Understanding Functional Fitness

Understanding Functional Fitness

What is Functional Fitness?

Cardio and strength training usually dominate fitness talk, but what about the often-overlooked concept of functional fitness? At its core, functional fitness is really about focusing on building your body so that it can better handle everyday tasks such as bending over to tie your shoes, playing catch with your dog, or chasing after your kids without the added exhaustion, aches or pains.

Real Life Samples

Let’s think about this from a practical standpoint. Our daily habits cause us to turn, twist, bend, climb and lean to get things done. We’re using our whole bodies, so why not focus on exercises that use multiple muscle groups? Isolated weight training is great, but it doesn’t always help prevent strained backs or pulled muscles.

Exercises like kettlebell squats are a great way to stimulate a real-life scenario – you’re bending down (squatting) using your lower body, and at the same time picking something up (great with the added weight of the kettlebell) using your upper body. Try forward lunges with a twist to help work the lower body, upper body and help stabilize the core. Bent over rows can also help with upper and lower body strength. Bosu balls can also help aid in stability training!

Think about which muscle groups are actively being engaged when performing your desired exercise. If it feels like a move that mirrors real life movements, most likely you’re engaging in functional fitness.

The Benefits

To put it simply – fewer aches and pains! Less strain on your body, less worries about not being able to perform day-to-day activities and more confidence in moving around with a stronger body. If this all sounds like what regular or “normal” exercise does to improve the body, you’re right… sort of.

Functional fitness focuses on movements, rather than muscles.1 In your ordinary day-to-day routine, chances are you’re not doing an activity that focuses on the same muscle repeatedly. Think of lifting a semi-heavy grocery bag, similar to a bicep curl. Sure, you may do this a few times, but realistically you’re not going to be standing in your kitchen doing biceps curls with your grocery bags.

Depending on age and activity level of your life, the functional fitness exercises you’ll want to focus on will vary. If you’re uncertain what’s right for you or where to begin with this type of training, reach out to a representative in the personal training department.

Another alternative is sending your fitness related question to us for a chance for it to be one of our featured ‘Ask A Trainer’ questions on our LA Fitness YouTube channel or Living Healthy blog!

A better life starts with a decision that you deserve more for yourself. LA Fitness is here to help, and functional fitness is a great way to begin your training for the everyday!


  1. Roberts, | BY: Amy, and Amy Roberts. “What Is Functional Training and How Can It Benefit You?” The Beachbody Blog, 20 July 2017, www.beachbodyondemand.com/blog/functional-training-benefits.

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Where to Begin with Weight Training

Where to Begin with Weight Training

The clanking of weights, the grunts, the sweat… the intimidation of the weightlifting area for those who don’t know where to begin. We get it – weight training can be scary if you’re new to this form of exercise. However, if you’re looking to create a balanced workout routine for yourself, your body is going to need a combination of cardio and strength training. But you probably already knew this. Let’s jump right into it then – where to begin?

First, ask yourself what muscle areas you want to focus on:

  • Lower Body
  • Back
  • Arms
  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Core

We’ll get into specific machines or body weight exercises you can do to tone each of the areas above a bit further on. Next, you should determine how much weight you want to be using. This varies depending on the results you’re looking for. Always remember this –

If you’re looking to tone, but aren’t necessarily looking for bulk or noticeable, muscle, then it’s best to stick to lighter weights at higher reps.*

If you’re looking to build muscle and bulk up, you should look to increase your weight (safely, over time) use heavier weights at lower reps.

*Reps – Short for repetitions. This is how many times you will be repeating the exercise.

Sound good? Great, but how many sets** should you be doing? This varies too, and really is based on personal preference. A sample workout may consist of 3 sets of ‘x’ exercise, comprised of 10-12 repetitions of that particular workout. For example, you would do 10 biceps curls, then you would rest. Then do a second set of 10 biceps curls, then rest again, before doing a final third set of 10 biceps curls.

**Sets – A group of exercises performed.

This is a good starting point, but perhaps you’re looking to build muscle. Some people enjoy increasing their weight with each set and then lowering the amount of repetitions they do. An example of this would be to start off with a 20-lb. barbell for your bicep curl, complete your 10 reps and then rest. For your second set, you may want to increase to a 30-lb. barbell, this time only completing 8 reps, and if you’re feeling strong enough for the third and final set, you can increase your weight to 35 lbs. and decrease your rep again to only 6.

Make sure you’re listening to your body, because the amount of weight, the number of reps, and number of sets you choose to do will vary from person to person depending on what you’re looking to accomplish, level of experience and strength level.

Body Weight vs. Machine/Equipment vs. Free Weights

When it comes to strength training, you have options. Some people prefer using their body weight to build strength, others enjoy using the machines, while some prefer training with free weights. Is one necessarily better for you than the other? We break down the pros and cons of each of these exercises so you can determine the best option for you.

Body Weight

Pros – This is a great way to truly understand the proper form of an exercise while allowing your core to be engaged and obtain the full range of motion of the movement. You’ll be able to perform a high number of reps doing a body weight exercise which will generate an increase in heart rate producing both strength and fat burning.

Cons – Once performing these exercises for 2-3 weeks, the amount of strength gains plateaus resulting in primarily fat burning. You will eventually need to upgrade to either machines or free weights to obtain more solid strength gains.

Responses above provided by LA Fitness Pro Results® Master Trainer, Geoff F.


Pros – Another great tool to understand the form of an exercise. These exercises will provide some good isolated muscle strength gains while also allowing your joints and muscles to stay in line with the exercise. They will help keep your body out of harm’s way while you are still early in your weight training program.

Cons – Although strength gains will be more than with body weight exercises, with the limited range of motion for machines the amount of strength gains won’t result in as much as free weights. The limited range of motion will also not allow your joints and muscles to maintain their flexibility. It is also tougher to engage your core resulting in only the isolated muscle group being worked.

Responses above provided by LA Fitness Pro Results® Master Trainer, Geoff F.

Free Weights

Pros – This is the optimal strength gain exercises. They allow for the most range of motion and increase in resistance as you progress through a program. With a program centered around free weights, the strength results will typically happen faster than the other two forms. These exercises also require the core to be engaged during the duration of the exercise so more muscles are being worked during the movement.

Cons – This form requires the most knowledge and understanding of the movement of the exercise, as they have the tendency to produce the most injuries of any of the three types. It is best to utilize the first two forms and then work into free weights if you are entering into a beginner’s weight training program.

Responses above provided by LA Fitness Pro Results® Master Trainer, Geoff F.

Our suggestion? Mix it up! Not only does that help keep the work outs fresh and fun, but it’s actually going to help build the optimal body. Check out how body weight exercises combined with heavy weight exercises act as a power duo for the body, here!

How Many Days a Week Should You Focus on Strength Training vs. Cardio?

Pro Results® Master Trainer, Geoff F., suggests a balanced routine of strength training anywhere from 3-4 days per week, and cardio between 4-5 to maybe 6 times week, depending upon what your level is when you first start out. Check out the full Ask A Trainer video below for more info on how to maintain a balanced workout routine.

!! Trainer Tip: Cardio after weightlifting can help release lactic acid built up in the muscles and can help you feel better in the long run. Check out why, here.

Sample Beginner’s Weight Lifting/Strength Training Guide

It’s important to note that the videos below only touch upon a very small fraction of what’s available to you when it comes to weightlifting in one of our clubs. In order to know what weightlifting routine would work best for your body and your goals, set up a fitness assessment with someone in your club’s personal training department. They will be able to help target what exercises should be done to help you reach your goals.

Lower Body




!! Tip: Like these videos? Many more of these Premium Fitness Tips can be found on our LA Fitness YouTube channel and help break down how to properly use the equipment found in a typical club.

Nutrition’s Effect on Strength Training

Weight training needs to be fueled properly in order for all that hard work to be effective.  As opposed to cardio which burns more fat, strength training uses available carbohydrates because it is rapidly oxidized for those quick, intense muscle bursts. Consuming easily-digestible “simple” carbohydrates before and during your workout can keep that supply running.  But that’s not the only thing. Adequate muscle glycogen (stored carbohydrate) is also used, and this reserve is built up by a consistent diet of complex carbohydrates, complemented by lean protein and healthy fats.

The protein provides the needed amino acids for building new muscle fibers while the fat gives both energy and structure. So why not load up on all of the protein you need before or after strength training? That’s because it (along with fat and fiber) slows down the delivery of those quick carbohydrates. Also, you don’t use that much protein at once and without a reserve for it you need a more constant supply throughout the day. In other words, save foods like beef loin, broccoli, baked potato, nuts and avocado for meal or snack time, but have an egg white with a banana or white toast before your workout. When you provide the right nutrients at the right time, your muscles can do more work for a bigger result.

Nutrition advice above provided by LA Fitness registered dietitian, Debbie J.

Pro Results® Training

If you’re still feeling like you may benefit from an in-club, hands on approach to learning what equipment would be right for you, set up a consultation for personal training at your local club. There are a variety of Pro Results® packages available to you, so whether it’s a short-term helping hand you’re looking for, or having someone on a longer-term basis to help you reach your fitness goal, LA Fitness is here to help you succeed.

Already have a personal success story you’d like to share with us? Click here to submit it for a chance to be one of our featured Member Spotlight stories!

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AAT – Ep. 19: Is Cardio Better in the Morning or Evening?

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Ask A Trainer: Featured Question of the Week

Does the early morning bird really catch the worm (so to speak) when it comes to engaging in cardio early on, or, is it really best to save cardio for the end of the day? You had the question, and LA Fitness Pro Results® trainer, Kayla V., has the answer!

Do you have a fitness question? Ask one of our certified Pro Results® trainers here! Your question may be featured in an upcoming Ask Our Trainer video.**

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**Selected submissions will be featured on the LA Fitness blog and possibly other LA Fitness digital media entities & websites. By making a submission, you hereby grant LA Fitness a non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide, irrevocable license to use and make copies of the contents of such submission for any purpose and in any medium whatsoever, and you hereby waive and relinquish any copyright or other intellectual property right you may have in the contents of such submission and your right to pursue any claim for LA Fitness’s violation of those intellectual property rights.

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Trainer Spotlight | Helping Others Better Themselves

Trainer Spotlight | Helping Others Better Themselves

Shawn M., a San Diego native, grew up and was raised in the community of Spring Valley. Throughout his adolescence, he struggled with body composition and weight. Children teased him for his excess weight from childhood through high school. This affected him greatly, but he didn’t let it defeat him. Surprisingly, what originally got him into fitness was the death of a loved one. It came as a wakeup call to Shawn. He realized that he had to change his life for the better or he could be next.

Weighing in close to 300 lbs., and borderline diabetic, Shawn was not comfortable in his own skin. He began running Monday through Friday, even when he was mentally and physically exhausted from work and school. He changed his diet, which he admits was one of the hardest things for him to do, and had to change his attitude too. Shawn recognized that he had to believe in himself; he had to believe he had the power to actually turn his life around.

With determination, and consistency, Shawn was able to lose the weight and is now working as a Pro Results® personal trainer. He hopes to help others focus on how they feel, rather than how they look on the exterior, and to make a positive difference in people’s life through health and fitness. He loves what he does, and vows to continue helping others better their lives for as long as he physically can.

An Interview with: Pro Results® Personal Trainer, Shawn M.

We spoke with Shawn and asked him to share with us some advice for others who may be struggling with weight and self-esteem issues. This is what he had to say –

Q: How has living an active lifestyle helped better shape your life?

Shawn M.: I would have to say just by being able to help and motivate others. If I did not have a story to tell I would not be able to share and motivate others when it comes to health and fitness.

Q: What should clients know about personal training before beginning a program?

SM: I think people/clients should know that there are no short cuts when it comes to your health. If you are wanting to lose weight, gain mass, or want to change your life around […] I would most likely tell people think long-term and not short-term.

Q: Have you found that there is a way to help clients stay motivated when they’ve hit a fitness plateau?

SM: Yes. I usually would find out their eating habits, exercise routine, sleep schedule, and stress and then start from there. Four major keys I believe in, especially when it comes to a plateau, is stress management, modalities of different exercises, proper sleep, and of course nutrition. I share this with every new client of mine, “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Q: What advice would you give for those struggling to start/stick to a healthy lifestyle plan?

SM: I would tell them think of your body as a luxury car engine that needs refueling. The foods that you put into your body will give you the energy that you need to get through the day. For an example, if you consume chips, soda, fast foods etc., your body will be fueled with 87 octane, but if you fuel your body with green rich foods, meaty proteins, healthy fats etc. you will be fueling your body with 91 premium. I try to keep it simple so my clients get a good idea of what I’m talking about.

What Lays Ahead for Shawn

Shawn M. is currently working on finishing up his Associate’s Degree and hopes to transfer to Portland State by the end of 2018. He is pursuing a Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Health.

Client Testimonials

“I became a member of LA fitness in 2016 and Shawn Montiel became my trainer. During my assessment with Shawn we discussed my physical limitations, nutrition and what goals I wanted to accomplish. Shawn was able to design a work out for me so I could strengthen my muscles and improve flexibility and balance. I was able to reach these goals with minimal discomfort using his workout plan. If I had difficulty with certain movements Shawn would reassess the workout and come up with an approach that accommodated my needs. Shawn is a very positive person and has a great outlook on life. He focuses on his clients’ needs and abilities. I had a lot of success with him as a personal trainer and would highly recommend Shawn to anyone who is looking to make improvements in their life.”

Lisa Van S.

LAF Pro Results® Client

“My husband, Doug, and I chose Shawn as our trainer because we observed his strong work ethic and attention to his clients’ needs at LA Fitness the latter half of 2017. Shawn spent our first session with him ascertaining our needs, our goals, strengths, and weaknesses in order to develop individualized fitness plans for each of us. Shawn worked with us individually twice weekly for two months inspiring us to increase our strength, endurance, nutritional balance, and cardiac fitness for overall improved health. Shawn not only inspired us to push ourselves harder during our workouts at the gym, but he also inspired us to work out at home and to stay on track with a balanced diet, increasing our daily fluid intake, and increasing our hours of sleep. In summary, Shawn helped my husband and I make positive life balance changes through exercise, nutrition, and rest to better our lives in a positive manner. Shawn is an excellent trainer who role models the healthy lifestyle he teaches his clients.”

Katherine H.

LAF Pro Results® Client

“I want to send you a thousand thank yous because the advice and the program you put me through transformed my body more than ever before. The regimen I was put through garnered me lots of compliments inside and outside of the gym, which sky rocketed my confidence. Not only did you improve my appearance, my body was stronger and performing everything at a much higher level from basketball, to running with explosion, to more stamina throughout the day. You’ve been an integral part in putting my BMI at 3% body fat at 5’8 165 pounds. Now and in the future, my daily workout consists of everything you have ever taught me. Thank you so much. I am forever grateful.”

Aljon F.

LAF Pro Results® Client

If you’re interested in pursuing a healthier lifestyle and feel like you could use a little bit of help, sign up for a complimentary fitness assessment with LA Fitness and meet trainers like Shawn M., who are here to help you become your healthiest self.*

We’re all in this together, and we want you to succeed. Join us in club today! Click here for a complimentary guest pass.

*Pro Results® personal training services are subject to an additional agreement and fee.

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

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Do you have a fitness question? Ask one of our certified Pro Results® trainers here! Your question may be featured in an upcoming Ask Our Trainer video.**

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**Selected submissions will be featured on the LA Fitness blog and possibly other LA Fitness digital media entities & websites. By making a submission, you hereby grant LA Fitness a non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide, irrevocable license to use and make copies of the contents of such submission for any purpose and in any medium whatsoever, and you hereby waive and relinquish any copyright or other intellectual property right you may have in the contents of such submission and your right to pursue any claim for LA Fitness’s violation of those intellectual property rights.

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