How to Create a Functional Bodybuilding Program

How to Create a Functional Bodybuilding Program

Functional bodybuilding is all the rage right now.

Popularized by former OPEX athlete, Marcus Filly, functional bodybuilding (FBB) is a style of training that is taking the internet by force. 

It combines the ideology of functional fitness with the principles of bodybuilding, creating a type of training that is great for those who want to be prepared for their daily life and look good doing it.

Today we’ll cover how to program a functional bodybuilding program.

Table of Contents:

What is Functional BodyBuilding?

Functional Bodybuilding is a type of training that uses quality movement to develop motor control, strength, and hypertrophy.

It uses traditional bodybuilding principles, such as tempo, and periodization, along with functional movements to prepare clients for their everyday function.

As Filly says, this style of training is for those who want to “look good and move well.” 

The History of Functional Bodybuilding

In August of 2016, Marcus had just finished his 6th consecutive appearance as a competitor at the CrossFit Games.

Instead of resting and recovering, Marcus accelerated deeper into his training in order to prepare for the NPGL(GRID) Competition. Soon after he delved into his training, disaster struck and Marcus experienced severe adrenal fatigue, energy loss, and a significant injury in his shoulder. A lifetime of athletic pursuits and intensity had finally caught up with him.

Marcus’s Coach recognized Marcus’s need for a seismic shift in his training. His coach had to take Marcus, a highly advanced trainee, and bring everything back to the fundamentals of movement. 

This focus on the basics of movement patterns is what spawned the training methodology. Though it was initially created as a rehabilitative tool for Marcus Filly, it has become a staple in the training programs of athletes worldwide.

How to Create a Functional Bodybuilding Program

Whether you are creating a program or workout for yourself, your client, or your gym, here are 5 principles to keep in mind.


Contractions, that is, the shortening, and lengthening of the muscle during an exercise, are the heart of an FBB workout. It’s important to make sure that the contractions you program match the goal of the workout. 

If your client wants bigger quads, choose a squat pattern exercise that will focus on growing the quads. If your client’s goal is to improve their ability to be a parent, choose exercises that build their postural endurance. 

It’s easy to get excited and give your clients fancy exercises with bands and kettlebells. But remember that the goal of this workout is to prepare your client for their life and goals, so keep it simple and choose exercises that do just that.

2) CAPABILITIES Determine Variety

Next, your client’s capabilities determine the variety of exercises available to them. We recommend that you assess every new client’s ability. You can learn how to conduct a physical assessment here. This will let you know how much variety they need in a workout.

Beginner clients do not need a lot of variety. They will improve just by repeating a movement over and over. However, with more advanced clients, you will need to vary the exercises more regularly to elicit results.

3) Capabilities Determine Exercise Selection

A client’s capabilities determine the type of exercises in their workout. In our coaching education, we teach coaches to progress clients along the strength continuum moving from motor control to strength endurance to maximal contractions. 

With this in mind, beginner clients should first do simple exercises at a higher volume and lower intensity, such as 12-15 reps of a goblet squat.As they progress, move to more complex exercises at a lower volume and higher intensity, such as 5-6 reps of a front squat. Choose exercises that your clients can express and that will get them results.

4) Concurrent Training Still Applies

Concurrent training is the act of programming multiple energy systems in a training session to maximize all aspects of physical performance.

A well-rounded workout will include some aerobic training. This will help your clients recover and build their capacity over time. Learn more about programming aerobic training here

5) Remember the Principles of Bodybuilding

Finally, remember the principles of bodybuilding. Focus on quality movement, include a tempo for every exercise and periodize your training programs. The foundation of FBB is slow controlled exercises that improve the client’s function, so program with this in mind. 

Sample Functional Bodybuilding workout

Day 1

A) Seated Box Jump, 3 reps x 4 sets; rest as needed 

* Tough height and REALLY focus on your ability to extend when jumping!

B) Hang Power Snatch + Hang Power Snatch Below the Knee: 1.1, every 90 sec x 6 sets @ 65-70%

C) 3 Rounds Not For Time: 

  • 5 Single Leg Back Extensions Per Side - 2 sec hold at top
  • 30 seconds Reverse Hyper Hold 
  • 10 High Jump Lunges 
  • Rest 2 Minutes
D) 3 Rounds - showing an increased pace per round: 
  • Row 15 calories
  • 10 Single Arm Kettlebell Snatch Right Arm 
  • AirBike 15 cals
  • 10 Single Arm Kettlebell Snatch Left Arm 
  • Record split times and RPM's per rounds

Day 2

A) 3 Rounds Not For Time: 

  • 20m Hand Over Hand Seated Rope Pull 
  • 5 Double Kettlebell Front Rack Shrimp Squats per Side
  • 15 sec per side Single Arm Kettlebell Bottoms up hold
  • 3 min Easy Assault Bike

B) Good morning @3111; 8-10 reps x 2 sets: rest 2 minutes 

C) Back Squat @22X1; 4-6 reps x 5 sets; rest 3-5 minutes 

D) Barbell Reverse Lunges: 10 reps/leg x 2 sets; rest 2 minutes 

E) 5 sets: 

  • 3 Strict L Pull Ups
  • 3 Strict Lean Away Pull Ups
  • 3 Strict Toes to Bar 
  • 3 Strict Knees to Elbows
  • Rest/Walk 1 Minute

Day 3

A) 3 Sets: 

  • 5 Kettlebell Half Kneeling Bottoms Up Presses Per Arm 
  • 20 second Weighted Arms and Legs Hollow Hold
  • 15 second per side Single Leg Wall Sit

B) Power Clean + Push Press; 1.5, Every 2:30 x 5 sets, building load from 65-70%

C1) Half Kneeling Landmine Press @30X0: 8 reps/arm x 3 sets; rest 30 seconds

C2) Strict Chest to Bar Hold x 30-45 seconds; rest 2 minutes

D1) Swiss Ball DB Chest Press @22X1; 8 reps x 2 sets; rest 30 seconds

D2) Trap-3 Raise: 6-8 reps per arm x 2 sets; rest 90 seconds

E) 2 Sets Not For Time: 

  • 20 Russian Kettlebell Swings 
  • Tough 20m Sled Push 
  • 60 second Unbroken Ring FLR 
  • Rest/Walk 1 Minutes


MORE RESOURCES - Functional Bodybuilding GUIDE

We've developed a free downloadable guide that expands on what's discussed in this article. Interested in learning more about functional bodybuilding? Download the free guide on this page

Fitness Assessments for New Clients