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What is Functional Bodybuilding?

The Convergence of Functional Training and Bodybuilding (re-post from Opex Fitness)



Functional Bodybuilding is is a training system that prioritizes quality of movement over intensity. Bodybuilding and controlled methods of movement are used to help athletes fulfill their ‘function.’ This methodology is beneficial to athletes because  it can enhance performance. For non-athletes, it helps them look good, move well and gain mental clarity.


To many coaches and CrossFit athletes the term “Functional Bodybuilding” may seem like a oxymoron.


But since we’ve begun using bodybuilding concepts to enhance CrossFit athletes specific sport functionality we’ve discovered that this training methodology is incredibly effective if not more so than many other training programs at preparing athletes for the rigors of their competitive seasons.


To understand how this training methodology applies to CrossFit competitive training, we have to go back to when it was first conceptualized and used by CrossFit Games Veteran Marcus Filly, and OPEX Head Coach Mike Lee.


“What became clear to me was that 6 Years of competing in CrossFit had finally left its mark on me. My body was tired, I was injured. And, despite my success within CrossFit, I really had no motivation to continue with fitness.” – Marcus Filly


In August of 2016, Marcus had just finished his 6th consecutive appearance as a competitor at the CrossFit Games. Instead of resting and recovering, Marcus accelerated deeper into his training in order to prepare for the NPGL(GRID) Competition. Soon after he he delved into his training, disaster struck and Marcus experienced severe adrenal fatigue, energy loss, and a significant injury in his shoulder. A lifetime of athletic pursuits and intensity had finally caught up with him.


Marcus’s Coach, Mike Lee, recognized Marcus’s need for a seismic shift in his training. Mike had to take Marcus, a highly advanced trainee, and bring everything back to the fundamentals of movement. 


This focus on the basics of movement patterns is what spawned the training methodology known as Functional Bodybuilding. Though it was initially created as a rehabilitative tool for Marcus Filly, it has become a staple in the training programs of all of our CrossFit athletes.

So how does one define what exactly Functional Bodybuilding is?


Functional Bodybuilding is is a training system that prioritizes quality of movement over intensity. Bodybuilding and controlled methods of movement are used to help athletes fulfill their ‘function.’ This methodology is beneficial to athletes because  it can enhance performance. For non-athletes, it helps them look good, move well and gain mental clarity.


What an athlete’s ‘function’ is varies from person to person. Functional Bodybuilding provides the necessary foundation of strength which allows any athlete, regardless of their goals, to fulfill that ‘function.’ Areas like speed, balance, mobility, gymnastics, agility, and coordination are addressed in perfect harmony within a Functional Bodybuilding Program. Those areas  keep people’s  bodies in balance and helps them reach their goals.


There are three steps to success for Functional Bodybuilding.

1. Movement quality is more important than the amount of load (weight) or intensity (work) applied.

2. Be present and aware. You must follow the tempo, adhere to the full range of movement and repetitions and sets, and observe the proper amount of rest. It all has  purpose.

3. The lifestyle of anyone participating in Functional Bodybuilding must be balanced.


Everything that happens outside the gym is vitally important to the success of the program.

“Functional Bodybuilding is balance. The way in which it is designed means lower overall demand on the physical systems. The benefit is that you have more brain and physical energy to do more inside and outside of the gym.” – Mike Lee

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