Five Favorite Functional Strength Moves

author - melissa witmer strength and conditioning

Reporting in from St Andrews in Scotland!

This week the Ulty Results team of myself and Oliver Browne are helping out at St Andrews' Preseason Camp. In this week long session for returners, we'll be focused on individual fundamentals.

Yesterday's session in St Andrew's brand new Performance Suite (weight room for the athletes) we led two sessions. In our second session, for the more experienced athletes, we had a chat about functional strength training. Most of them already understood the basics of functional strength training and so I introduced a few new exercises to add to their repertoire.

What is Functional Strength Training?

Functional strength training is more likely to translate to on-field performance than traditional bodybuilding or weight lifting protocols. Characteristics of functional strength exercises are...

  • multi-joint or full body exercises
  • emphasis on unilateral (single leg/arm) exercises
  • challenges balance and coordination as well as strength
  • often promotes additional core activation or challenges core stability.


The group asked me to send them a list of the exercises we worked on. Instead I've decided to post several of them here for the benefit of everyone! 

In addition to training single leg strength, many of these movements introduce a diagonal coordination pattern. This is a good movement pattern to strengthen for athletic performance. In ultimate, the diagonal transfer of momentum from the ground, through the hips into the opposite shoulder enhances throwing power.


 1. Backwards Lunge to SLDL

If you're a long time reader, you've seen this one at least once before. This exercises provides a challenge to hip stability. It's a real challenge especially to the glute medius (on the side of the hip). Start this exercise with no weight until you can perform the exercises for 8-10 reps a side.


2. Diagonal Squat and Reach

I love this exercise because it includes a diagonal movement pattern component as well as challenging single leg balance and coordination.


3. Diagonal Plate Raise

This exercise also includes a diagonal component. I like the way this exercise allows you to get into the hip for good glute activation. This exercise is about transferring momentum from the hips into the plate with transfer of momentum through the core. This full body exercise is more difficult than it looks. Start with a 10-25 lb plate with 8-10 repetitions on each side.


4. Split Squat to Row

Requiring less balance than some of the other single leg moves, this exercise trains coordination of lower body to upper body movement in a diagonal pattern.


5. Single Leg King Squat

This move starts with an SLDL and goes into a single leg squat. Like the backwards lunge to SLDL this exercise challenges balance and coordination and is even more difficult.


Enjoy These Exercises?

Find these exercises and more like them in The Ultimate Athlete Project (UAP). You'll never be bored in the UAP because we have over 200 different exercises! Most importantly, we organize these exercises into a long term plan to help you make the most of your off season training. In the UAP you'll be able to choose a schedule, from 2 hours a week to 6 hours a week and know exactly what to do when you head to the gym.