Functional Fitness vs. Bodybuilding: Differences, Pros & Cons

In the gym you can have different goals, they may be to do with your physical look, your strength, and athletic performance or simply to lead a healthy and fitter life.

Whatever your goals may be there are two main types of exercise programs that are followed in the gym by most people, these are functional fitness programs or bodybuilding programs.

Both are great workouts but they garner different results and have different advantages and disadvantages.

Here we deep dive into functional fitness and bodybuilding, looking at what they actually are, what the most popular exercises are, and the benefits and disadvantages that can be found within both programs.

Functional Fitness

Functional Fitness vs Bodybuilding - Differences, Pros & Cons

Functional fitness is a type of training that prepares your body for everyday activities that you need to do in real-life situations, such as pulling, pushing, lifting, twisting, and bending over.

Functional fitness is a great way of keeping your body in good health, especially as you begin to get older and movement becomes more difficult.

Examples of functional fitness exercises and the benefits they have are:

  • Squat: We perform this motion every time we sit down, get into a car, or use the bathroom. It is arguably one of the best functional fitness exercises.
  • Box Step Up: Strengthens our legs for walking up stairs. You can perform this exercise holding light weights to represent walking up flights of stairs with grocery bags.
  • Romanian Deadlift: This pulling motion is used every time we lift something heavy up, like a small child or a suitcase.
  • Lunges: This exercise helps to strengthen the muscles in your legs as well as work your core stability which directly benefits your balance.
  • Dumbbell Bench Press: From pushing doors open to pushing ourselves out of bed in the morning the ability to push is important and often we don’t realize how much weight we are actually pushing when we push our bodies away from something or up from the floor or our bed.
  • Russian Twists: This exercise primarily works your core muscles, which are hugely important when trying to balance yourself but it also goes through a twisting motion, helping to keep the muscles in your sides and your back limber so that when twisting you are less likely to pull a muscle and injure yourself.

Benefits Of Functional Fitness

  1. Improves balance and posture by strengthening your core muscles
  2. Reduces the risk of injury as your body becomes more limber and responsive to movement
  3. Improves everyday life as you are generally fitter and have more energy
  4. Benefits your physical and aerobic health and fitness meaning you won’t be out of breath but you will be strong with a healthy heart
  5. Functional fitness exercises can be adapted to be done from home rather than in a gym

Disadvantages Of Functional Fitness

There is no disadvantage to functional fitness as it is a great way of keeping your body healthy, strong, and fit however functional fitness may not be for you if you are looking for rapid aesthetic results.

Functional fitness is more of a maintenance type of fitness and will not result in huge muscle growth in a short space of time. Even if you are seeking aesthetic results you should still consider incorporating functional fitness exercises into your workout routine.

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Bodybuilding

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Bodybuilding is a popular way of exercising that directly enhances your physique through exercise. By lifting heavy weights your muscles begin to grow and can completely change your aesthetic within a number of months.

Muscle tone and muscle growth are the main focuses that bodybuilding is based around. Singular muscle groups are focused on during different weight sessions and so bodybuilding requires a number of gym sessions per week for optimal results.

Bodybuilding programs are set up in a way so that one muscle group is worked per session. This is to give the muscles time to recover after being worked hard. Examples of the most popular bodybuilding exercises are:

  • Weighted Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Power Clean Lifts
  • Bench Press
  • Shoulder Presses
  • Pull Ups

Benefits Of Bodybuilding

  1. Great way to get the aesthetic results you want as your muscles start to develop and change visibly within a number of weeks to months, depending on your workout regime and what you eat
  2. Helps you to get strong quicker as your body adapts to lifting heavy weights
  3. Muscle growth can help support your joints, helping to prevent injury
  4. Bodybuilding helps build stamina which directly benefits your athletic performance
  5. Seeing visible results may impact your self-confidence as you can see your efforts paying off

Disadvantages Of Bodybuilding

The main disadvantage of bodybuilding is that it can have a detrimental effect on your overall heart and aerobic health.

By focusing solely on lifting weights no exercise works your heart muscles directly. You may be extremely strong and look very fit and muscley but you may be out of breath walking up stairs, going for a light jog, or even walking to your car after a workout in the gym.

Muscle growth leads to muscle gain and this tips the scales so your body is expected to adapt and carry the extra muscle weight you have gained through your workouts and this can put additional stress on the heart if you get too big too fast.

It is important to complete cardio workouts alongside your bodybuilding program to ensure you take care of your heart and to also boost your general aerobic health. The heart is like any other muscle, it needs to be exercised in order to stay healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Your questions answered.

Can Functional Fitness Build Muscle?

Performing functional fitness exercises as part of your workout regime can help to improve the overall function of your body. The focus is to prepare your body for everyday tasks and to maintain body fitness and aerobic health.

Your muscles will be worked out and may grow over time but results will take longer to become visible than if you were following a bodybuilding workout program.

How Often Should You Exercise Per Week?

How often you exercise will be influenced by your schedule and also what your focus your workouts are based around.

If you are training using a functional fitness program you should aim to train 3 to 5 times per week. If you are following a bodybuilding workout regime you may be required to work out as often as 6 times per week.

In general, it is advised that you should exercise at least 3 to 5 hours per week. This can be any type of physical activity such as working out, going for a walk, swimming or cycling.

Is It Bad To Do The Same Workout Every Week?

If you are following a workout schedule you should change it up as soon as it becomes easy to complete.

If you constantly repeat the same routine you may be working some muscles more than others which can lead to muscle imbalances that can lead to an injury.

If you are unsure how to adapt your schedule it is best to speak with a personal trainer who will be able to help you to build a program that will help you to achieve your goals and also advise how long to follow the program before making it more difficult or changing it entirely.

Final Thoughts

While both bodybuilding and functional fitness have their differences you should consider developing a training plan for yourself that would include both.

As we read above, functional fitness is a great way of maintaining a strong and responsive body that is less prone to injury and generally healthier but it will not lead to huge aesthetic changes.

Which type of exercise is better depends on the results you are seeking but do remember that lifting heavy weights has its limitations and you should be including cardio at the very least to maintain your aerobic health.

If you take the right measures alongside your bodybuilding routine it can be just as beneficial as functional fitness training.

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