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More like, let’s shun the most popular, foundational exercises for unnecessarily “creative” and complicated movements. People will use bands, kettlebells, TRX trainers, tractor tires, flaming Swiss balls, rusty tools from an old shed (and whatever else is handy), perhaps even combining more than one of them into an awkward, multi-step movement that would make most America’s Got Talent acts roll their eyes.
So, right off the bat, we’d like to get something straight: Functional fitness isn’t about things you normally don’t do. Instead, it’s all about getting better at the types of things you do every day. We all squat, lunge and hinge at the hips. We’ll push, pull and carry objects. And yes, we’ll often also rotate in one direction or the other while doing so.
The best functional workouts, then, incorporate these simple motions. Nothing should feel all that foreign to you when you’re doing a well-designed functional session. That was the driving philosophy of Oxygen Elite Ambassador Josefine Holmberg, a celebrity trainer, online coach and NPC Bikini competitor based in Los Angeles (Instagram @holmbergjosefine) when she created the following five-move bodyweight-only routine.
“The following is my go-to workout when I travel and I don’t have access to any equipment because it targets all the main muscle groups in the body,” she says. “It can be performed either ‘bodybuilding’ style, doing three to four sets of eight to 20 reps each, or if you want to add a cardio element and pump your heart rate up a little, make it an AMRAP-type approach — setting a timer for 20 minutes and then rotating between the five movements, completing as many rounds as possible. I tend to switch between the two styles, depending on how much time I have and if I’m in a muscle-building bulking phase or pre-contest shredding phase.”
Equipment Required: Exercise mat (if you’d like one); you also can use a weighted vest if you’re an advanced athlete looking for an extra challenge.
Josefine Holmberg’s 20-Minute Total-Body AMRAP Circuit
Set a timer for 20 minutes and do as many rounds as possible of the following five exercises:
|Sumo Squat to Lunge||16 (8 each side)|
Josefine Holmberg’s Total-Body Functional Muscle Routine
Do the following five exercises bodybuilding style. Complete all sets and reps of one movement at a time, resting 30 to 60 seconds between sets:
|Down Up||4||30-60 sec|
|Sumo Squat to Lunge||4||8 (per leg)|
|Bicycle Crunch||4||30-60 seconds|
How-To: Begin in a standing athletic-ready position, feet about shoulder-width apart. From here, bend your knees and lower your hips, putting your hands on the floor just outside your knees. Kick your legs out behind you to assume a plank position, with your body straight from head to heel. Quickly reverse the motion to bring your feet back under your hips and stand up.
Holmberg’s Pointers: “You’re only in the plank position for a brief moment, but in that time, you want to keep your arms straight and don’t let your hips collapse toward the floor.”
Sumo Squat to Lunge
How-To: Get into a sumo-squat position with your legs a few inches wider than shoulder width, feet pointed out slightly. Lower yourself into a deep squat to the point at which your thighs are parallel to the floor, keeping your torso upright throughout — your arms can extend out in front of you for balance, or you can keep your hands on your hips.
Drive through your quads, hamstrings and glutes to return to a standing position, then step back into a lunge with your right foot back and left foot remaining forward — making sure you’re still in a wider “sumo” stance when you do so — and lower yourself into a full lunge. Drive back up to the start, do another sumo squat and then step back with your left leg into a lunge. Continue the squat-to-lunge-to-squat-to-lunge pattern for the duration of the set.
Holmberg’s Pointers: “It’s important that your feet are the same width apart for the squat and for the lunge — your back foot on the lunge should be outside shoulder width when you step back. Don’t let that back knee touch the floor, and take a deep enough step back that the rear leg is straight in the lowermost lunge position.”
How-To: Lie prone on the floor. Keep your head neutral as you look down to the floor, legs straight and hip-width apart, and toes and thighs on the floor. Your arms should be outstretched overhead with your hands also on the floor.
From here, flex your glutes and lower back to lift your lower body and upper body off the floor so that you’re balancing on your hips and stomach while also bringing your elbows down toward your hips without letting your hands touch the floor. Your hands will be next to your shoulders in the bottom position. Hold the fully balanced, flexed position for a slow one-count, then return to the start and repeat.
Holmberg’s Pointers: “Think about driving your elbows down toward your hips. If it helps, you can hold a long dowel rod in both hands, which mimics as if you’re at a standard pulldown machine.”
How-To: Assume a pike position, balanced on your toes and your hands with your hips elevated so that your body forms a reverse V. You’ll keep your knees straight as you bend at your elbows to carefully lower your forehead toward the floor, getting it as close as you can manage without touching down. Reverse the motion by extending your elbows, then repeat.
Holmberg’s Pointers: “Instead of allowing your elbows to point straight out when you’re lowering yourself, tuck them so they are bending at an angle 45 degrees to your torso — this will help target the pectoral muscles instead of putting all the pressure on the smaller triceps muscles. Think about maintaining the muscular tension in your chest, and come as close to the floor as possible without losing that tension. If you’re struggling to learn the motion, try them on your knees first to build some strength over time.”
How-To: Lie down, facing upright with your lower back flattened to the floor. Place your hands lightly behind your head, elbows pointed out, and elevate your legs with your knees bent to 90 degrees. From this position, you’ll simultaneously straighten one knee as you bend the other, all the while twisting your upper body so that you bring your right elbow to your bent left knee and vice versa. Once to each side equals one full rep.
Holmberg’s Pointers: “Intent matters here — you want to focus on engaging your core muscles to reach your opposite knee with your elbow and not simply moving the elbow closer. Work on not letting your shoulder blades sag to the floor while also keeping your lower back in full contact with the floor throughout each set.”