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What is Functional Strength and Endurance?

clean and press a kid

Functional strength and endurance (FSE), in my opinion, means having the ability to move your body in a variety of different situations.

I feel everyone should be able to play a pick up game of any sport if they want to without having to worry about getting winded after 1 minute.

People should also be able to go about their daily activities and be capable of completing those tasks.

At the same time, you should be strong enough and have the endurance to save your own life, and possibly someone else’s.

Most exercises are functional, in that they will help develop strength or endurance that can carry over into other areas. Some would say that jumping jacks (JJ’s) aren’t a functional exercise since you don’t move like that during the day.

But, JJ’s will help develop cardio aerobic capacity. That will then carry over to other areas like running and swimming.

In order to have FSE, we need a general fitness capacity as well as specific. That’s why I will include a multitude of exercises, plus the main Push/Pull movements of Pull-ups and Presses in my workouts. The majority of exercises are standing exercises and multi-joint movements.

I believe in doing exercises while standing since that is how we do most things in life. Standing engages the core, all lower body muscles and the skeletal structure (bones, ligaments and tendons).

The body also works using multiple joints at the same time. It is rare that movements occur naturally through one point.

Take the biceps curl for example. The biceps is worked by only moving at the elbow. Even if you lift a grocery bag up to your face, in order to fix your glasses, the curl movement isn’t perfect.

Try it for yourself. You’ll see that the weight shifts your balance and to keep your balance, you will pull the elbow further back and the weight closer to the body.

So I personally don’t train biceps curls or triceps extensions anymore. These muscle get plenty of work from doing multi-joint movements. The only time I might do them, is if those muscles feel tight or sore. Then I will use a very, very light weight to pump some fresh blood and nutrients into the muscles.

On the other side of the coin, I don’t want to spend my entire day working out. I like minimalist, quick workouts. I personally don’t like jogging 3 miles. I never have and never will. Even when I had to take the PRT in the Navy, I hated jogging the 1.5 miles. I rather run a couple of sprints or play a game of football than jog.

So, I will be constantly working to minimize the amount of “hard work” I do. I post a basic workout log under the WOD menu so that you can see what I am actually doing during the week. I only post what I consider to be exercise, not something that’s all in a days work.

For instance, I may carry a 20 pound bag of tools home from a friends house. The walk may have been a total of three miles, but  I wouldn’t consider that exercise. On the other hand, if I went out simply to walk, then I would count it.

Here are some questions to ponder over

  • If you had to climb to safety, could you?
  • If you had to carry someone to safety, could you?
  • If you had to swim to safety could you?
  • If you had to run to get away from danger or to help someone, could you?



If you aren’t capable enough to do these things, now is the time to work on it. Not when you need to be able to. The journey will probably take a while, after all Rome wasn’t built in a day.

But time will pass no matter what. Where would you rather be in 5 years? Much stronger, more capable and healthier, or in the same spot.

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photo credit: lifting a kid