As CrossFit athlete Marcus Filly explains, functional bodybuilding focuses on the movement patterns, full body exercises and overall balance. Rather than splitting your routine into leg day, chest day, arm day, etc; functional bodybuilding’s compound movements uses the body’s natural way of moving to grow muscle and strength.
In a recent video, Marcus Filly lays out his favourite and most effective functional bodybuilding movements. These 7 exercises are designed to make sure you engage your whole body, and not over tax any specific muscle group.
Marcus Filly’s 7 Best Functional Bodybuilding Exercises
1. Slide Board Body Saw
The first movement Marcus highlights is the slide board body saw.
Starting in the plank position, place two sliding boards under your feet. Then using your core, slide your feet back and forth, engaging your midline. It’s one of the most potent core and interior abdominal exercises in functional bodybuilding.
It utilises isometric contraction with dynamic movement which adds intensity and builds strength. Throughout the exercise your body should stay completely level and flat, and avoid lifting your hips.
2. Filly Press
A Marcus Filly original, the Filly Press starts by holding a kettlebell in rack position, with your back straight on a bench. In your other arm you’ll be performing a single-arm dumbbell Arnold press.
Why this is so effective is because you have the rotation of the dumbbell in one arm which improves range of motion and helps your shoulders stay strong and healthy. The addition of the kettlebell provides isometric contraction, building scapular endurance. In one exercise you work a dynamic movement in one hand, and an isometric hold in the other making it a great all-round upper body functional bodybuilding exercise.
The weights so not have to be the same in each arm, so you can scale it depending on how comfortable you are.
3. Cross Body Carry
Using two kettlebells, hold one above your head and one down by your waist and simply walk back and forwards.
This carry combines movement with having to brace your midline and shoulders. It incorporates putting a load down beneath your shoulders, which will impact your shoulder blades and traps in one way while helping to balance the kettlebell above your head. Switch arms halfway through to work both sides of your body efficiently.
4. Cyclist 1-1/4 Squat
A cyclist squat uses a slant board to lift the heels an inch or two off the ground which helps engage different muscles in the legs. It also helps improve range of motion in a way a flat-footed squat does not, as you can get so much deeper into your squat.
This gives you more training benefit in your posterior chain, glues, abductors, hips and quads. As this movement places a lot of load on the knees, you’ll want to start with bodyweight squats and then build up to using weight.
Adding the 1/4 squat into the exercise halfway through means you add to the total time you’re under tension on your legs, increasing range of motion and intensifying the exercise.
5. Glute Bridge KB Chest Press
This functional bodybuilding movement combines a posterior chain isometric exercise (glute bridge) with a horizontal chest press. These movement patterns are complimentary, working your chest and upper body at the same time as activating your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.
It might demand a little more from you, but it works because your engaging so many different muscles and movements. You can also use dumbbells if you don’t have access to kettlebells, and you can also alternate the chest press which will add another element of isometrics to dynamic movement.
6. Lean Away Ring Pull-Ups
The strict lean away pull-up is an advanced exercise for those who are comfortable with ring pull-ups, however there are ways to scale the movement if you’re not quite there yet.
Rings allow for a better range of movement than a pull-up bar, and can conform to your bodies optimal position. The lean away pull-up adds variation to the normal ring pull-up, providing an eccentric, negative portion of the movement which builds strength in your shoulders and other under-trained muscles in the upper body.
You can start working towards a strict lean away ring pull-up by starting with negatives; using a box to jump up into the pull-up, leaning back, and lowering yourself back down. If this is still a challenge, you can achieve the same benefits by keeping your feet flat on the floor with the rings at shoulder height. As you lean away, support as much of your bodyweight with your arms and upper back as possible, without relying on your legs.
7. Deficit Landmine Single-Leg RDL
The exercise has a principle focus on single leg/unilateral training. This helps highlight individual weaknesses between the right and left sides of the body, helping to bring them into balance.
Make sure you keep your arm inline with your knee, and keep your back as straight as possible as you hinge forward. Reduce the deficit (in this case, box) if you need too. It’s also okay to use a lifting strap to make sure you maintain grip strength on the end of the barbell.
The addition of the landmine helps provide a touch of stability, allowing you to work on range of motion while also achieving great unilateral movement. The right amount of stability will gives you access to training movement patterns that will lead you to more strength and balance.