Health, Fitness and the Tao of Functional Bodybuilding


There’s a reason functional bodybuilding (FBB) has become an overactive buzzword in the fitness industry today: It combines traditional strength training with a more practical way of exercising that gets you moving better – more functional. This contributes significantly to the long-term improvement in health and fitness.

Learn functional bodybuilding

Functional bodybuilding, which focuses on quality of movement rather than intensity, allows us to incorporate bodybuilding principles into functional strength training.

This helps create a great foundation for strength and efficient movement, designed to take into account each individual’s skills and goals in a way that promotes health and longevity.

Hence, it is useful not only for top athletes, but also for people who just want to be healthy and functional for a lifetime but are not interested in being a bodybuilder.

A functional bodybuilding foundation

I mentioned the importance of understanding the principles of bodybuilding and energy system training. Let’s talk about these principles, starting with traditional bodybuilders.

Bodybuilders are known for their ability to increase muscle mass (also known as hypertrophy). This is not just about lifting heavy weights, but understanding how to manipulate repetitions, sets, pace, and rest times, as well as mastering concepts like time under tension – that is, how long a muscle or muscles are under tension during a given one Sentence.

The optimal time under tension for hypertrophy to occur is around 40 seconds.

That sounds simple enough – 5 squats at 3311 = 40 seconds of tension. Just peazy – it’s not that easy.

It is also incredibly important to consider the person’s abilities and their training age, i.e. how long they have been training. For this reason, an individual assessment with a coach is key to the process if you are a coach or if you are a client looking for a program or coach. You may want to try the Systematic Approach Assessment Guide for Trainers.

Apart from that, there are four basic principles to be observed when starting or creating an FBB program for a client:

  1. Compound Moves First: Compound exercises like squats or bench presses should be done at the beginning of a workout, while isolation exercises like biceps curl or leg extensions should be done later in the workout.
  2. Track the contractions per muscle group in a given session: ideally, the number of exercises per body part should be between two and four per session. If not, technology and recreation are likely to suffer.
  3. Think about the intended contraction: it depends on which movements are right for you (or whether, as a coach, you know your clients’ abilities and limitations). Don’t be fooled by sexy movements. If they are not in your position, they will not help you.
  4. Quality over intensity: It’s that simple. This does not mean that there cannot be intensity. It just has to be an appropriate intensity that matches the ability and strength of the individual. Simplicity over complexity. Quality over intensity.

Energy system training

One of the ideas behind FBB is to offer strength training without compromising aerobic capacity. This mainly depends on understanding the energy system training i.e. the anaerobic alactic, anaerobic milky and aerobic systems.

Two important and often overlooked concepts are:

  • Get the rest time right: The most important part of rest and recovery time depends on the individual and what they can recover from. This applies to both the rest time during interval training and recovery from one session to the next.
  • Avoid Disturbance: When doing aerobic work (or programming), consider the types of movements you (or your client) will be doing in resistance / FBB training the next day. For example, if you do a lot of hinges the next day, you may avoid high volume rowing intervals on your energy system’s training day, as this is a similar movement pattern. Typically, keep these movement patterns at least a day apart.

Key Factor: Whether you are someone looking to start a bodybuilding program that works or a coach looking to design one, the most important takeaway is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a program.

For optimal effectiveness, a great functional bodybuilding program must take into account an individual’s skills, priorities, training age, and goals. This concept is at the heart of OPEX training and the basis of their new functional bodybuilding guide.

Choosing the Right Functional Bodybuilding Program

Take a look on the old internet and you will find tons of functional bodybuilding or FBB programs for sale. And like most products and services, they are not all created equal.

Take a look on the old internet and you will find tons of functional bodybuilding or FBB programs for sale. And like most products and services, they are not all created equal.

I believe that a great functional bodybuilding program produces results and requires understanding the main principles of not only bodybuilding but also the training of the energy system.

Read OPEX’s free introductory eBook on Programming Functional Bodybuilding Workouts.