What is functional fitness?

The term functional fitness is the new, hot term in exercise. But, what is it, why do you  need it and how do you get it?

First—What is it?

Functional Fitness is the ability to perform common tasks and activities confidently and without fear of injury. For example, moving furniture; picking up luggage; lifting up a child for a hug or moving a bag of mulch from the driveway to a flower bed; all of these common activities require squatting in an unloaded position, grasping a load and then standing up. In short, they’re all examples of a deadlift. (more on this later)


Second-Why do I need it?

At some point in your life you’re going to want or need to move a piece of furniture, pick up some luggage, interact with a child or move something from point A to point B.

Now, think back about when you’ve asked a friend or family member how they hurt their back you probably heard something like:

“My neighbor and I were moving furniture.”

“I was playing with the grandkids.”

“Yard work”

Face it, life’s a contact sport. Meaning, at some point you’re going to come into contact with something you need to lift, scoot, shift,  relocate, transfer, reposition, move, raise (get we’re I’m going with this) and you need to be ready.

Third–How do I get it?

Performing exercises that mimic real life movements. To do this, I’d recommend incorporating dumbbell deadlifts into your current workout. As with any exercise program/recommendation, check with your physician to make sure this lift is appropriate for you.

This is a great exercise but don’t overdo it. Start with one set of fifteen repetitions (abbreviation 1 x 15). Make the weight challenging but you should be able to complete all repetitions with perfect form. Once, 15 repetitions isn’t challenging increase the weight by 5-10 lbs. When you increase the weight you are going to decrease the number of repetitions to 10. Why? More weight = more work! Slowly work up to 15 repetitions and then increase the weight again.

In addition to performing more reps you can also perform 2 or even 3 sets of this exercise. Once you can perform 1 set of 15 repetitions, add another set. Rest 1-2 minutes between sets. The first time you repeat a set you might find that you only get 10 reps—no problem! Your goal is increased strength with perfect form not completing 15 repetitions anyway, anyhow no matter what the cost.

Click on the link below to watch the video and then start utilizing deadlifts in your training. As always, if you have any questions let me know!

Dumbell Deadlifts: This video starts with a quick review of how to squat as this is a key component of successful deadlifts. So don’t worry if you hit the link your in the right place. Also, in regards to foot position some people find it more comfortable to have the feet pointing straight ahead so when you practicing if slightly pointing the toes outward feels uncomfortable try it with your feet pointing straight ahead.


  1. The Deadlift and Its Application to Overall Performance by NSCA Tactical Strength and Conditioning (TSAC) Report and Matt Wenning MS
  2. National Strength Training and Conditioning Association. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1994.

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