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Functional fitness training and best gyms

Functional Fitness Training: Best Gyms & Why It Matters

Are you looking for a functional training space that delivers outstanding results and community? Read on…

I felt the same way about 15 years ago. Back then, my workouts started to feel robotic. I was doing the same exercises day after day and not seeing much improvement. I needed something more engaging and effective. That’s why we started our Elements4Life brand with a focus on functional training and strength. Our goal as business owners was to connect our brand to the key words functional fitness training and best gyms with a focus on innovation and industry development.

You know that functional fitness focuses on movements that help you in your daily life? But picking the best place to train can make a world of difference. Functional fitness training and the best gyms provide the programming, equipment, and community to take your fitness to a whole new level. Let’s face it, we’ve all been sold porky pies and fibs about what it takes to improve our physical fitness and look good – and how long we’ve got to slave away to do it. There are endless, generic fitness programs around promising instant success, and boring gyms with robotic-feeling machines everywhere we look. It can all feel a little intimidating and become a chore.

For many, we get told often that they feel stuck in this mindset. It wasn’t until they discovered functional fitness, ditched the repetitive gym machines, and surrounded themselves with motivated people, that they made a true and lasting shift.

You want to make this kind of change in your life too?

We all do.

Table of Contents:

What is functional fitness training?

Simply put, functional training focuses on teaching your body to move correctly so that you improve how you feel and function both inside and outside of the gym. But, at the same time, it doesn’t simply involve copying the movement patterns of daily activities. Think cross training shoes, they’re tailored for multidirectional movement but you wouldn’t run a marathon in them. Although many exercises mimic daily movements, they build your fitness level across a number of crucial areas, helping to enhance performance across any sport.

Think about picking something heavy up off of the floor. This activates a number of different muscle groups. In a traditional, gym-based weightlifting routine, you may do bicep curls to strengthen those bicep muscles and Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs) to strengthen your hamstrings – two separate exercises. But when you actually pick something heavy up, those muscles – along with your quads, core, glutes, shoulders, back muscles and the tiny muscles in your hands and forearms – are working in concert with one another.

Functional fitness often utilises these sorts of exercises, working all your muscle groups at once, or in close proximity. Instead of going to a gym and working those muscle groups in isolation using machines, you’ll probably do exercises like: walking lunges, weighted squats, deadlifts, shoulder presses, T-Bar Rows, Turkish Get Ups, snatches and cleans.

How do functional fitness programs differ?

Depending on where you choose to train, you may notice subtle changes to functional fitness programs and exercise emphasis. One big reason for this is that those programs often blend with other elements like traditional weightlifting or Crossfit (Hyrox, for instance).



 Functional Training and Best Canberra | Elements4Life


Choosing a Functional Training Gym

These days, you can probably do functional fitness in any typical gym. But finding a facility that specialises in it or has specialist classes might be more worth your time – and may also prevent injuries if those instructors have qualifications. You don’t want to throw yourself under a barbell with just YouTube videos as guidance. You’ll learn more about the equipment and specific exercise types required if you have someone with expertise watching over you. This is particularly the case if you want to use your functional fitness training sessions to improve athletic performance or train for something specific like a sport, running or being a the best parent you can be. Living a good life.

You may even notice changes to gym culture as you seek out spaces that do things differently. It’s something I witnessed firsthand when trying out various gym models to landscape the demographic and community we wanted at Elements4Life.

Boutique vs. Big Box Gyms

There are boutique fitness facilities everywhere you look. Their main attraction: quality over quantity. Big box gyms are great because they often include everything you’ll need for a super low cost, as well as no contract options. But their overall quality often suffers because of this “budget-friendly” approach, and it can be reflected in coaching quality and general gym culture. The good thing about a dedicated facility is you often find better coaching standards and training programs. I was amazed at the improvement when I started attending dedicated spaces with focused programming. That being said, this often comes at a higher cost. You’ll probably pay at least three to four times as much as your monthly contract at a Fitness First or other commercial gym. But as is the case with most things in life, it all boils down to how much those perks are worth to you. Is the high price tag worthwhile if those dedicated gyms give you an experience, the training equipment and the community experience to change how you feel?

Group Training Sessions vs. Personal Training

Another common dilemma is what style of workout program works best: group training sessions or personal training? This will vary greatly depending on your fitness needs, lifestyle, personality type, and also your budget (sorry). You may be someone that is incredibly motivated by the social aspects of group coaching, and as such thrives within that space. Others, however, may not be quite that outgoing and enjoy coaching sessions with a more personal focus. This will probably come at a much higher price point than signing up to group coaching, even with multi-session pt packages, though.

Both training formats provide their advantages, especially from a coaching point of view. In both my personal training sessions and group training, those instructors were great at adapting workouts to different fitness levels. They also explained why we were doing things to us (rather than just getting us to move from one thing to the next like robots, with no concept of why). Because of this focus, we were able to train intelligently and progress more consistently because it challenged the mind along with the body. We learned about everything – even what types of cross-training shoes to wear for each training method – making for a more comprehensive and overall enjoyable approach.

Types of Functional Fitness Gyms & Classes

So which types of facilities are considered “best” for functional training? It all comes back to why you want to use it in the first place. Let’s take a look at some common gym and program styles.

CrossFit Style

Elements4Life programs were originally geared more toward those training for CrossFit however we wanted to ensure that the space was enticing and encouraging for all levels of training such as beginners or those who have had a break from training. CrossFit and functional training have always had crossover because CrossFit emphasises building overall performance and combines elements of lifting with more functional activities, such as box jumps, plyometrics and rope climbs. A good thing about a gym like Elements4Life is the programs incorporate various components of strength, endurance, speed and power into one class session. You want that range of ability and conditioning, don’t you? Although there are subtle variations in design between each workout program, a typical session at a gym that incorporates elements of fitness seen at a CrossFit box will include a WOD – Workout Of The Day – which is a “functional fitness” workout challenge involving these sorts of actions performed either individually, in pairs or in small groups of four people.

What those instructors teach to the group will also vary depending on whether those gyms prioritise technical strength training. For instance, if those gyms include dedicated “Olympic” sessions that go deeper into actions like power cleans and snatches. I have found that these are good gyms for the more sociable types and since those trainers will build community during sessions (the camaraderie was a definite plus with those sessions I did at Elements4Life). Plus, having that social experience along with challenging routines helped me stay motivated (which, if you’ve struggled to find that consistency in your training, may help you out, too).

High Intensity Group Training

If your current fitness level isn’t that advanced – maybe you’re not aiming to be a hardcore weightlifter, or to train for the CrossFit Open – you may want to try facilities that include lower-impact group fitness sessions geared toward improving strength, endurance, fitness level, and cardiovascular health. Gyms that fall under this style will still incorporate equipment such as; kettlebells, dumbbells, medicine balls, battle ropes, and functional trainers but the overall intensity will be scaled appropriately, with instructors giving options for regressions depending on those individuals and how they prefer to train.

Elements4Life programs incorporated lower impact classes, making use of lighter weights or body weight to encourage participants to build endurance and muscular hypertrophy without increasing maximal strength. Gyms that have this emphasis tend to appeal to the more to teh general public gym user (which I wouldn’t say is a negative – all forms of exercise bring benefit in the long-term).

All-Round Fitness Studios

Facilities that offer all-around wellness services are common these days (the growth is hard to miss), although it may make it more challenging to figure out where to get your sweat on, even if you prioritise those class sessions. Studios such as: Elements4Life, Samsara, Flow, Elixir and One Playground, offer something that big box gyms just can’t. On top of the regular, run-of-the-mill group classes (think, HIIT and strength), personal training and big, generic gym floors, you’ll find reformer pilates studios, yoga studios, dedicated stretching and recovery centers (think saunas) as well as a host of specialised equipment that can improve how you function – but won’t help you throw a barbell over your head, like those traditional functional trainers.

On top of that, facilities such as Elements4Life offer their own physique transformation packages that go beyond the standard one hour training session by adding personalised plans, consultations, advice, nutrition targets and access to tracking apps and InBody Scans.

What Makes a “Good” Functional Training Gym or Program?

If your ultimate goal is to sign up to a space that will deliver on its claims of improving how you move, what should you look out for in your gym quest? Several things stood out when I was testing the options myself – and the most obvious factor to assess is the “look” and feel of the gym you’re signing up for.

Does the equipment look like the last person to use it was from the caveman age – or was it last Tuesday (after they mopped the gym floor?). Does it have an environment that keeps you energised, motivated, and also feeling good about throwing a 4kg medicine ball at the ceiling with abandon?

Here are other things to look for if you want the best results.

Coaching Sessions & Programming

This will likely determine how much success you have, even if those trainers and coaches aren’t writing bespoke training programs specifically tailored to your unique current fitness level. What should you keep front of mind when you are testing out programs? For one, I always notice the level of care that coaches show for those trainees’ goals (and their wellbeing).

In the functional fitness gyms I trialed, coaches not only knew why they were getting us to perform certain movements – they cared about technique to the point where it challenged the mind, along with the body (as they pointed out often).

You also want variety, because those trainers should adapt to the group (even if those groups aren’t specifically focused on individual personal training). During sessions at Elements4Life, a high standard was given across both technique and personalisation for each group (but I also learned their trainers had years of training sessions working one-on-one as a personal trainer to help hone their ability in those group coaching sessions, too). But that being said, gyms that also provide a broad scope, extending their range beyond simply coaching those workouts for you, often help members achieve more.

Emphasis on Wellness, Mind and Recovery

Some of the best gyms for functional training help you prioritise more than just your physical wellbeing, and as someone who did personal development courses years ago, this sort of guidance made me a bigger advocate of holistic-style health and wellbeing (but, then, those personal development experiences really impacted everything I did, so who can really tell?). Elements4Life’s sessions are focused on strength, cardiovascular fitness and movement, along with cardio bursts and runs to strengthen performance. Social connection is always at the forefront.


We’ve all tried things to get fitter that failed, and I’d guess a big reason for those setbacks was neglecting our mindset along the way. A healthy body makes it a lot easier to stick with the grueling aspects of physical training, and improves those gains. In turn, it reinforces why doing the work makes a difference. There are so many types of functional fitness training and best gyms for all individuals – if you look hard enough you’ll find what suits you and change your experience.

Elements4Life is an opportunity to enhance your fitness and lifestyle.

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