Functional Fitness and Utility

You can’t pick up a fitness magazine today that doesn’t make reference to functional fitness, functional movements, or some other nod to function. Heck, functional movements are cornerstone for what we do in building general physical preparedness (GPP) in our students.

The utility of the thing in question is built into the definition of that which is ‘functional’. The more utility a thing has the more function it has. When we see things, like movement, from this perspective it naturally begs the question, “What would make this more useful?”

Approaching movement in this way frees you from dogma and leads you towards best practices. Consider the hang clean. We know the most functional footwork to move the heaviest loads possible in this context involves foot movement from a more narrow position under the hips to a wider position about shoulder width to receive the weight. Until humanity finds a better solution (and we’re all looking, by the way,) this is the technical footwork we will see at the highest levels, including the Olympic Games.

If we take the same “functional movement,” the hang clean, and look at it in a different context things change. When the load is, say, 50% of your max and you’re completing sets of ten reps as quickly as possible, the most functional expression of the hang clean isn’t the footwork describe above at all. Rather, the highest utility (and, therefore, most functional) expression of footwork would be to see the feet start and finish in the receiving (shoulder width) position because the advantages of the narrow jumping position to produce more force into the ground is made redundant by the lighter load and continuing to use the footwork described above would be at odds the athlete’s ability to accomplish the task with the greatest utility.

Keep in mind, both examples maintain movement integrity and one is not safer than the other. When seeking functionality we must look to task specific context for best practices. Simply put, the best way is the most functionaI. I hope this framework can open the minds of fitness practitioners and authorities alike who often contribute to a community with positive intentions, but are held back by ridiculous dogmatic shortsightedness.

Logan Gelbrich


4/15/19 WOD


Pause Front Squat


Complete 3 rounds for total reps:

Max Ring Rows

-Rest 2 minutes-


Then, complete 2 rounds for time:

800m Run

40 American KB Swings (53/35)

25 Pull Ups