Functional Fitness

May 17, 2012
Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS

Award-winning nutritionist and New York Times bestselling author.

Working out for the real world.

I have been hearing so much about this “new wave” in exercise that I turned to my favorite fitness guru—the effervescent and ageless Joanie Greggains, who co-wrote the Fat Flush Fitness Plan with me. Joanie was the pioneer of TV workouts with her long-running TV Exercise Show, Morning Stretch and became a household word with her popular #1 Talk-Radio show, The Joanie Greggains Show on KGO Radio in the Bay Area. Add another 15 Exercise Videos which earned her 9 Gold and 6 Platinum Videocassette Awards and you can see why I always turn to Joanie for her expert and inspiring advice.

So Joanie, tell me all about functional fitness?


Joanie Greggains:

Functional Fitness is training for life. What good are abs of steel if you can’t run for a bus without knee pain, or pick up your child without hurting your back. Functional Fitness exercises train your muscles to help you do everyday activities safely and efficiently.

Functional Fitness isn’t really new.  Before the industrial nation took hold we were a nation of farmers; so, don’t you think 12 hour days performing all sorts of total body movement patterns was functional fitness—their lives depended on it.  It’s all about preparing real people to handle real life situations. Functional Fitness describes a process, not an end result. It’s 100% relative to your specific needs.

I don’t want you to confuse Functional Fitness with sports specific preparation. Each sport has intricate skills that need to be met. Functional Fitness is about teaching all your muscles to work together rather than isolating them to work independently.

Here’s an example: Let’s say you had a great workout, you bench pressed more weight than ever before, and pulled enough weight on the seated rowing machine to set a record.

Fast forward to the next day…you lift a 40 pound suitcase to carry it downstairs—and you throw your back out.

How did this happen? Looks like you’re not paying enough attention to your Functional Fitness. You might be toned, tight, looking good, but are you ready to lift your child out of the car or carry the groceries upstairs?

The key to Functional Fitness is integration. It’s about teaching the muscles to work together rather than isolating them to work independently. Using various muscles in the upper and lower body at the same time emphasizes core stability and prepares them for daily tasks by simulating common movements you might do at home, at work or in sports. For example a squat to a bicep curl is a functional exercise because it trains the muscles used when you pick up an object from the floor or table. By training your muscles to work the way they do in everyday tasks, you prepare your body to perform well in a variety of common situations.

Functional Fitness often involves standing on your feet while supporting and stabilizing all your body weight on your own without the help of a machine (strong core). Functional Fitness trains the body as a whole, and as a result balance, coordination, flexibility, power agility and strength improve. That way when you have to hoist that heavy bag into the overhead bin on an airplane you won’t throw your back out.

To be effective, a Functional Fitness exercise program should include a number of different elements, which you can adapt to your individual needs or goals:


  • Program based on functional tasks—Directed to making everyday activities easier
  • Integrated Program—Variety of exercises that work on flexibility, core, balance, strength and power
  • Progressive Training—Steadily increases the difficulty of a program
  • Equipment can be rubber fitness balls, yoga foam blocks, balancing cushions, rebounders, stability balls—everytime the stability ball moves, to stay on it you have to activate muscles deep in your back, your abdominal and hips.


The Payoff
As you add more functional exercises to your workout, you will see improvements in how you look, improvements in your ability to perform everyday activities, and improvement in your quality of life! Remember no matter what, “never lose your sense of humor!”

One more thing—If you’re over 40, haven’t exercised for a while or have health problems, I suggest you check with your doctor before starting any new exercise program—same goes if you are pregnant.


Functional Fitness Exercise Programs can be found in the following:

The Fat Flush Fitness Plan by Ann Louise Gittleman and Joanie Greggains

Sculpt and Stretch DVD

One on One DVD

Follow Joanie on Twitter:!/joaniegreggains

Learn more about Joanie at

Related Articles and Podcasts

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, is an award-winning New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty books including The Fat Flush Plan series and her latest book, Radical Metabolism. She’s been rewriting the rules of nutrition for more than 40 years and is internationally recognized as a pioneer in the field of diet, detox and women’s health issues. 

For a FREE daily dose of tips and strategies for maintaining healthy weight, conquering insomnia, and much more…check out my Radical Health Tips.

I’d like to meet and greet you on my Facebook groups, so won’t you check us out at the Radical Metabolism RevolutionFat Flush Nation, or my Inner Circle!


  1. Denia Mette', CN

    i tell my clients that what they call”being treated like a queen” is frequently NOT to their best advantage. mowing the grass, mopping the floor, washing your car or/and dog is actually FUN. It is the way to feel good, save money, and keep strong- there is no shortcut, you have to move to stay healthy
    with great music playing…I am so very motivated, and they will be too, for in addition to all the aforementioned blessings you get rushes of endorphins – nothing as peachy as serotonin reactions to all of you “good stuff’ !..sans feel good pills.

  2. Sierra

    Functional fitness is how I live my life! I don’t know who could stand to go to the gym- I would much rather mow the lawn, work in the garden, play badminton with my friends, and go for an evening bike ride, or a night swim in the lake!

  3. betsy

    As we get older it is even more important to be able to do everything without hurting ourselves. When we find a weakness, like not being able to carry in several shopping bags at once, it’s time to do exercises to strengthen that area.

    In this day, with computer jobs, it’s not easy to use all our body parts and much as we would like to. You are talking about an important concept.

  4. San Fran Fan

    I love Joanie Greggains — what a great choice for a fitness pro who has been around and knows what works and what doesn’t. Thanks and more fitness related blogs would be so great, ALG.

  5. Lonnie W.

    More! I love the fitness aspect of Fat Flush and now I will pick up the Fat Flush Fitness Plan – which I never heard of before this blog. Thanks to you and thanks to Ms. Joanie Greggains!

  6. Ben

    Functional Training is one of the keys to a long and healthy life, whether you’re big, small or in between, moving your body from as many angles and with as many muscle groups as possible gives you tat extra edge. As a big athlete at 5’10 240+ lbs. I have had the pleasure to do many things from bridging to swinging hammers to all sorts of Isometrics and I continue to be more agile and flexible plus gaining strength in odd areas that are normally neglected by most people. I love training for functional fitness.

  7. Levy

    As I understood about this Functional Fitness, it is a way to train our muscles to work the way they do in everyday tasks. Interesting though.


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