The Evolution of Functional Training & Why This “Trend” Is Here To Stay

The business of fitness is both dynamic and revolutionary, and continues to change and grow based on the need to find more ways to get and keep people engaged in healthy lifestyles. The history of the fitness industry is filled with the inception and evolution of many trends, but one seems to continuing to gain momentum year after year – Functional Training.

According to ACSM’s Worldwide Survey of 2016 Fitness Trends , functional fitness is still rating in the top 10 along with its affiliates, bodyweight training at #2 and high intensity interval training at #3. What started out as a way for personal trainers to vary their clients’ programming in private sessions, has turned into a wide spread demand for wide open spaces.

The evolution began when more and more personal trainers started leaving big box gyms filled with traditional equipment to start their own open concept training studios. Less of the expensive and expansive cardio and strength training equipment left more space for trainers to get creative with functional movement training concepts.

The next phase began with the rise in popularity of outdoor group fitness classes and boot camps featuring bodyweight & suspension training and exercises using a variety of fitness accessories, both practical (kettlebells, medicine balls) and impractical (battle ropes, tires, sledgehammers). A new fitness buzzword was soon to follow –HIIT training. Similar to functional training, high intensity interval training is not a new concept per se, however the two began to become synonymous and more mainstream among fitness enthusiasts.

Phase three in the evolution of functional fitness began with the constructions of fitness “rigs” or functional training stations (FTS) that were described as an “adult playground” of sorts. Soon to follow was another buzzworthy fitness acronym – SGT – aka Small Group Training.

Now we are seeing a new shift in the evolution of functional fitness as more and more big box health clubs as well as the high volume, low cost chains are clearing out the large footprint, traditional machines. The benefits far outweigh the cost of the “out-with-the-old-in-with-the-new” approach as the health club industry is shifting to create open concept “functional training spaces”. More space means more room to showcase the latest functional training accessories and programming. This also infuses the growth of SGT in clubs as more and more people are drawn to working out in a group for more accountability, motivation, and most of all, FUN!

Functional fitness has now officially entered the mainstream as it is the primary training modality for the teams on NBC’s new hit reality fitness competition “STRONG”. Power Systems is proud to partner with this competition as it is the first of its kind to pair male fitness industry professionals from varying specialties with average women who are a quest to not only lose weight, but gain strength and confidence on their mission to become the best versions of themselves. The partnership was a no-brainer as STRONG stands for Start To Realize Our Natural Greatness and aligns perfectly with Power Systems mission to Power Your Potential.

Functional training is essential for success on STRONG as exercising in this way will lead to improvements in overall movement strength and execution which can lead to improvements in range of motion, balance, coordination, and core strength – all of which are required of the teams who face the “Tower” elimination challenge.

Though it might still be considered a “trend”, it seems functional training is here to stay as it covers a wide range of movement and strength training. Functional fitness programming continues to evolve with the demands of its followers and the need to provide new and dynamic fitness equipment. While kettlebells and medicine balls have been used for centuries, they are considered staples for functional training workouts. Now the traditional designs of battle ropes, weighted bags, and sledgehammers are being updated with features that make them must-haves for the health club functional training zones.

Echoing the demand of the industry, functional and small group training are two of the fastest growing categories of equipment here at Power Systems. Check out our functional training equipment and start YOUR quest to help others achieve their natural greatness at

Elisabeth Fouts

About Elisabeth Fouts

Elisabeth Fouts is Power Systems’ Education and Trade Show Coordinator and a 10 year veteran in the fitness industry. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science, is certified in and actively teaches 4 Les Mills Group Fitness Programs, and serves as a PowerWave Senior Coach. When Elisabeth isn’t teaching group x classes, you can find her training for or participating in an Obstacle Course race or watching Tennessee Volunteers or Dallas Cowboys football… GO VOLS!