movement will work the part of the body it is focused on and other systems simultaneously. However, like most things in life, you can do too much. This program should only be followed three or four times a week: more than that would be overtraining and would not allow the body to recover fully.

Creating a Customized Functional Program

  1. Pick an exercise from each of the five functional movement categories
  2. Perform 3 to 5 sets of exercises during every workout.
  3. Follow the push, pull, hip-hinge, squat, and plank pattern
  4. Choose different exercises for movement patterns during the week.
  5. Boost your metabolism: add cardio to the end of workouts. Make it fun by doing hill sprints, rowing machines, climbing rock walls, or jumping rope.

Every total body functional workout should incorporate these five movements. This programming technique will help you spend less time at the gym, increase strength, and add variety to your activities. Find a FAST location near you to learn more about sports performance and personal training techniques today!

Foothills Performance Training is a group of locally-owned Phoenix personal training facilities that help people all over the valley reach their fitness goals. We provide hands-on, individualized training plans to clients of all ages and athletic abilities. We also offer a free assessment to evaluate your needs.

Kyle Decker

ATC, CSCS | Kyle enjoys helping athletes of all competition levels reach their goals. He has worked with the Phoenix Suns, Major League Baseball teams, and high school athletes and spent two years in Minor League Baseball. Glendale location

Foothills Acceleration and Sports Training (FAST) is empowered by Foothills Therapy Partners (FTP).