What are functional exercises?

Functional exercises, also known as “Primal Pattern Movements” are the basic movements that the human body was designed to perform on a regular basis that are necessary for us to function optimally in our daily lives.

It is essential for us to practice these specific movements during our workouts to keep the body properly mobile as we live day to day and especially as we age.


The following exercises are excellent for beginners (and everyone else as well!) to incorporate into their exercise routines.

1. Pushing – Around The World:

In this day and age, with the typical western lifestyle, most of us are living in a way that is constantly rounding our shoulders forward. Hunched over our desks and computers, while driving, etc.

The around the worlds exercise targets our essential “pushing” muscles while keeping our shoulders nice and open.

Primary Muscles Targeted: Chest

Secondary Muscles Targeted: Shoulders

1. Lie face up on a flat bench. Hold a free weight in each hand, with your arms parallel to the floor and by your sides, palms face up. Your hands will be next to your thighs. Be sure to keep your elbows slightly bent to prevent injury. This will be your starting position.

2. Move the dumbbells in a semi circle from the start position to over your head. The arms stay parallel to the floor at all times. I like to think of this action just like you were making a snow angel 😉

3. Inhale as you move the weights overhead and exhale as you return your arms back to the start position.

Tip: Lie face up on a stability ball, shoulder blades on the centre of the ball, head resting on the ball with your hips completely off the ball. Focus on keeping the hips lifted for the duration of the exercise.

functional exercises for beginners_22. Pulling – Reverse Fly:

Much like the Around the Worlds pushing exercise, the reverse fly is a fantastic pulling exercise that works at strengthening the areas of the shoulders that keep them open, counteracting the forward rounding we are all subject to!

Primary muscles worked: Shoulders

Secondary muscles worked: Upper Back

1. Stand with feet a comfortable distance apart, knees slightly bent. Keeping the back straight (think about sticking your chest and back side out ) lean the upper body forward on a 45 degree angle, so that your spine is almost parallel with the floor. Keep your ears over your shoulders. Have the free weights in each hand, with your arms extended downwards, palms facing each other. This will be your start position.

2. Maintaining a slight bend in your elbows, raise the weights up on either side of you until your arms are in line with your body. Do not let your arms come up past your back. Focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together as you raise the weights.

3. Slowly lower the weights back down to the start position. Inhale as you lower the weights, exhaling as you raise them up.

Discover more functional exercises in Part 2 to strengthen your daily movements to allow your body to move fluently.

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