Log in to BOXROX Pro

10 Functional Bodybuilding Exercises to Help You Look Good, Build Strength and Move Well

Improve your fitness.

Add these Functional Bodybuilding Exercises into your training.

Marcus Filly does not follow the crowd. He has developed a form of training that combines CrossFit style workouts with his method of “Functional Bodybuilding”.

This strengthens movement patterns, builds muscle, improves mobility and gets him ripped in the meantime!


“I’ve used the term “Functional Bodybuilding” because many of my workouts involve atypical strength and accessory lifts that focus on building certain parts of the body.

There is more isolation in my training lately than during peak periods of the CrossFit Games season. The movements we are using are still quite functional and do require coordination and balance, but they are being performed slow and controlled most of the time.

Developing great control and strength in slower movements has allowed my brain and body to get healthy and strong.

I believe for many people this can and would be an effective way to train year-round for health, fitness, and personal fulfilment! Not to mention keeping you feeling less beat up.”

Functional Bodybuilding Exercises

Add these exercises into your training in order to target particular movements, build strength and look better.

10. KB Cross Body Split Squat

Single leg training combined with overhead stability and uneven loading from side to side. This is is a great anti-rotational strengthening exercise. Loading in the Cross Body pattern will force you to fight rotation to stay vertical and properly aligned. Core activation is elevated substantially over an evenly loaded side to side Split Squat. 

9. x – Single Arm Arnold Press with KB Rack Hold (aka Filly Press)

A tribute to @schwarzenegger and all that he did to influence my life as an athlete and person. This lift started the functional bodybuilding movement in my eyes. @kenkong_kb coined the name “Filly Press” and I’m pretty honoured by that. 

Scapular stability, upper pushing, core anti-rotation, functional pump. This one has it all. 

8. Supinated Grip Deadlift – Functional Bodybuilding Exercises

Grip variation is a great way to alter your stimulus on a familiar pattern. Take the supinated Grip Deadlift as an example. This is still a posterior chain dominant exercise. Glutes, back and hamstrings will get the primary stimulus. With the alternate grip, you will experience different upper back recruitment, as well as some more upper arm involvement as well. Give it a try and report on what you notice. Do not be tempted to overuse your biceps. Set your shoulders back and let the arms hang long. 

7. Single Leg Dumbbell Cross Body RDL

Single-Leg hinging is one of the more difficult skills to master for many clients and athletes. Build it into your training weekly. Remember that struggling to balance is a sign that the nervous system is underdeveloped in this pattern. It is just another way of saying your strength has room to progress. Vary the loading patterns using many of the drills you see here. Stay light and focus on motor control and then build heavy. 

6. Seated Sled Drag Face Pull – Functional Bodybuilding Exercises

Every time I perform this movement I’m reminded just how effective it is for upper back development. I am also reminded of the fact that this exercise in many ways gave rise to the Functional Bodybuilding movement. Pulling a sled while getting a functional pump in the upper back and arms made this channel come to life. We have posted it before, but it is worth posting again. A terrific drill that can be supersetted with an upper-body horizontal push of your choice.

5. Lean Away Pull Up

This pull-up variation is great for placing emphasis on the scapular retractors. If you find this movement challenging and cannot seem to find tension in the shoulder blades as you lean away, try using a semi-supinated grip on handles or rings. The probated palms forward variation is a little more tricky to connect that tension in the eccentric. 
Personal anecdote – my upper back was sore in a way it hasn’t been in a long time after just two sets of this exercise for 8 reps. Performed at a 30X0 tempo. 

4. Single Arm Dumbbell Torso Row – Functional Bodybuilding Exercises

Single Arm pulling drills are a great way to help balance your shoulders and upper back. They serve as a great tool to develop the scaps and provide the necessary foundation to handle dynamic pulling movements like kipping gymnastics. In the Torso Row, the intent is to your a full body rotation with the single-arm Row. Coordinating trunk twisting along with upper back and upper arm pulling is the focus. 

3. Tempo Dual Kettlebell Front Rack Squat

Some coaches will make the argument that loading with KBs or DBs for squatting in the rack position will self-limit based upon upper back strength before leg strength. While there is some truth to this, that you will fail first due in part to the limits of your upper body being able to support the load, it still serves as a terrific eat to load for squatting. The reason being is that it is very effective and coordinates lower and upper body strength demands in one movement. In a heavy set of these perform as in the video with a 30X0 tempo, you cannot lose focus on either lower body or upper body position and tension. A set of 10 reps performed here at 40kg per hand.

The upper back and trunk get a massive dose from this!

2. Med Ball Front Rack 90 Degree Squat Hold

Alternatively, this can be performed with a heavy sandbag or KB Front racked.

Isometric squat holds at or just above thighs parallel are a great tool to develop legs strength, body position, and drive through the sticking point for many in the squat.

If you’ve ever failed a squat because you couldn’t get through that middle point in the concentric, then think about performing these static holds in your accessory finishers. 

1. Single Arm KB Overhead Squat – Functional Bodybuilding Exercises

There are few exercises that expose side to side imbalances and mobility deficits as well as the single Arm Overhead Squat.

This exercise demands that your brain be on and that you connect with a wide variety of stabilizing muscles to achieve proper range of motion and maintain balance.

Try a partner WOD

It services as a great warm-up drill before doing Overhead lifting or snatch work. Try experimenting with a 3011 Tempo for sets of 6-8/Arm in your warm-ups. 

Want more exercises from Marcus? Check these out:

7 Functional Bodybuilding Exercises for Performance AND Aesthetics from CrossFit Games Athlete Marcus Filly

Image Sources

Related news