What is Functional Bodybuilding?

What is Functional Bodybuilding?

The Convergence of Functional Training and Bodybuilding

Too many coaches and functional fitness athletes, the term “Functional Bodybuilding” may seem like an oxymoron.

But since we’ve begun using bodybuilding concepts to enhance functional fitness athletes specific sport performance we’ve discovered that this training methodology is incredibly effective. If not more so than many other training programs for preparing athletes for the rigors of their competitive seasons.

To understand how this training methodology applies to competitive functional fitness training, we have to go back to the roots, when it was first conceptualized and used by functional fitness athlete Marcus Filly, and OPEX Coach Mike Lee.

“What became clear to me was that 6 years of competing in CrossFit had finally left its mark on me. My body was tired, I was injured. And, despite my success within CrossFit, I really had no motivation to continue with fitness.”

– Marcus Filly

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, Mike Lee, recognized Marcus’s need for a seismic shift in his training. Mike 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 known as Functional Bodybuilding. Though it was initially created as a rehabilitative tool for Marcus Filly, it has become a staple in the training programs of all of our athletes.

(Coach’s Tip: Get your clients back to the fundamentals of movement with Functional Bodybuilding.)

Functional Bodybuilding Defined

Functional Bodybuilding is a training system that prioritizes quality of movement over intensity. Bodybuilding and controlled methods of movement are used to help athletes fulfill their ‘function.’ This methodology is beneficial to athletes because it can enhance performance. For non-athletes, it helps them look good, move well and gain mental clarity.

An athlete’s ‘function’ varies from person to person. Functional Bodybuilding provides the necessary foundation of strength which allows any athlete, regardless of their goals, to fulfill that ‘function.’ Skills like speed, balance, mobility, gymnastics, agility, and coordination are addressed in perfect harmony within a Functional Bodybuilding program. Those skills keep people’s bodies in balance and helps them reach their goals.

Three steps to success in Functional Bodybuilding

1. Movement quality is more important than the amount of load (weight) or intensity (work) applied.

2. Be present and aware. You must follow the tempo, adhere to the full range of movement and repetitions and sets, and observe the proper amount of rest. It all has a purpose.

3. The lifestyle of anyone participating in Functional Bodybuilding must be balanced. Everything that happens outside the gym is just as important to the success of the program.

“Functional Bodybuilding is balance. The way in which it is designed means lower overall demand on the physical systems. The benefit is that you have more brain and physical energy to do more inside and outside of the gym.”
– Mike Lee

Learn more about the theory, history and practical application of the training program that rebuilt Marcus Filly in our Functional Bodybuilding guide.


CrossFit® is a registered trademark of CrossFit, Inc. OPEX Fitness’s uses of the CrossFit® mark are not endorsed by nor approved by CrossFit, Inc., and OPEX Fitness is in no way affiliated with nor endorsed by CrossFit, Inc.

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