Easy Gains! 3 Functional Movements For Serious Strength


© Mark Bradfield

Functional training, most simply defined, is training that will help one perform movements in daily life. This form of training has origins in physical therapy; it is often used in post-injury rehab to ensure muscle strength is regained for basic movements. Personally, functional training has helped me achieve strength and endurance goals that I’ve set for myself this year. I associate bodybuilding with building pretty muscles that look great on stage but, as you may have read in my article last month, I’m all about obstacle races this year.

I have recently had the pleasure of training with Amer “The Hammer” Kamra ( He is an amazing trainer that focuses on functional training to ensure his clients have the basic strength to avoid injury while training for all sorts of goals. When I told Amer in 2013 that I wanted to beast through three obstacle course races, he began training me once a week in compound and Olympic lifting.

Here are three compound lifts or movements that will set you up for strength success!

A. Pull Ups

Beginner   *Use assisted pull-up machine
Start with a close grip, palms facing you. Concentrate on squeezing your lat muscles down the side of your back to pull you up. Don’t focus on using any shoulder or arm strength to complete the movement. Inhale at the bottom of the motion and exhale as you pull yourself up.
Work toward completing 10 reps x 3 sets to start.

Performing “negative” reps is a great way to build your strength. Using a bench, jump up to the top of a pull-up and slowly lower yourself down.
Aim to complete 8-10 reps x 3 sets to start.

Try using resistance bands as the last progression toward an unassisted pull-up. Once performing 10 reps becomes easy and unassisted pull-ups are a cinch, build strength by adding a weighted vest or chain with weight plates attached.

B. Deadlifts

Beginner   *Start with lower weight while perfecting form
Begin movement by holding a barbell in a standing position. Push your glutes back as you bend your knees, lowering the barbell along your legs to just below your knees. Squeeze your glutes, keep your back braced, and raise back to standing.

Complete the same movement as described above, but increase weight on the barbell.
Perform 8-10 reps x 3 sets.

One legged-deadlifts with dumbbells or barbells

C. Squats

Start with bodyweight only. Focus on pushing glutes back as you sit into the squat. Keep your knees over your toes, and keep your glutes contracted and core tight to brace your back. Practice squatting over a bench so you can tap down quickly and stand back up with a power burst.

When the squat motion becomes easy, advance to working with a barbell. Start with lower weight and move your way up to using barbell and plates. When using heavier weights, consider asking a spotter to assist you. Remember to always focus on contracting your glutes and bracing your core.

Try a front squat variation by holding the barbell on the front of your shoulders.

Robyn Baldwin is a self branded Alpha Female™. She is a former CFL cheerleader and fitness competitor, a published fitness model and writer, an eBook author, a FitFluential ambassador, a sponsored athlete with Magnum Nutraceuticals and a marketing manager. Robyn craves being busy, is a fan of women in the gym who embrace lifting weights, a yoga enthusiast, a runner, an obstacle racer, a spin instructor and fascinated with the nutritional side of health.

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