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Functional fitness workouts can offer a variety of benefits especially if you use the right tools. What are some functional fitness equipment options you can use?
The definition of functional fitness is not that precise but it comes down to training with movements you can encounter in your daily life, or could have encountered in the wild.
This means no preacher curl machines, seated calf raise machines, or hamstring curls. Instead, think more along the lines of a farmer’s carry, step-ups, deadlifts, squats, and bent-over rows.
While the movements have a different focus, the principles of building muscle still apply during functional fitness. That means that to build muscle, you need enough resistance to make the exercise challenging.
The exercise equipment options below can help you with this and enable certain functional fitness exercises.
Keep in mind that even though there are upsides, increasing resistance also increases injury risk. You may want to talk to your primary care provider before starting a new workout routine.
1. Medicine ball
A medicine ball is a weighted ball that is made from relatively soft material and doesn’t bounce that well. This piece of functional fitness equipment can resemble a heavy bag, or in earlier times a rock.
Something more unique to medicine balls compared to other weights is that they are suited for explosive throwing exercises. This can be great for training muscle power.
Besides that, you can also use a medicine ball as regular resistance in weight training, balance training, etc. Another benefit is that medicine balls are relatively inexpensive.
One potential downside of medicine balls is that they are not great for one-handed exercises.
The stairmaster is a gym machine that simulates an endless flight of stairs. This can definitely offer a great cardio workout that is functional in terms of what many people experience in their daily life to a lesser extent.
If you have a large flight of stairs available you can definitely use that instead too.
Walking stairs and using the stairmaster offer similar benefits like improving cardiovascular health, strengthening leg muscles, improving coordination and balance, etc.
The main downside of a stairmaster is that if you want to get one at home, it comes at a relatively steep price. This function fitness machine will also require quite a big amount of storage room.
A kettlebell is a metal ball with a handle on top, usually made of cast iron or cast steel. This form makes them especially great for swinging exercises like a kettlebell swing.
Additionally, kettlebells are suited for functional exercises like a Turkish get-up.
Some of the benefits of kettlebells include that they also last a very long time without much reduction in value. Even after using them many times, kettlebells will have a very similar sturdiness and strength.
You can also find kettlebells at heavier weights, use them in one-handed exercises, etc.
A potential disadvantage is that kettlebells often require a slightly bigger initial investment compared to some of the other options on this equipment list.
4. Plyo box
A plyo box, also known as a jump box or step box, is simply a box that is strong enough to deal with jump exercises. You can however also use a plyo box for a wide variety of other exercises, including the functional step-up exercise.
Besides that, a plyo box is a sturdy piece of equipment that can last a long time.
There are also some potential downsides to the plyo box. The first one is that it requires a decent amount of storage space. Secondly, quality plyo boxes can be a bit pricey for their relatively specific training exercises.
5. Fitness sled
The next piece of functional fitness equipment is a fitness sled, also known as prowler sled. This is a steel construction that can hold weight. On average these weigh 64.6 pounds (29.30 kg) but models will vary.
To workout out with the fitness prowler sled, you then push or pull it. You can walk forward, backward, or sideways.
Especially pulling could be a functional movement that your ancestors would have done in the wild. In any case, fitness sled workouts can be a great way to train leg muscles, cardiovascular health, grip, and shoulder muscles.
Similar to the other steel weights, a fitness sled is sturdy and lasts a long time without really losing its value.
The main potential downside is that fitness sleds can be relatively expensive. Especially since you also need to invest in extra weights and because it has such specific use.
A treadmill is one of the most popular gym machines there is. It simulates an endless flat surface to walk or run on. In your daily life the walking surface is not often completely flat, but the treadmill can still be considered a piece of functional fitness equipment.
Especially running is one of the greatest ways to train cardiovascular health. Additionally, running can also help with controlling weight, improving balance and coordination, engaging leg muscles, and the other benefits of cardiovascular workouts to a large extent.
A more specific benefit is that treadmills are relatively budget-friendly and often can be folded to save storage space.
One potential downside of something like running on the treadmill is that it is a lot harder on your knees. In turn, this can lead to more bone-strengthening as long as you don’t have to stop exercising due to injuries.
Besides that, if you are interested in strengthening upper body muscles, the treadmill is likely not what you are looking for. In addition, using a treadmill can be a bit noisy.
7. Workout sandbags
There are workout sandbags that can be used as a piece of functional fitness equipment. Sandbags can resemble a heavy back, grocery bags, or anything else you would have to carry or lift off the ground.
Certain types of sandbags can be used for throwing but this option is mainly for creating resistance in a wide variety of resistance training exercises.
You can for example use workout sandbags in squat presses, shoulder presses, the farmer’s walk, and many other functional exercises.
A potential benefit of workout sandbags is that you can find heavier weights compared to for example medicine balls. This can be helpful if you are a strong individual more experienced with resistance training.
Exercise sandbags can also be put on your shoulders in a stable and comfortable way. This can be especially helpful for leg exercises where you need a lot of weight to make the exercise a challenge.
With other functional fitness equipment tools like kettlebells, your grip muscles may fatigue faster than your leg muscles.
A downside for certain swing or one-handed exercises is that sandbags are a bit less compact.
8. Weighted vest
A weighted vest is basically its name, a vest with extra weight to make your exercises harder. One of the ways it stands out from other fitness equipment is that it allows you to add weight without using your hands in a place where the weight distribution is relatively “natural”.
This makes it so a good weighted vest can be used in most functional workouts.
Squats, walking, running, bending over, getting off the ground, pull-ups, etc. will all be more challenging with a weighted vest on. In turn, this can lead to a stronger body faster.
One of the main benefits of a weighted vest is that it is extremely versatile. You can use it in many exercises for many body parts and different exercise categories.
9. Weighted barbell
A barbell is a long bar that can hold weight plates. It is one of the most popular equipment options to add resistance to a wide variety of exercises, many of them considered to be functional.
Especially for training strong muscles like your legs with squat, a barbell can be great since you can put so much weight on it and hold it on your shoulders. Another exercise where a weighted barbell stands out is the deadlift exercise.
A benefit of investing in a barbell for your home workouts is that it allows you to do many other exercises for a variety of body parts.
Another benefit of a barbell is that it generally lasts an extremely long time. One investment can potentially improve your workouts for many years and potentially even decades. On top of that, a barbell does not really lose its value a lot.
This means that if you decide to stop using the barbell you can likely sell it for a very similar price as what you put into it.
A potential downside is that a barbell with weight plates often requires a slightly bigger investment compared to more short term functional fitness equipment.
A dumbbell is a type of fitness equipment that is basically a handle with a weight on each side. In terms of functional fitness, they are similar to a rock but with a more comfortable handle and even weight distribution.
The compactness of dumbbells can be especially helpful in exercises where you want to be able to turn your wrists.
Some other benefits of dumbbells include that they last a very long time without much reduction in value, you can use them in other exercises, and they have a relatively high weight ceiling.
A potential disadvantage is that similar to other steel functional equipment options, dumbbells often require a slightly bigger investment.